Looks Like University Of Illinois - Gabe Jacas
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"But Robert, didn't Jacas commit on December 15th?"
"Yes, he did."
"But it's April this Friday. You're telling me you're that far behind on Looks Like University Of Illinois posts?"
"Yes, but I'm even more behind than that. Elijah Mc-Cantos committed on November 30th and I still haven't written his."
"I mean, you can't really be surprised, right? I've said so many times that putting something in the inbox in January, February, or March is basically throwing it in the trash. My entire soul is invested in Illini basketball and even when I have time it's difficult to put my brain in LLUOI mode."
"But you have time now, right?"
"Yes. And my intention is to roll through these NINE Looks Like University Of Illinois posts as quickly as possible here in late March and early April."
"Why are you starting with Jacas?"
"Well, I did that thing where I asked someone (on Slack) to put the numbers 1-9 in order and that's the order I'll write the nine LLUOI posts."
"What's the order?"
- Gabe Jacas
- Kaden Feagin
- Tyson Rooks
- Xavier Scott
- Matthew Bailey
- Antwon Hayden
- Elijah Mc-Cantos
- Isaiah Adams
- Naivyan Cargill
It's funny - I've seen Isaiah Adams at practice 4 times now and he's 8th on this list. I better have the best evaluation in the world for that one.
Up first, Gabe Jacas. Pronounced "ah-kus" with a silent J.
First off, I'm writing this one at a cafe. The wifi is janky. Can't really get a Hudl video to stream at high enough quality to create some gifs. So let's just start with film since it will be quick and painless. Here's the highlights the school put out there on Signing Day three and a half months ago.
Maybe we'll start with how I've decided to reference this defense. Gabe Jacas is most definitely a 5. Might grow into a 6, but for now I'm putting him at 5. And here's what I mean by that.
You might remember that on my depth charts I've added and removed different positions over the last year. Sometimes I would list five "linemen" and three linebackers. But since the defensive ends in this defense are listed as outside linebackers, it's kind of like I'm listing three linemen and five different linebacker spots.
Throughout the season, we did a lot of... interchangeable stuff. We'd drop one OLB (or move him in and drop another DL) and then put one of the inside linebackers (Khalan Tolson) in that spot. So it was almost like we had a traditional 4-3 defense (four linemen, two inside 'backers, and then a third linebacker who drifted out to a pass rush spot. When I'd add LLB to my depth chart (the clunky "left linebacker" terminology I came up with), it was that spot.
It never really made sense, though. I'd call it left linebacker, and someone would say "so he's just an outside linebacker like Isaiah Gay or Owen Carney", and I'd say "well, sure, but he's an ILB playing OLB in that scheme" and people would be even more confused. I was looking at the defense like I watch practice - the defensive linemen were over here with Coach Jamison, the defensive ends/outside linebackers were over here with Coach Kane, and the inside linebackers were over here with Coach Buh. When Khalan Tolson moved over to play more of an OLB spot, in my mind, that's a Coach Buh guy playing in one of Coach Kane's positions. So I can't just call him an OLB. He's a... left..... linebacker.
So I decided to number everything for the Front 7. Eight spots in the front-seven. 8 is the Nose Tackle. 1 is the second inside linebacker (we'll call him the WLB but sometimes he has SLB duties - it's just the guy next to the middle linebacker).
Here's the numbers I landed on:
8 - Nose tackle
7 - Big DL
6 - Little DL
5 - Big OLB
4 - Little OLB
3 - Big ILB
2 - Medium ILB
1 - Small ILB
3 is the position not on the field very often (and not really a "position" - it's just that linebackers like Tolson could play there to give us a different look). The base defense is a defensive line with 4-5-6-7-8 on the field with 1 & 2. But we also went with five defensive backs a ton which meant that if you had 4-5-6-7-8 on the field you could only have 1 join them (plus the five DB's). Or maybe you drop the 8 and just go 4-5-6-7.
Because things were changing constantly, I decided that I'd start looking at players like the enneagram wheel (it's a personality test where you have a "wing" subcategory to your main personality so you're a "2 wing 1" or a "2 wing 3" - you're this, but you lean a little more towards this over here than that over there). That fits perfectly with this defense (at least in my odd brain).
So let's start adding players you know to that. Owen Carney was a 5 wing 6. He was a defensive end, but in pass rush situation he could slide inside a bit and let one of the linebackers cover him on the outside. Khalan Tolson? A 2 wing 3. Most of the time he's one of the two inside 'backers. But sometimes we'd slide him over there to be the "acting OLB." Keith Randolph? 7 wing 8 (or maybe 7 wing 6 - that's a tough one). Tarique Barnes? 1 wing 2. Isaiah Gay? Basically a pure 4.
Where I'm going with all of this: Gabe Jacas and Jared Badie were added to this class. In my mind, Jacas is an Owen Carney and Badie is an Isaiah Gay. So maybe Jacas is 5 wing 6 and Badie is a pure 4. Malachi Hood? They might try him as a 4 wing 3 or they might try him as a 4 wing 5 or maybe he's even a 2 wing 3 like Tolson. The staff will be all about finding where these guys fit on the continuum.
Go back to that film above. I think it shows that Jacas is 5. In my mind, he's not a 5 who could play the 4 spot in a pinch. I think he's closer to pure 5 or possibly a 5 wing 6. I'm hopeful he can keep that athleticism as he adds bulk because, as we saw last year, a true 5 wing 6 can be very effective in this defense.
Shammond Cooper was tried at 4 last year. This spring he was back to 2 but maybe, with Tolson gone, he's there to play some 3. Calvin Avery is an 8 who will always be an 8. Some of these freshman linebackers will be tried anywhere along the 1-4 continuum. Is this making sense yet? That's the best I can describe it.
If Jacas is really a 5 (which could more or less mean "prototypical college defensive end" even though it's an OLB position in this defense), then he's one of the more important players in this recruiting class. I think I only see two 5's on the entire roster (junior Ezekiel Holmes and redshirt freshman Virginia Tech transfer Alec Bryant), so that puts Jacas in the three-deep the moment he steps on campus. Now, maybe some of the 4's eventually grow into 5's, but for now, I think the 5 is Holmes-Bryant-Jacas while over at the 4 you have Seth Coleman, DJ Johnson, and Jared Badie.
Jacas has a great "late bloomer" profile. Last summer he committed to Tulane. He had some P5 offers like Mississippi State but Tulane was the choice. Then, after a solid senior year, he added offers from Tennessee and Illinois. He visited both in December, decommitted from Tulane, and picked Illinois.
Profile-wise he's more or less right in the middle of 3-star land. Rivals has him as a 5.5 three-star (that's the lowest of their 3 three-star ratings) but the rest are all right in the middle. ESPN's three-stars are in the 70's and 247 & On3's three-stars are in the 80's. The ratings: 75, 85, 85.
I think I agree with that. Mid three-star. Which usually earns you 2.5 Cruises here. But I really like this recruit and he really fits a huge need. So I'm giving a quarter bump for both of those and landing on...
Gabe Jacas - Three Tom Cruises