The 90 Illini #30: Calvin Avery
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Maybe I should name the 30's on this list "the time is now." If there are three "the time is now" players on this defense: Verdis Brown, Shammond Cooper, and Calvin Avery. And all three landed in the 30's on my list. I didn't really plan it that way, but it makes sense. Once we get to #22 we've reached the starters, so 30's are the backups who could make a big leap this season.
Verdis has two years to make that leap, and Shammond has three, but for Avery, this is it. He hasn't taken a redshirt year, so he enters this season as a 2-to-play-1 guy. He only has one more year of eligibility on the field (and he'd be at 0 if it wasn't for the Covid waiver).
I only gave more Tom Cruises to one player on this roster (Isaiah Williams got 5 Cruises; Avery got 4.5). His high school film (LLUOI article with gifs linked below) was devastatingly awesome. But so far, we have not seen a 4-star defensive tackle. We've seen glimpses, especially last year, but we haven't seen him realize his full potential.
Say it with me: the time is now.
30. Calvin Avery
Uniform number: 93
Year in school: Senior (2 years to play 1)
Height: 6'-2" -- Weight: 335 lbs.
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
High School: Bishop Dunne HS
Five best offers: Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas, Notre Dame, USC
Tom Cruise rating:
2021 statistics: Played in 11 games, starting two. 11 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, one-half sack on the season.
It was one of our biggest recruiting wins in the last five years. With his high school teammate Kievan Myers (who had already committed) sitting next to him, Avery sat down in front of the television cameras and picked the Illinois hat. A 4-star defensive tackle (who was supposed to pick TCU that day) chooses Illinois.
In the four years since, he's played in every game but two. So he has a ton of experience. But he's yet to ascend to that dominant force in the middle we were all hoping to see. I know that's probably unfair, and rankings are just rankings, but he was one of the most hyped recruits of the last 5-10 years. With that comes expectations.
The main reason his snaps were limited the last few seasons: Rod Perry arrived via transfer and was the starting nose tackle in 2020 and 2021. I just compiled the interior DL snap counts a few players back, so let me go dig those out and paste them here:
1. Johnny Newton - 611 snaps
2. Roderick Perry - 503
3. Keith Randolph - 446 (missed two games with an injury)
4. Calvin Avery - 201
5. Jamal Woods - 158
T6. Bryce Barnes - 37
T6. Verdis Brown - 37
Rod Perry's 503 snaps are available. The players competing for those snaps: Calvin Avery (201 snaps last year), Verdis Brown (37), and Northwestern transfer TeRah Edwards. Edwards is currently out as he deals with a knee injury from the summer, so this is an even bigger "time is now" moment for Calvin Avery. Him stepping forward and providing what Perry provided last year would be a huge, huge boost to this defense.