The 90 Illini #69: Ryan Meed
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Any 2019 enrollee who got on the field that season (like Keith Randolph or Isaiah Williams or, the reason I'm saying this, Ryan Meed) always startles me when looking at their participation. They were juniors before they had a game that "counted."
Take Meed. He impressed the coaches enough (as a walkon) that he made the traveling squad in 2019 and appeared in his first game at Michigan State (THAT Michigan State game). He played in that game and the final three but with the rule change from several years ago, anyone participating in four games or less (if they have a redshirt year available) gets a redshirt.
So he returned in 2020 as a freshman again (even though he played in four games). This time he plays in 4 of the 8 games so that counts as his freshman year... wait, the NCAA gave everyone a waiver for Covid and no one's eligibility counted. So that didn't count either. Which means he arrives at camp in 2021 as a freshman for the third time (despite playing in games each of his first two seasons).
He appeared in 7 games last season, and when he got into the game against Nebraska last August, it was his "freshman debut." As a junior. (But also a freshman.)
Still so weird.
69. Ryan Meed
Uniform number: 34
Year in school: Redshirt Sophomore (without the Covid waiver, 2 years to play 2; with the Covid waiver, technically 3 years to play 3)
Height: 6'-1" -- Weight: 225 lbs.
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
High School: Canarsie HS
Five best offers: n/a - walkon who was moved to scholarship last year
Tom Cruise Rating: n/a - walkon
2021 statistics: Played in 7 games, mostly on special teams.
Meed was put on scholarship last year by the new coaching staff. Those are typically one-year deals (when a walkon gets a scholarship), so I guess we won't know if it was renewed for 2022 until later this season. It was much easier to do last year (no scholarship limit), so across the country this year there will be guys going back to walkon status after one year as a scholarship player this season. Sucks, but that's reason #37 why I thought the NCAA should go with a step-down policy instead of all the way back to the cap of 85 in 2022. I proposed unlimited-95-90-85 but what do I know.
The majority of his time on the field so far has been on coverage units. Which isn't nothing. Any guy getting on the field for 15 games as a walkon has far exceeded the expectations. For every one walkon that plays, it feels like there are 12 that never see the field. So, good for Meed for breaking through.
Good question. The last two years there have been a ton of walkon-to-scholarship linebackers on this roster. Alec McEachern. Sean Coghlan. Isaac Darkangelo. Ryan Meed. The first three (all 2+ years older than Meed) all eventually got on the field for some linebacker snaps. With McEachern and Coghlan gone now, will Meed do the same?
It's a tough year to be trying to do that, to be honest. The starters from the first game return (CJ Hart and Tarique Barnes). Darkangelo returns for one more year. One of Bielema's first recruits (Kenenna Odeluga, a HS recruit added to the 2021 class after Bielema arrived) might be ready for snaps. Dylan Rosiek (Lovie recruit but played freshman year under Bielema) might also be ready. And Bielema is adding guys like Malachi Hood and James Kreutz from his first recruiting class.
So that's a tough hill to climb for Meed. Here's hoping he can do it.