The 90 Illini #43: Kerby Joseph
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While filling out the "year in school" and "hometown" chart below I started to look through the 2018 recruiting class and I remembered that there were seven defensive backs in that class. So before we get into #43, a quick look at that group:
Dylan Wyatt - left the team this summer (medical issue?)
Ron Hardge - transferred after one season (now at Oregon State)
Brown has locked up a starting spot, and Walker is a juco with one year left. The other three? Big year for all three. 23 starts between the three of them so far, but others have pushed to the front of the DB race. I don't know where I'm going with this. Let's talk Kerby.
43. Kerby Joseph
Uniform number: 25
Year in school: Junior (3 years to play 2)
Height: 6'-1" -- Weight: 200 lbs.
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
High School: Jones HS
Five best offers: Mississippi State, Syracuse, South Florida, Bowling Green, Florida Atlantic
Tom Cruise rating: 1.5 Cruises
2019 statistics: Played in 12 games, starting two. 30 tackles on the season.
This is one of those things that shows how experienced the 2020 team will be. Kerby Joseph has played in 22 games so far in his Illini career (the other three he missed due to injury). And yet going into the season, right now, I'd guess he's in a battle for the 4th or 5th safety spot. That's not to say "look at all this talent" - I'm saying that usually, when I'm at #43 on a list like this, we're talking about a second-year player who might find the field for the first time. Instead, it's our fourth safety who has already participated in 22 games and started two.
Those two seasons (2018 and 2019) were spent moving around. In 2018, the defense moved to a 4-2-5 almost exclusively (my assumption was that the arrival of Gil Byrd as pass defense coordinator moved the defense in the 4-2-5 direction). That's when Joseph was playing nickel. In 2019, with Hardy Nickerson gone and Lovie moving to defensive coordinator, it went back to a standard 4-3-4 and Joseph moved to safety. Even started two games there last season.
That's probably a fun fact no one remembers. DID YOU KNOW that Kerby Joseph was starting in front of Stanley Green in September last year? In fact, with Delano Ware and Tony Adams both getting safety starts (before Adams moved back to corner), Stanley Green didn't grab the starting spot until the Michigan game.
Speaking of Adams and safety, with Green graduating, Adams is back at safety now. Which moves Devon Witherspoon and Marquez Beason up the cornerback chart. And it makes the safety chart a little more complicated.
There are basically five safeties at this point (plus maybe some freshmen and some walkons). Those five: Sydney Brown, Tony Adams, Derrick Smith, Kerby Joseph, and Quan Martin. Seems pretty clear that Brown and Adams will be the starters, which means that there's a big camp competition between Smith, Joseph, and Martin to see who will be the third safety. (It seems like Delano Ware is a linebacker now, so I'm not counting him.)
So for Joseph, that's the landscape this season. Base defense is maybe Hobbs-Witherspoon plus Adams and Brown. Third corner (and nickel when they need it)? Beason. Third safety? That's the target for Kerby.