2022 Depth Chart
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Bye weeks can only start one way around here: with next year's depth chart. I think I've been doing this since 2012? The bye week gives us a chance to pause and look at next season.
This year, with our Week Zero game against Nebraska, we actually have two bye weeks. So I'll probably do what I did the last time we had two bye weeks. In 2019, during the first bye week I looked at the 2020 depth chart and then during the second bye week I looked at the 2021 depth chart. Maybe we should start with that 2021 depth chart?
Actually, it probably won't make much sense. No one knew in 2019 that there would be a pandemic and that all 2020 seniors could return again in 2021. So any of the super seniors in the lineup wouldn't be on that depth chart.
Still, let's see who I had in the starting lineup.
QB | Williams (rs-SO)
RB | Epstein (rs-SR)
TE1 | Ford (rs-JR)
TE2 | Barker (SR)
LT | Slaughter (rs-JR)
LG | Myers (rs-JR)
C | K. Green (SR)
RG | V. Brown (rs-JR)
RT | Pearl (rs-JR)
WR-drag | Navarro (SR)
WR-deep | Washington (JR)
WR-dig | Thompson (SO)
WDE | Coleman (rs-SO)
DT | Woods (SR)
DT | Avery (SR)
SDE | Randolph (JR)
WLB | Tolson (SR)
MLB | Barnes (JR)
SLB | D. Smith (SR)
CB | Witherspoon (JR)
SS | S. Brown (SR)
FS | Ware (SR)
CB | Beason (rs-SO)
I'm not gonna lie. That's actually pretty solid. I'd feel pretty good with that being the depth chart had Covid never happened and the Super Seniors never returned. A quick rundown:
- I had IW as the QB, Epstein as the tailback, and then Ford and Barker as the twin tight ends (not hard to guess, mind you).
- My three WR were Donny Navarro, Casey Washington, and Jadon Thompson (who backed out of his commitment and went to Cincy). Had Thompson come here, I think those would have been the three starting receivers.
- OL is obviously a mess. Didn't have the five current seniors (they would have all been gone) so I went with Julian Pearl, Verdis Brown, Kendrick Green, Kievan Myers, and Jordyn Slaughter.
- DL I had Seth Coleman and Keith Randolph plus Calvin Avery and Jamal Woods. Linebackers were Tolson and Barnes. Not bad.
- Had Spoon as one of the corners (with Beason) and then Sydney Brown and Delano Ware at safety (Ware quit the team with two games to go last season and then transferred to Western Michigan).
So maybe I'll do the same thing this year. This bye week is the 2022 depth chart. The next bye week in November will be the 2023 depth chart.
OK, so, 2022. It will be very hard to predict. Here's why:
There are 22 super seniors. There are 20 juniors who are supposed to be seniors this season. There are 10 redshirt sophomores who are supposed to be seniors this season. That's 52 scholarship players who, after this season, will have completed the four years of their guaranteed scholarship and would need to be asked back by the coaching staff for 2022. Just because of the numbers game (well over the scholarship limit this year with all the Super Seniors, need to be down to 48 scholarship returnees so that the staff can bring in the recently-approved-for-2022 THIRTY TWO newcomers (between freshmen and transfers). Recap: 90-some scholarship players now, 22 super seniors leaving, need to be down to 48... yeah, there's going to be a lot of players heading out the door.
I don't really want to point to the names of players who I believe will not be asked back. So if you don't see a name on this list, uh, just assume my answer is "he'll transfer out after this season". I also don't think I can assemble a depth chart without making some "they'll absolutely recruit a transfer for this spot" assumptions. For example, with the way quarterback transfers work these days, the chances that the 2022 starter will be a transfer would be what? 65%?
So I plan to do this: I will choose a returnee for every starting spot. But I will add ten unnamed transfers to the second string. Those are the spots where I think we'll hit the portal hard.
OK, let's get to it.
QB | Sitkowski (JR) | TRANSFER | Leary (FR)
RB | C. Brown (JR) | McCray (SO) | Love (SO)
TE1 | Barker (SR) | Reiman (SO) | Boyer (FR)
TE2 | Ford (SR) | Rosenthal (SR) | Anderson (FR)
LT | Okpala (SO) | Barlev (rs-FR) | Kirts (SO)
LG | Pihlstrom (SR) | TRANSFER | Wisecarver (rs-FR)
C | Kreutz (rs-FR) | Plohr (rs-FR) | Leonard (FR)
RG | Slaughter (JR) | Okla (FR) | Gesky (rs-FR)
RT | Pearl (JR) | TRANSFER | Whitenack (FR)
WR | Williams (rs-SO) | Miller (FR) | Sandy (JR)
WR | C. Washington (JR) | Spann (SO) | Bryant (SO)
WR | Navarro (SR) | TRANSFER | Pugh (FR)
ROLB | Coleman (SO) | TRANSFER | Johnson (SO)
DL | Randolph (SO) | Avery (SR) | McConnell (rs-FR)
DL| Newton (SO) | TRANSFER | V. Brown (rs-JR)
LOLB | Bryant (SO) | Holmes (rs-JR) | B. Barnes (JR)
ILB1 | T. Barnes (JR) | McEachern (SR) | Darkangelo (JR)
ILB2 | Hart (JR) | Tolson (SR) | Odeluga (SO)
CB | Witherspoon (JR) | TRANSFER | Snyder (rs-FR)
CB | Nicholson (SO) | Strain (SO) | Edwards (rs-FR)
STAR | Martin (SR) | TRANSFER | Curry (rs-FR)
S | S. Brown (SR) | TRANSFER | Green (rs-FR)
S | Joseph (SR) | E. Smith (JR) | J. Washington (rs-FR)
Kicker | Griffin (JR)
Punter | Robertson (rs-FR)
Longsnapper | Hall (rs-SO)
Punt Return | Navarro (SR)
KO Return | Navarro (SR)
- Obviously, just putting TRANSFER in there is a really lame way to do this. I should put the actual depth chart there and then let you decide where they'll try to add transfers. But if I did that, I'd be adding names of players who I believe will be leaving after the season. So it's probably best to just say "here's the 10 transfers I expect."
- It's also possible that I have the transfers in the wrong spot. I have two OL transfers and three DB transfers. It might very well be four OL transfers and one DB transfer. But again, I'm trying to look at this like the staff looks at this. And I'm guessing 10 transfers; 5 on offense, 5 on defense.
- I only have two DL transfers and that feels a bit low as well. But they do have some freshmen coming in (Jared Badie and Brian Allen) who might get in there as true freshmen. Edit: I go to proofread this, filp through Twitter, and see that Brian Allen just decommitted. So....
- The offense is by far the biggest question mark. Maybe I should have gone six transfers on offense and four on defense. The OL loses five seniors (as of right now, three are starting but all five have started games this fall). The QB situation is completely up in the air. The WR spot appears bolstered by the two quarterbacks who moved there but the current state of the passing game doesn't really suggest that a new quarterback would fix everything.
- The defense, however, feels like it will be pretty good? Because we've already seen the Spoon/Nicholson combo at corner and because Jake Hansen has been injured allowing the younger linebackers to play, we've seen most of this defense this season. Seth Coleman has already snatched the starting spot from Isaiah Gay, so the biggest question is the defensive end/OLB replacing Owen Carney. Virginia Tech transfer Alec Bryant (a former 4-star recruit) seems to be the most likely.
- New kicker (Caleb Griffin), new punter (a 29 year-old Aussie cop named Hugh), and new longsnapper (Aiden Hall).
Last thing. Somebody ask me how many transfers might start next season.
(Hey Robert - how many transfers might start next season?)
I'm going to say five. I'm going to guess that the starting QB will be a transfer. I also think that two offensive line starters will be transfers. The guy replacing Owen Carney opposite Seth Coleman will also be a transfer (either Bryant or someone else), and then I think they'll find a cornerback in the transfer portal to pair with Spoon (while Nicholson is the third corner of a three-corner rotation).
Overall, yeah, I'm worried too. The path for this offense from what we saw on Saturday to "fully functioning, vibrant Big Ten offense" feels light years away. I'm encouraged by the defense, but besides Brown and McCray running the ball, I'm not sure how we get to where we want to be.
So maybe 16 transfers?