2023 Three Deep

Dec 16, 2022

I've been waiting to update my three-deep until after the quarterback situation is resolved. Last year, the Tommy DeVito transfer was announced on December 10th. I was hoping that the 2023 quarterback would be known by December 10th of this year so that I could write my annual postseason update to the three-deep.

It's December 15th. We don't know the quarterback yet. We know that there's a redshirt freshman (Leary) and a true freshman (Swanson), but it's likely that neither of them will be ready to be the starter yet. I can't wait any longer, so I'll just put "TRANSFER" in the starting quarterback slot.

The question you might have: could Tommy DeVito get a Palcho-like waiver and play an extra season? Let's just go through that real quick.

First off, I still don't know how Alex Palczewski got his waiver. For Palcho, 2020 counted as both his Covid bonus year AND his "only played four games so he gets a redshirt" year. He got a fifth season in 2021 because 2020 didn't count towards anything and he got a sixth season in 2022 because he only played 4 games in 2020. I didn't understand it but I wasn't going to question it - it meant we got a sixth year from Palcho.

For Tommy DeVito, any waiver would be him applying for a seventh year. That's even a step beyond Palcho. DeVito got a sixth year in 2022 the same way many other players (like Kendall Smith) got a Covid sixth year. He redshirted one year (2017) and he had a Covid year that didn't count (2020). So his four seasons that "counted" were 2018, 2019, 2021, and 2022.

Yes, there's also the medical waiver (I call it the Jess Settles waiver). If you miss two full seasons due to injury, the NCAA will sometimes grant you a sixth year. But they've only ever done that with players who missed two seasons due to injury. If you missed one year due to injury and one year just because you were a freshman and not playing, the NCAA has always said no. It's a "hardship" waiver, and the hardship has always been something like Dre Brown: two seasons missed due to multiple injuries. (Brown never applied for that medical waiver, although I was hoping he would.)

The point: in the past, you've had to prove to the NCAA that injuries cost you two seasons. Tracy Abrams played in 2012, 2013, and 2014. In 2015 he tore his ACL and in 2016 he tore his Achilles. So the NCAA granted him a sixth year in 2017. Had there been a global pandemic in, say, 2014 and the NCAA had announced that the season wouldn't count towards anyone's eligibility, then Abrams would have had an argument for a seventh season: "I get four seasons, right? I played in 2012 and 2013. 2014 didn't count because of the pandemic. 2015 I tore my ACL and 2016 I tore my Achilles. That means that 2017 was technically only my 'third' season. So I should get a 'fourth' season in 2018." That's something the NCAA would have likely approved. Two seasons lost to injury. One season lost to pandemic. This kid gets a 7th year.

The difference between Tracy Abrams math (again, I'm assuming a global pandemic during Abrams' career there just to make the examples the same) and Tommy DeVito math: Abrams definitely missed two full seasons due to injury. DeVito, as far as we know, only missed one season due to injury (2020, season-ending injury in the fourth game). Using the old rules, the NCAA would say "sorry, Tommy's 2017 redshirt was just the standard 'didn't play as a freshman' redshirt, so there's not two injury years here."

But there's two things I don't know there:

  1. When DeVito only played three games in 2021 (when he lost the starting job to Garrett Shrader), was there an injury involved?
  2. When DeVito redshirted in 2017, was there an injury involved?

Everything changed with the NCAA after the Alston ruling. They used to be in the waiver denial business (remember Luke Ford?) and then suddenly they're in the waiver approval business. So there's a chance that the NCAA doesn't even follow those "two of those years need to be injury-related" rules anymore. Maybe they make this super simple and say "DeVito only played more than four games in 2018, 2019, and 2022, so yes, he gets a fourth (seventh) season in 2023." I'm simply holding to the way they've always done it until they do it a different way.

Clear as mud? Clear as mud.

So for now, I'm going to name TRANSFER as our starting quarterback in 2023. And I'm also going to remove two other players from the depth chart: Chase Brown and Devon Witherspoon. I'm going to assume that Chase follows his brother Sydney (who is out of eligibility) to the NFL Draft and forgoes his final season. And I'm going to assume that Spoon sees all of these mock drafts putting him in the first round and chooses to enter the draft.

There are other players who might do that. Mel Kiper has Johnny Newton as the 7th-best defensive linemen on his 2023 draft board, so he might go. Keith Randolph could follow him. There might be seniors who have a Covid year available (like, say, Tarique Barnes) who follow the path that Khalan Tolson took last season and say "it's time to see if I can make an NFL roster". There are several names on this depth chart who might not be on the 2023 roster. For now, though, I'm only choosing to remove two: Chase Brown and Devon Witherspoon.

One other thought and then I'll finally start three-deeping. It's very hard to know which 4th-year and 5th-year players who still have eligibility will return. Those are the players we see leave all the time. They're seniors, they'll graduate in May, and they might just be moving on. Some walked on Senior Day and I've removed them from next year's depth chart (even though they could return), some I'm leaving on here even though they might transfer (or just be done with football) - there's no simple way to do this so I'm just going to project what I expect and then everything will sort itself out from there.

OK, let's get to the three-deep. As always, 12 positions on each side (just like the AP All American team). Newcomers (freshmen, jucos, and the three transfers we know so far) are in italics.

QB | TRANSFER | Leary (rs-FR) | Michaux (SO-walkon)
RB | McCray (rs-SO) | Love (JR) | Laughery (rs-FR)
TE1 | Reiman (JR) | Moore (rs-JR) | O. Anderson (rs-FR)
TE2 | Arkin (SO) | Boyer (rs-FR) | Cargill (rs-FR)
LT | Pearl (SR) | Barlev (rs-SO) | Møller (rs-FR)
LG | Slaughter (SR) | Schuster (SO) | Davis (JR)
C | Jones (SR) | Jo. Kreutz (rs-SO) | Okla (rs-FR)
RG | Crisler (JR) | Gesky (rs-SO) | Leonard (rs-FR)
RT | Adams (SR) | Whitenack (SO) | Cronin (JR-walkon)
WR | Williams (JR) | Beatty (SO) | Wilcher (FR)
WR | C. Washington (SR) | S. Miller (rs-FR) | Hollins (rs-FR)
WR | P. Bryant (JR) | M. Scott (rs-SO walkon) | Pugh (rs-FR)

ROLB | Coleman (JR) | Cooper (JR) | Badie (rs-FR)
RDL | Randolph (JR) | Wilkins (SR) | Kirts (JR)
NT | T. Edwards (JR) | V. Brown (SR) | Lorenzo (rs-FR walkon)
LDL | Newton (JR) | B. Barnes (SR) | McConnell (rs-SO)
LOLB | Jacas (SO) | A. Bryant (rs-SO) | Holmes (SR)
ILB1 | T. Barnes (SR) | Odeluga (rs-SO) | Ja. Kreutz (rs-FR)
ILB2 | Hart (SR) | Rosiek (rs-SO) | Meed (JR)
CB | Strain (rs-SO) | Rooks (rs-FR) | Tobe (FR)
CB | Nicholson (JR) | Mc-Cantos (rs-FR) | Clarke (FR)
STAR | X. Scott (SO) | Harper (SR) | Manning (JR-walkon)
SS | Turner (JR) | Karriem (FR) | TJ Griffin (rs-FR)
FS | Bailey (SO) | Curry (rs-SO) | P. Green (rs-SO)

Kicker | C. Griffin (SR) | Pinton (rs-SO) | Olano (FR)
Punter | Robertson (SO) | Duley (FR)
Longsnapper | Hall (JR) | L. Hansen (rs-SO) | Crawford (rs-FR)
Punt Return | Williams (JR) | M. Scott (SO) | Beatty (SO)
KO Return | Love (JR) | Laughery (rs-FR) | Dixon (FR)

Some quick notes:

  • Secondary is the obvious "wow, I don't know any of those names" for the casual fan. My choices as the replacements for Witherspoon, Martin, Brown, and Smith as of right now: Tyler Strain at corner, Xavier Scott at Star, Hawaii transfer Solo Turner at strong safety (he joined the team last summer), and Matt Bailey at free safety.
  • The position that looks a whole lot different if several of these guys leave early for the draft: defensive line (duh). All eyes on the Law Firm to see what they're going to do.
  • Again, just to try to stave off the comments, there are several players not listed who might be added back in (Luke Ford could technically return) and there are several players listed who might depart (does Verdis Brown come back? Shammond Cooper?). We won't have a true picture there until spring semester enrollments. For now, I have to guess.
  • As of now I have next year's offensive line as senior, senior, senior, senior, junior. Just something I didn't expect but there it was.
  • The spot that surprised me as far as depth: strongside OLB. The starter from the beginning of this season (Ezekiel Holmes, who was injured in the Virginia game and missed the rest of the season) is third string here because Gabe Jacas and Alec Bryant played so well this season. We're bringing in several solid EDGE guys in the 2023 class and I can't even slide them onto the three-deep as third-stringers.
  • Kicker is interesting, right? Caleb Griffin was 13 for 17 on field goals. Fabrizio Pinton was 7 for 7 on field goals when Griffin was out with an injury. David Olano is being brought in on scholarship to compete for the starting job right away. And I don't even have room for redshirt freshman Will McManus who handled kickoff duties while Griffin was out (Pinton handled the field goals). Who has four kickers?

While writing the words "who has four kickers?" there I had that "dude, you've said what you came to say - you can stop now" feeling. So I'll stop now.

(But seriously one last thing I mentioned Jared Badie as a redshirt freshman there but that's not set yet because he played in four games this year which means that if he plays in the bowl game he'll be a sophomore not a redshirt freshman next season but I doubt he'll play because they sat him for Michigan and Northwestern but they might.)

OK now I'm done.


Reykjavik4 on December 15, 2022 @ 08:37 PM

The transfer TE, Arkin, will be a redshirt soph, will he not?

Robert on December 16, 2022 @ 10:06 AM

No idea. I looked at his "entering the transfer portal" tweet and it said he had three years of eligibility remaining so I put "SO" here.

tubbs81 on December 15, 2022 @ 09:03 PM

Doesn’t Hightower still have a year of eligibility?

Robert on December 16, 2022 @ 10:09 AM

I have a reason for every player I didn't list and every player I listed. It might not be correct, but I have a reason.

IllinifaninGopherland on December 16, 2022 @ 08:33 AM

Pearl walked on Senior Day also FWIW.

jdl on December 16, 2022 @ 09:30 AM

Yeah, seems to be a lot of speculation he'll be in the draft.

Robert on December 16, 2022 @ 10:10 AM

I have a reason for every player I didn't list and every player I listed. It might not be correct, but I have a reason.

Efrem on December 16, 2022 @ 08:37 AM

No Colin Dixon in the WR 3 deep? Just looking at his size and HS highlights - looks like he should be considered

Robert on December 16, 2022 @ 10:03 AM

I didn't really consider any of the freshmen. Don't even have Feagin on here. The only freshman to be second string at any position is Saboor Karriem and that's because of a big numbers deficiency in the secondary. Which is the point of a three-deep post - to find those deficiencies.

Efrem on December 16, 2022 @ 05:22 PM

Didn't you have Wilcher at WR?

The DB that just announced he was going to move to O when he gets here?

RedbirdIlliniFan on December 16, 2022 @ 01:22 PM

If you had to bet who was RB1 to going into bowl season next year do you think McCray is the favorite? (basically, just curious if you think one of Love/Laugherty/Anderson/Feagin/etc (holy cow we have a lot of backs) could unseat McCray)

BriCrozier on December 16, 2022 @ 06:58 PM

Just a note for those that didn't see the news today - The NCAA is waiving the four-game rule for this year's bowl games only. So anyone that has played four games already this season can play in their bowl game but still keep the option of "red-shirting" this year.

Eagle on December 17, 2022 @ 11:20 PM

My guess is that, because more top talent is choosing to opt out of bowl games, they had to do something to get the best remaining talent on the fields so everyone is still interested in watching.

on July 3, 2023 @ 03:59 PM


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