Looks Like University Of Illinois - Eian Pugh

Jun 23, 2021

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Yeah, I'm skipping to the end of the line and then working backwards. I had just started on the Jordan Anderson LLUOI post when the news of Pugh committing came across my Twitter feed. So I'll pause that one, start at the end, and then work my way back through the three I haven't completed (Anderson, Henry Boyer, and Malachi Hood).

For Eian Pugh, let's start with what it means. Maybe that's not the best way to say it. Let's start with what it could mean.

Pugh committed to Cincinnati very early (on Christmas). He then got offers this spring from Illinois and Iowa. Once June arrived and visits were allowed again (for the first time in 15 months), he set up three visits according to his 247 profile: Illinois on June 4th, Cincinnati on June 18th, and Iowa on June 25th. He visited Illinois, then Cincinnati, and then decommitted from Cincinnati (must have been a great visit). He has other offers, but this whole thing now has the appearance of a head-to-head recruiting battle: Illinois vs. Iowa.

Two days before his Iowa visit, he cancels it and commits to Illinois. That's the kind of thing that can start to turn a program around. Head-to-head with Big Ten West foe and you come out on top. Illinois and Iowa went head-to-head for CJ Fiedorowicz, and he committed to Illinois, and then he flipped to Iowa, and that made Iowa better and Illinois worse. Add up all of those little moments and Iowa gets to 9 wins while Illinois is stuck at 4. The road back starts with winning that battle (and then winning 50 more just like it).

The reason I changed "what it means" to "what it could mean" above is because of Kendrick Green. That was a head-to-head battle with Iowa in Lovie's first recruiting class. Illinois won. Green had a great career and was a third-round pick of the Steelers. And Illinois went 4-8, 6-7, and 2-6 in the three seasons he played. That was supposed to be a "winning these battles leads to wins on the field" moment, and it turned out to be just one recruiting win. So while I'd love to say that this does mean something, all I can say is that it could mean something.

From here, though, it looks like a really big win. To me, the three biggest needs for this recruiting class would be wide receivers, edge rushers, and safeties. Landing an in-state WR with great film (and beating Iowa head-to-head) looks like a win all around.

Let's start with that film. The thing I noticed over and over and over and over while watching his film: hands. Well, not really "hands" - maybe the best way to say it is "coming down with the football". It sounds crazy to say, but the ability to come down with the football is wildly underrated. I don't mean "do not drop the ball". This is not "can't have a case of the dropsies" (although you can't). I'm saying that college quarterbacks aren't always going to put the ball in the right spot, and college receivers need to find some way to catch it anyway. Mikey Dudek and Brandon Lloyd were the two best catch-it-anyway Illini receivers the last 20 years. Here's hoping Pugh is next.

Here's a bunch of gifs to show you what I mean. This first one had two different angles on his film. Found a way to come down with the ball:

Endzone view of the same catch:

I slowed it down and watched it a couple times - the pass was going to hit the DB in the helmet, and he jumped to grab it before that happened, bobbled it a bit, but held on.

Here's a slant thrown well behind him (once again, right at the DB's helmet) and he adjusts to make the touchdown grab:

Love this next one. Every receiver's nightmare: over the middle and the pass is high. He reaches up, snags it, and immediately tucks it to prepare for the hit. On this one, the hit never came, but in college, it most certainly will.

DB gets a hand on it? No matter. Keep your eyes on it, catch the tipped ball, and then tuck it away and absorb the hit while hanging onto the ball:

And finally, when it's a horrific pass, find some way to still catch it and keep your toes inbounds.

Watch that last one a few more times. If it's a good throw, he catches it near the goal line and walks in. Had both the corner and safety beat. Instead, the ball is throw out of bounds at the six, so he adjusts, dives, and makes the catch.

That's why I really like this pick-up. The big void on the team right now is a go-get-the-ball receiver. Bhebhe filled that role the last two years, and Donny looks like the guy to fill it the next two years, but there's a massive need for a wide receiver who can go get it. Eian Pugh has the appearance of a guy who can go get it. The reason I have incoming freshman WR Patrick Bryant so high on my 90i rankings: desperate to believe that he's a go-get-it receiver who will play right away.

Ratings-wise, he's the best player added to this class so far. ESPN has him rated as a 76 (highest rating of any recruit in the class). Rivals has him as a 5.7 three-star (Rivals rates three-stars as 5.7, 5.6 or 5.5). And 247 gives him an 85 (three-stars go from 79 to 88). That adds up him ranking #702 in the 2022 Composite Rankings. And if we apply my 6.54 rule (85 football scholarships, 13 basketball scholarships, 85/13 = 6.54), then 702/6.54 = 107. Brandin Podziemski was Composite #103 so... think of Pugh in the Podziemski range recruiting-wise.

Offer-wise, going by his Twitter timeline, it looks like his first visit was to Notre Dame as a sophomore but they did not offer. (And keep in mind here, March 2020 through June 2021, no visits were allowed). He tweets his first offer (from Kansas) in May of last year. He then tweets offers from Howard, UNLV, Ball State, Cincinnati, Bowling Green, Toledo, and Indiana. He doesn't get a junior season in the fall of 2020, and then on Christmas Day he verbals to Cincinnati (keep in mind that Cincy was #8 in the final CFP Rankings that had come out four days before Christmas).

This spring, he adds offers from Iowa and Illinois. As discussed above, once visits are allowed, he schedules three (Illinois, Cincy, Iowa), takes the first two, cancels the third, and commits to Illinois.

Position of need, solid film, beat Iowa head-to-head, we want to concentrate on in-state recruits and he's the best in-state recruit we've landed, got him to commit before taking that Iowa visit - all of this points to a fair number of Tom Cruises. Like, maybe...

Eian Pugh - Three and one-half Tom Cruises.


Eagle on June 24, 2021 @ 03:37 AM

I love this pickup. We’ll find out that Hank Beatty is also very adept at adjusting and twisting to bring every ball down. Agree that’s a wildly underrated quality for a receiver.

ktcesw on June 24, 2021 @ 03:24 PM

I can see where the performance center makes a difference. It may not be the sole difference, but, it does make one. We have gone from the worst facilities in the B1G to some of the best!

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