Tampa II: Quan Song

Dec 30, 2022

The next post will be "Tampa III" so this is my one and only opportunity for a Tampa Two joke and I'm just not sure which way to go. This post is about Quan Martin. So I guess it would be something like "Quan played in Lovie's Tampa Two and now he comes to Tampa for the final game of his Illini career" and that doesn't even sound like the start of a joke so just never mind.

After all of my complaining about struggling to get one-on-one interviews during The Content Wars, I come to Tampa and BOOM, 11 minutes with Quan Martin. He had just won the ReliaQuest "Make It Possible" Award and then I got to interview him for a bit. First some words on that (and Quan) and then I'll link the entire interview.

As soon as the Bret Bielema/Zach Arnett press conference finished, the ReliaQuest CEO got up to present an award to a player for each team. At first I was rolling my eyes a bit at (not an exact quote) "cybersecurity makes it possible for you to have safe transactions online and these players make it possible for their teams to have success", but once he started reading the description of the type of player they were looking for with each award, I was suddenly 100% "this better be Quan". It's the kind of award that might have gone to one of the Brown brothers, but neither Brown is here, so it better be Quan.

It was Quan.

I have this interesting stance on Quan. I know that I've probably over-hyped him for five years. I gave him my "Asamoah Award" (given to a lower-ranked recruit who I think will be great in college) and have talked your ear off about him. But I also fully believe that he's one of the most under-valued players (by the fans, the media - everyone) in Illini history. He's Andres Feliz on the football field. And will (I believe) have a long NFL career.

So I've over-hyped him and talked about him too much... but I need to hype him some more because you still aren't thinking of him as one of the top-15 Illini football players the last decade.

I get into this somewhat in the interview, so I don't really want to write about my questions that I asked him and then ask you to listen to those questions, but I do want to put together the stats for you to see. As a true freshman in 2018, Quan was tossed out there at corner (a position he didn't even play in high school) and asked to sink or swim. Oh, and he was asked to do that on a super-young defense that didn't have a pass rush yet (making things impossible for an equally-young secondary).

That defense, famously, finished 128th in total defense (out of 130 FBS teams). You might remember that before the 2019 season, the new defensive coaching staff wrote "128" all over the brand new Smith Center to remind everyone that the defense finished two spots away from last. So that's what I wanted to talk to Quan about. He's on the defense that's 128th in yards allowed in 2018. And then he's on the defense that's 2nd in yards allowed in 2022. Five seasons (this was his Covid bonus year), and this was the improvement in yards allowed:

2018: 128th
2019: 80th
2020: 114th
2021: 47th
2022: 2nd

Crazy, right? The 2018 secondary had Nate Hobbs (in the NFL), Tony Adams (in the NFL), Kerby Joseph (in the NFL), Sydney Brown (will be in the NFL), and Quan Martin (will be in the NFL) in the secondary and that's the defense that finished 128th out of 130.

OK so I'm doing it again. That entire paragraph is something I discussed with Quan yesterday. I should just let you listen to it. One final game for Quan - I CALLED IT HIS 'QUAN SONG' DID YOU GUYS SEE THAT?? - and I'm already sad. What a player.

Here's the full interview with Quan (I'll just post this as a video because video always seems to hold the embed better than audio players).


Tolkien73 on December 30, 2022 @ 06:13 PM

Great interview, Robert. Fantastic to hear Quan move from canned answers to really opening up as he got more comfortable.

DQ4515 on December 31, 2022 @ 08:39 AM

Robert, you are right. I should have appreciated Quan more over the last five years. Thanks for a great interview.

on July 3, 2023 @ 03:59 PM


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