The 90 Illini #48: Deuce Spann
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With the changes to the offense, I think it's fairly obvious which quarterbacks would move up the depth chart and which quarterbacks might move down. And I think the positions switches (and the addition of Rutgers quarterback Artur Sitkowski) really showed us what this staff will expect from quarterbacks.
Just look at it this way. Here was the depth chart at QB last season:
- Brandon Peters
- Isaiah Williams
- Matt Robinson
- Coran Taylor
- Deuce Spann
For the Purdue game, when Peters had Covid and Williams was held out because of contact tracing, Matt Robinson started. He was injured on the second series of the game and so Coran Taylor was the QB for the rest of that game plus the Minnesota game. So we had a clear picture of the depth chart: Peters - Williams - Robinson - Taylor - Spann.
Now let's rank those five quarterbacks by height and then add in Sitkowski:
- Brandon Peters 6'-5"
- Artur Sitkowski 6'-5"
- Deuce Spann 6'-4"
- Coran Taylor 6'-2"
- Matt Robinson 6'-1"
- Isaiah Williams 5'-10"
Maybe we should also do a list by arm strength. I think it would be...
- Artur Sitkowski
- Brandon Peters
- Deuce Spann
- Coran Taylor
- Isaiah Williams
- Matt Robinson
Rank them by running ability and it's certainly Williams first, then maybe Spann second, Robinson 3rd, Taylor 4th, and then probably Peters and Sitkowski bringing up the rear. But I'm not sure QB running ability will be part of this offense.
Where am I going with this? I think it's because of this data that Isaiah Williams moved to WR and Coran Taylor moved to safety. To play QB in this offense, you need height and you need a big arm. The top three QB's in both of those categories: Peters, Sitkowski, and Spann. So that's my QB depth chart.
48. Deuce Spann
Uniform number: 6
Year in school: Freshman (without the Covid waiver, 4 years to play 4; with the Covid waiver, technically 5 years to play 4)
Height: 6'-4" -- Weight: 195 lbs.
Hometown: St. Petersburg, Florida
High School: Lakewood HS
Five best offers: Georgia, Auburn, Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech
Tom Cruise rating:
2020 statistics: I'll just include this very fun screenshot from his bio on the official site:
I mean, he "played" in two games. He just didn't get to snap the ball. Let's use the entire "Background" section to go through that again.
The reason that's funny to me, if you checked out on Illini football last fall and missed all of it, is this: in the Purdue game, Deuce Spann did come into the game. He just didn't take a snap. Lovie called timeout and took him out of the game.
It then became this really weird story (for me). There were no fans at the game (Covid), but I was there in the pressbox, and as the world's biggest Deuce Spann fan (and with Purdue leading 31-10), I was staring down Spann on the sideline as he warmed up to come in the game. He then walked through his teammates, all of them encouraging him. He got to Coach Bellamy on the sideline who gave him final instructions from the staff on the headset, and then he ran into the game. The TV cameras followed this for 17 seconds because the BTN producer (and sideline reporter) also saw him warming up. Then, once he was in there, a timeout was called, he was pulled, and Coran Taylor came in. The BTN broadcasters guessed that he was pulled because he didn't have his mouthpiece in, but I'm not watching the broadcast at the stadium, so I never heard that (I think it was just a guess), and besides, it didn't appear like that to me.
Long story short, I couldn't get a straight answer from Lovie Smith and Rod Smith. Lovie told me they didn't have the right quarterback in the game so he called a timeout. His exact quote: "we needed to get Coran out there and Coran wasn't out there". I later asked Rod Smith why Coran wasn't out there and he spun some tale about Coran being over with the defense and so Deuce was "Johnny on the spot" and just ran out on the field on his own. Which I knew wasn't true because I was one of 100 or so people in the stadium and I had been watching Spann for three minutes straight.
I never got a straight answer out of anyone. I wrote about the whole thing here, if you're bored. My guess, based on everything I researched: Rod put the freshman in the game because Coran had just turned the ball over twice. Lovie saw this and called timeout because he didn't want a freshman in at quarterback. Lovie didn't want to say "Rod put Spann in the game against my wishes so I called timeout to correct his mistake", so they both said the things they said, Lovie calling it his "mistake" and Rod saying that Coran was distracted so Deuce just ran out on the field on his own. It would have been 73 times easier for Rod to say "I wanted Deuce in the game but I forgot to check with the head coach and he called a timeout because he didn't like what I did", but that's not how it played out.
It's also my theory that repeatedly asking about that series of events that week is why Lovie answered many of my press conference questions like this the rest of the year, if you ever saw this clip and were curious what might be behind the chill in the air:
Someone asked me about my question (and Lovie's response) in the Zoom press conference yesterday so I figured I'd just post the whole thing as a video clip. pic.twitter.com/FiuKas148I— Robert Rosenthal (@ALionEye) November 17, 2020
ALL OF THAT TO SAY, Spann should have appeared in two games. Maybe three if he had played well against Purdue. Unfortunately, he only appeared in one game (Penn State).
My dreams of another dual threat QB in a dual threat QB offense are the stuff of legend in my brain. You've forgotten most of this, but these are the things I think about. Let me just recap since 2009:
- Juice is asked to run the Mike Schultz offense in 2009 and it's a disaster. I note at the time how badly I want another 2007-2008 offense with a QB like Juice running the show. (It's now 2021 and I still haven't gotten my wish.)
- 2010 and 2011 we have the Petrino offense, and Nathan Scheelhaase runs it well. But it's not exactly what I'm looking for. We do put in the offense I'm looking for in 2012 (Beatty/Gonzales), and then we recruit the perfect QB for that system (Aaron Bailey). But the month Bailey signs, we change to the Bill Cubit offense. Scheelhaase can run it, and Wes Lunt can run it, but Bailey cannot so he transfers. I'm still waiting for my 2007-2008 offense.
- The Garrick McGee offense is closer to Petrino than anything else, and we cycle through several QB's running it (MJ Rivers, Cam Thomas).
- When we add Rod Smith, I'm very excited because the Pat White West Virginia offense (or the Khalil Tate Arizona offense) is exactly what I've been hoping for since 2008. We land Isaiah Williams to run it (I was always a bit hesitant about his height) and then we land Deuce Spann to run it. Spann, in this offense, is the exact Pat White scenario I've been waiting for.
- This is why, when a timeout was called and Spann was taken out of the game last year, I felt it to be the cruelest trick ever played on me. All I'm thinking about once Purdue takes a 31-10 lead is getting Spann on the field. And then he warms up and comes onto the field and finally I'm going to get to see a QB like Spann running the Pat White/Khalil Tate offense. And then they take him out of the game without him taking a single snap.
This offseason, we change coaches and change the offense again. This offense will probably have... one-third the number of carries for QB's that the previous offense had? I guess we can't say that for sure, but that seems to be the case from spring game observations.
This is not to say that Deuce Spann cannot run this offense, though. I still have one of his high school throws saved as a gif somewhere. Let me go find it.
Here you go:
Absolute dime. And all arm because he can drive into it since he's hit as he throws.
So that's why I had Spann #3 on my depth chart even before his spring game performance (3-4 for 58 yards passing, 3 rushes for 25 yards). Isaiah Williams was 5-14 for 77 yards, so I felt like Spann was really pushing him for the #2 spot at that point. (But that's mostly because I'm the world's biggest Spann fan.)
Then, two things happened. Williams moved to receiver (Spann up to #2?) and Sitkowski transferred in from Rutgers (Spann back to #3?). Right now, I'm holding Spann at #3. True freshmen from last year basically return as true freshmen this year, so the way I see it, Peters likely holds the starting job for one more year and then, next spring, it's a Spann-Sitkowski battle for starting QB.