The 90 Illini #85: Desmond Dan
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This part of The 90 Illini this year is totally the "well, he might surprise us and find the field, so of all the scholarship players I'm leaving off the list, he needs to at least be on there" section. My thinking towards each one of these players making the list is the same right down the line.
Desmond Dan was a grad transfer from New Mexico State who didn't play at all last season. Now the new staff is bringing in several new receivers (plus they've had 4-star recruits Marquez Beason and Isaiah Williams move over there), so there's less room for a player to find snaps at WR, but still, on the chance that Bielema's staff uses Dan this year (while Lovie's staff chose not to use him last year), he needs to be on this list. As I've said with the last few players, I don't want a scenario where some player has a breakout season and I didn't include him on my list.
85. Desmond Dan
Uniform number: 10
Year in school: Senior (1 year to play 1)
Height: 6'-3" -- Weight: 195 lbs.
Hometown: Muskogee, Oklahoma
Former School: Transfer from New Mexico State
Five best offers: N/A
Tom Cruise rating:
2020 statistics: Did not play in any games.
I don't really enjoy writing posts like this. I want to give you an honest assessment of the 2021 Illini, and when I do that, I see Desmond Dan as the 85th-most important player on the team, but I get no joy from writing "I only gave him one Tom Cruise on his recruiting evaluation and then he didn't play last year and now he returns for a bonus season where I'm not sure he's going to play at all." My default will forever be "here's what I think will happen, but I hope he surprises us".
Here's the facts about Dan. He played at New Mexico State for three seasons. He had some solid stats in 2018 as a sophomore (37 catches for 491 yards) but then during his junior season at NMSU he was injured in the third game and missed the rest of the season. He grad-transferred to Illinois to play one season, didn't play in any games during the Covid-shortened season, and now returns for one more year.
Dan was not participating with the receivers during spring ball. He was (I'm assuming) rehabbing an injury because he was always off to the side. Sometimes he would run routes on the sideline (basically running the same route the receiver was running on the field in the drill), but there were never any passes sent his way. He was just running some routes.
So really, he's a complete unknown. Did he not play in any of the eight games last year because he was injured? If he was held out this spring, was he still rehabbing an injury last fall? Maybe at fall camp he's healthy for the first time at Illinois and everyone wonders "who is #10?" in the first quarter of the Nebraska game?
No idea. The fact that he didn't play last year would suggest that he won't play this year. But we don't know. So he needs to be on here. Hope he surprises us.