Looks Like University Of Illinois - Tyson Rooks

Apr 15, 2022

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Tyson Rooks committed to Illinois {checks notes} exactly four months ago today. That might be the record for longest time without an LLUOI article. But it won't last long. Elijah Mc-Cantos verballed on November 30th and I still haven't written his.

If you're curious about the randomly-selected order I'm using for these, here it is again:

  1. Gabe Jacas
  2. Kaden Feagin
  3. Tyson Rooks
  4. Xavier Scott
  5. Matthew Bailey
  6. Antwon Hayden
  7. Elijah Mc-Cantos
  8. Isaiah Adams
  9. Naivyan Cargill
  10. Raashaan Wilkins

Somewhat hilarious that I'll probably watch Isaiah Adams play in the spring game before I write his Looks Like University Of Illinois post.

OK, so... Tyson Rooks. A 6'-5"... defensive back? This one will be interesting. Let's dig in.

First I went to the local paper in his town. He's from Brunswick, Georgia, right down on the coast near St. Simon's Island. I knew nothing of Brunswick, Georgia, so I did what I always do and scanned around in Google Maps to see what I could learn. Looks like there's a large paper mill there (so I'm assuming the paper mill odor is quite pungent). The gokart-track-looking place up by the airport is the Homeland Security Federal Officer Training Facility. Glynn Academy is in the center of town and has a nicer tennis facility than football stadium (more on that in a minute because I do remember the tennis angle here).

Brunswick sounded very familiar to me so I just Googled and my mood dropped. It was the location of the Ahmaud Arbery shooting. If you're unfamiliar, a father and son and their friend were convicted of murder for chasing down Arbery on the road (thinking he was a robbery suspect), attempting to detain him (Georgia, at the time, had a "citizen's arrest" law), and shooting him. All three received life sentences for murder and then were found guilty in federal court of hate crimes (sentencing upcoming).

I always feel awful when I have a thought like "wait, how do I know Brunswick, Georgia?" and then I realize I should absolutely know why I know Brunswick, Georgia. This "I want to know more about where he's from" effort ended like no other effort before. There's only one thing people reference now when discussing Brunswick, Georgia.

I don't know how to transition out of that so I'll just bluntly turn to more of my research. I read this Q-and-A with Rooks' father Burnett. He mentions how he's been in the Golden Isles (St. Simon's Island, Jekyll Island, and the surrounding coastal towns) his whole life. He was a tennis player and then tennis coach at the high school Tyson attended. Another bio I read on Tyson stated that he also played tennis, so that earns a bonus quarter-Cruise from this high school tennis player.

And as I read in this article, tennis (and other sports) were ahead of football for Tyson's high school career. In fact, he didn't play football until his senior year. So think about that. When we played a football game against Nebraska last August (Week Zero), Tyson Rooks hadn't ever played high school football. He played this fall and produced solid-enough film to earn scholarship offers from Illinois, Minnesota, Mercer, Georgia Southern, Air Force, and Navy.

Imagine that. You play tennis and basketball (and run track) your first three years of high school. You put in all this hard work but there's no college interest (although there might have been track and field interest if he wins the high jump at the state finals next month - he finished sixth as a junior). You then decide to go out for football and 10 weeks later you start getting Division I offers while Rivals and 247 are scrambling to create your profile page.

Most of those profile pages list him as a wide receiver. When Illinois put out their Tyson Rooks page on Signing Day, however, he was listed as a defensive back. I will now spend the next one-to-five paragraphs talking about a 6'-5" defensive back.

First off, below is a tweet of his from his visit to Chattanooga this fall. He's standing with then-Chattanooga WR coach Adam Mims. I looked up Mims as a player - he was in camp with the Steelers many years ago and was listed at 5'-9". That's on the shorter side but fairly typical for a defensive back. The starting secondary right now for the Illini: Sydney Brown, Quan Martin, and Devon Witherspoon are all listed at 6'-0" and Taz Nicholson is listed at 5'-11". The first guy off the bench at safety might be Kionte Curry (6'-0") and the first guy off the bench a cornerback is probably Tyler Strain (5'-9").

So here is Tyson Rooks standing with a coach who is the same height as Tyler Strain:

I know I do this all the time, but I can't help but think wide receiver when I see someone that tall. Just like I couldn't help but see a defensive lineman when I saw Josh McCray (and then he ran for 564 yards as a true freshman) and I can't help but see a tight end when I look at 6'-4" running back Jordan Anderson. A skinny athlete who is 6'-5" needs to be at receiver (in my often-wrong eyes).

One quick note before you trust me on that: When Daniel Faalele verballed to Minnesota, I declared that 6'-9" was too tall for a college offensive lineman. Center of gravity was too high. Faalele will now be picked somewhere between the 2nd and 4th round in the draft in a few weeks.

(Although, I should maybe note one thing: Isaiah Gay taking Daniel Faalele's center of gravity and placing it in the dirt on this play.)

Anyway, Tyson Rooks Is Too Tall To Play Defensive Back. There, I made it like a headline so you can throw it back in my face in a few years. I think he'll be a receiver. When I watch his film, I see a receiver (and most of his film shows highlights of him playing wide receiver). But when the school put out some tape on him after he signed, they chose only clips of him playing cornerback:

So perhaps that's his future. Seems crazy to me (I mean, when going through drills, he'll be 8" taller than some of the corners and 5" taller than some of the safeties), but that's what his profile says so that's what the staff sees. I'm very curious to see how that turns out.

(I'm not going to really do any film evaluation here besides showing those four clips in that YouTube video because it would just be me capturing gifs and then saying "see? A wide receiver.")

Rankings-wise, it appears the four services went four-for-four on "just make him a mid-three star" when he picked Illinois on Signing Day. ESPN went 75 (their three-stars are 70-79), 247 went 85 (80-90), On3 went 86, and Rivals went 5.5 (so they were the only service to go with the low three star rating). I could give you my "when a player chooses a team on Signing Day out of nowhere and the services scramble to create a profile, all of them mostly just defaulting to low-to-mid three-star, was the player really even evaluated?" rant but you've heard it a dozen times already.

I do enjoy a "discovery recruit" though, as you probably know. This is a rant I've given 35 times, but a 36th won't hurt. It's my "zero-stars are often better than two-stars" rant. In my mind, a player who just started playing football this fall and doesn't have a recruiting profile is quite often a better player to take than the lower-ranked kid who camped at five different Power Five schools last June but didn't earn any offers. Those are "we put our eyes on him and really think he's a Sun Belt recruit" players. Unknown players discovered their senior season in high school (like Palcho or Sydney Brown) seem to have a better chance at overcoming the low odds that come with bringing in a low three-star recruit.

The "defensive back" thing still has me confused, though. I just googled "tallest safety in the NFL" and the results came back with this link from a Seahawks blog saying that Pat Watkins (6'-5") was the tallest safety in NFL history so the player they had signed as a free agent safety (Wisconsin's Tanner McEvoy, 6'-6"), if he stayed at safety, would be the new tallest safety in NFL history. He did not stick at safety, though. The Seahawks moved him to wide receiver. PROBABLY BECAUSE 6'-6" IS TOO TALL FOR SAFETY.

McEvoy did play some safety at Wisconsin, though, after moving from quarterback. And as I'm typing this it dawns on me: did Bielema recruit McEvoy to Wisconsin. Let me look that up.

He did not. Bielema left for Arkansas in December of 2012. McEvoy (a junior college recruit) committed to Wisconsin the following month. But he did play some safety. And he was 6'-6". So there has been a safety in the Big Ten as tall as Tyson Rooks. But I'd just like to note one final time that if 6'-5" is the tallest safety in NFL history then it's hard to imagine a 6'-5" safety staying as a defensive back. Okay, NOW I'm done.

For Cruises, I think Rooks needs to be categorized as a project recruit. It's encouraging to me that Minnesota also discovered him and offered him - you don't want to be the only P5 chasing a project recruit - but in the end it's still a kid who will have a lot to learn about football. Especially on the defensive side of the ball. I have a solution for that, and it's a position that's much easier to learn, but... I think you know what it is.

So I think I come in right around two Cruises for Tyson Rooks. But I did mention the quarter-Cruise bump for having played tennis, so I need to add that in. That means he lands at...

Tyson Rooks - Two and one-quarter Tom Cruises.


Taft92 on April 16, 2022 @ 01:51 AM

Have you ever used the quarter-point tennis bump before? Bet it’ll only ever be this once.

hallkevin13@gmail.com on April 20, 2022 @ 09:27 PM

Was Joe Bertrand before Tom Cruises? Think he qualified for state as a tennis player.

phytynlini on April 16, 2022 @ 11:42 AM

You've really made it! You're getting spam comments!

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