LLUOI 2023: The Rest

Sep 1, 2023

This is the lamest article I'll ever write. Seriously, so, so lame.

I don't have much time here - I still have five more 90 Illini articles to get to and I have to write the SOC tonight - but I need to rate all of these players before the season starts tomorrow. My plan didn't work out, and now I'm stuck with this.

I had this whole new idea how I'd cover recruiting and how I'd rate players and I give it an F. Decent idea, horrible execution. I'm scrapping it and will regroup.

But with the season tomorrow, I need to give the rest of the newcomers a Tom Cruise rating, so this is the best I can do. I've already covered the incoming quarterbacks, running backs, and offensive linemen. So I'll now go through every other newcomer and simply give them their Tom Cruises.

Sorry this is so lame, but... here you go. I'll just sort the roster by class (which is typically then sorted by numbers) so that's the order here.

WR Malik Elzy

Elzy is the star of the class. He committed on NBC at the HS All American game. He's the highest rated player on most services. And, since I get the benefit of seeing all of these guys in person, he might be a bit better than I thought he'd be? I know I was a bit "let's not act like Juice Williams just committed" when he verballed, but I'm sold now. He's a big, strong receiver in the mold of Rejus. Rejus would have been a five Cruise player, and Elzy gets 4.5.

DB Saboor Karriem

This one is based 100% on film. I had him as a 4-Cruise player when I saw his film and I haven't moved from that. I didn't really get to see him do anything in fall camp (besides run through position drills), so there's nothing I saw that would adjust my ranking one way or the other. But in uniform, he certainly looks the part of a future professional. So this one is an old school eval. That film screams 4 Cruises.

DB Zachary Tobe

This is Craig's guy. If Craig were doing these evaluations, he'd have Tobe as the top player in the class. I don't quite see that, but I do see a future starter I think. Just like the rest of the defensive backs we brought in, Tobe is a long athlete. Long arms, big hands - these kids all look very similar in uniform. I'm gonna go with 3.25 Cruises here (and Craig will tell me that I should have gone with 4.75 Cruises).

WR Kenari Wilcher

He was my crush during spring ball. I see why they're starting him at wide receiver. Watch his film - he just has that ability to create separation. Not a Mikey Dudek-level of separation, but separation. Let's call him Mikey Dudek-lite (because he's that kind of receiver) and give him 3.75 Cruises.

DL Alex Bray

He looks like a wrestler. And that's a compliment. He looks like that kid at your high school who was really good at wrestling. Not the little guy wrestling 119 - the guy wrestling 215 or whatever who would suddenly be 240 lbs once the season ended. I like wrestlers on the offensive and defensive line. So I like Bray. 3 Cruises.

OLB Calvin Smith

This is one of those "I'm not sure I see it" recruits for me. Both on film and in person. He's a guy who will need to add weight and strength so they're recruiting him for what they're hoping he'll be in a couple years. But I'm not sure I see it. These ratings have been pretty high so far (mostly because this is sorted by class and jersey number and the guys getting single digit numbers are usually the stars of a recruiting class), but that trend drops off here with Smith. 1.75 Cruises.

WR Collin Dixon

Craig loves Dixon. We were discussing additional "guys" after we stopped recording the podcast episode last night and Craig said for the wide receivers, if I'm a Wilcher guy, he's a Dixon guy. I don't think Dixon is a bad recruit by any means, but I'm not blown away by his high school film. So I'm putting him right in the middle. 2.5 Cruises.

OLB Mason Muragin

In an off-to-the-side conversation I had with Coach Bielema at practice a few weeks ago (I don't blab many details from those conversations, but I'll share this one), I told him I didn't understand why Michigan and Ohio State weren't all after Mason Muragin. The defensive star of a state title team in Detroit and we're his only Big Ten offer? I told Coach Bielema that I didn't get it. His response was a big, wide smile. 3.5 Cruises.

DB Jaheim Clarke

He's not as big as some of the other DB recruits (like Karriem and Tobe), but he's probably the shiftiest. The best way to describe him might be to say that he's a wide receiver playing defensive back? He just has that WR quality to him, but he will need size and strength. So I'm going with 2.25 Cruises here.

LB Jojo Hayden

Just looked and I had already given Hayden a ranking back when he committed. So... yeah. 2.75 Cruises.

DB Mac Resetich

I have this thing where I'm susceptible to comps. Matt Bailey was an unknown late-addition safety from Moline in the 2022 class. Mac Resetich is an unknown late-addition safety from Spring Valley Hall in the 2023 class. Therefore, Mac Resetich will be just as awesome as Matt Bailey. I know that's not the truth, and so I'm limiting Resetich to 3 Cruises, but I really want to go higher.

DL Pat Farrell

This is another "I'm not sure I see it" player. It's all about where they project him to be in a few years, and I struggle seeing those projections sometimes. I mean, I just wrote the Julian Pearl 90 Illini post and, in looking up the LLUOI I wrote for him, I could just cut and paste that over here. Farrell might even follow that same path. Start on the defensive line, add the bulk, eventually move to the offensive line. Still, just like Pearl, I'm going 1.5 Cruises.

DL Jeremiah Warren

I've worked on my Plan B bias over the years. Used to be I'd be rating a kid who was a clear Plan B recruit and I'd rank them very low because they're only on scholarship because we missed on the Plan A target. But then we've seen Plan B's work out - Spoon was a Plan D recruit - and so I need to eliminate my bias. Warren was offered when we missed out on that DT who went to Michigan (Roderick Pierce), and that has me leaning 2 Cruises here, but I'll put my bias aside and say 2.5.

TE Nate Guinn

My evaluation of Tight Ends isn't going to win any award. The best way I can describe it: "that guy runs really well for a player his size - boost his Tom Cruise rating." I just wrote that when talking about Tip Reiman as a walkon in 2020. One run on one kickoff coverage and I was all "this guy is a future player." I saw Nate Guinn make a similar run this spring during one of the practices so... he gets boosted to 3.25 Cruises.

DB Demetrius Hill

I'll just let my tweet from May speak for these 3.5 Cruises:

TE Tanner Arkin

I'll admit that this ranking is 99% the thing I discovered when writing his 90 Illini post last month. Arkin was preseason first-team All Mountain West before the 2022 season. But as I dug into it I couldn't figure out why. As a freshman he played in 3 games and had 1 catch. And he wasn't a highly-ranked recruit. Preseason best TE in the MWC after one career catch? Then I realized that Colorado State's 2021 tight end had been a 2nd round draft pick. So the media voting in the preseason poll basically said "I bet the next guy at Colorado State will be good" (or, even worse, they thought the other guy was still there). Anyway, because of that (which is not one ounce his fault), I'm only going 2.25 Cruises.

DB Kaleb Patterson

I don't think I need to drag this one out. I saw him in the spring and a little bit this camp. I didn't think I saw a Big Ten defensive back. So, 1.5 Cruises.

WR Alexander Capka-Jones

He took the last scholarship available. He's #85. The final transfer to join the Illini. Reading his social media, he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder, which I like. He thought his juco film would garner more offers. He made this great catch in one of the scrimmages, though, and that boosted him from 1.5 to 2 Cruises.

DB Prince Ford

Man I don't think I watched an ounce of Prince Ford going through drills this camp. And I haven't watched his film (and don't have time to dig it out). So this is the least informed rating I'll ever give. I just threw a dart at the wall and it says... 2.25 Cruises.

DB Nicario Harper

This one is hard to read. All American at an FCS school. Moves up to a Power Five school (Louisville) but transfers midseason after getting demoted from second string to third string. Then transfers to Illinois for one final season. So that says "tried to move up to P5 football and just didn't have it", right? I saw some highlights from his FCS days and they were solid, but I'm stuck on the "couldn't make the rotation at Louisville" thing. 1.75 Cruises.

DT Denzel Daxon

At first I wondered why we were chasing a guy who didn't play much at Ohio University. But when I found out that he was first headed to Miami but then had some academic issues and landed at Ohio, that was encouraging. Recruiting pedigree means something to me. I'm willing to accept that Ohio tried him at the wrong position and he's perfect for nose tackle in our scheme, so I'm gonna say he's a fit and go with 2.75 Cruises.

S Clayton Bush

He was announced as the starting strong safety. So I have to fight the urge to hear that and think "wow, he must be really good - boost those Cruises." I watched some of his games at SIU, and he had one play where he avoided contact, and that's a downgrade for me. That's SO TREMENDOUSLY UNFAIR - I see one bad play in the middle of one game that I choose to watch - but when I check my gut for Cruises I only come up with two.

That's it. Five more articles to write. Sorry I'm so lame.


IlliniJoe81 on September 1, 2023 @ 07:56 PM

I actually really liked this article. Nice having so many in one page.

on September 1, 2023 @ 08:26 PM


HailToTheOrange on September 1, 2023 @ 08:54 PM

1000000x lamer

neale stoner on September 1, 2023 @ 09:05 PM

I’ve been a supporter through several tip jars. But this last month was disappointing. Work product was better when it was your avocation. Prior planning prevents piss poor performance.

MIlliniB on September 2, 2023 @ 12:10 AM

Second this post. It feels like the features of the site that drew me in (CTT, 90i, LLUOI) have completely fallen off since this became the full time gig.

rharrision on September 2, 2023 @ 08:52 AM

Really hate to pile on, but completely agree.

BelieveInIllinois on September 1, 2023 @ 10:26 PM

Just very disappointed.

immortan doug on September 1, 2023 @ 10:46 PM

Actually lol'd at the Prince Ford section. Why even bother.

cmi2phx on September 1, 2023 @ 11:47 PM

Trolls coming out of the woodwork on this one. Put me down for appreciation for writing the best Illini content out there.

gman on September 2, 2023 @ 08:06 AM

I for one value Robert's opinion..thanks

NC_OrangeKrush on September 2, 2023 @ 08:57 AM

Reset expectations - LLUOIS per year, PLUS 90 ratings.. is a full time job by itself - certainly now in the sheer change that happens...

Honestly if the 90 were written 1-90 vs. 90-1 others might not care as much about the last 20 vs. the first 20 and expectations reset. (the last 20 (not 3 deep) can be in a summary article as well... you will get them in the 3 deep in subsequent years.

I liked the article above... If you write the summary article like the above for all of the newcomers you can choose which player you expand on and release...

Again - it may be time to reset expectations for some of these 'large scopes of work'.... if it IS important then you have someone run the legwork... (scope of work or resources to support if schedule is fixed)

Your core still appreciate what you provide and for me resetting expectations would allow you to write without guilt - and that for me would be an improvement...

Those articles are only a part of of the IlliniBoard experience.. so the haters can chill just a little?

BelieveInIllinois on September 2, 2023 @ 04:32 PM

I would consider myself a core supporter since I have been a paying subscriber since almost the beginning of the pay model. But to express disappointment in what has happened does not make people 'haters'.

Robert continues to do the 90i even though he crams it all in at the last minute - every year. The result is that the most important players are all written about in haste, at the last minute. They roll off the front page, and people are already thinking about the game. In short, too much reading in too short a time. My guess is few read it. But no lessons are ever learned. Instead of doing 90, do 50 or 40, something that can be actually done on time and with quality.

As for the LLUOI, i am not surprised this happened. I didn't think he would keep up and he didn't. Remember we were promised position by position analysis of who left, who came back and who was new. That didn't happen either. Instead, we got the above.

bkenny on September 2, 2023 @ 10:43 PM

This is exactly it. The most important players are all released within a couple days before the first game. No time to read it, so have to skip it or go back when the season has already started. It seems almost irrelevant because now we’re all concerned with the results of the first game. Then Kansas. The most important content is getting of 90i is getting buried, plus causing a lot of stress. My opinion - cut it down. Max of 50.

MIlliniB on September 3, 2023 @ 10:12 PM

Exactly. Pointing out the obvious doesn’t make one a hater. I’ve subscribed to this site since day 1. But this happens every single year. What makes Robert great is typing out unfiltered thoughts. Should the 90i take up so much time that he gets a month behind?

CTT was a great part of the blog. And it fell off every year after the first half of the season. And now it’s likely gone for good.

I’m not being a jerk. Or a “hater”. Just providing feedback. We’re all starved for content now that both of the revenue programs are chugging along.

Robert on September 7, 2023 @ 06:04 PM

Not sure if many will see this comment but I need to put it in writing. I think all of this can be centered around this comment:

What makes Robert great is typing out unfiltered thoughts. Should the 90i take up so much time that he gets a month behind?

The issue this summer - and several other times when I've gone through this - is that I cannot access the "unfiltered thoughts" portion of my brain. I don't get behind because I'm lazy. I get behind because I refuse to publish content I'm not happy with. I have the time (and could publish meaningless words) - I just refuse to. I can't attach my name to it.

I "found it" on Sunday, August 20th this year. And I think you saw that in the following 11 days, everything was different. Not just the quantity, but the quality. It took forever but I got it back. The process works.

Yes, someone who writes like me has no business doing anything that's a "series". I'm working through all of that right now. But I feel like the thing that's missing from all of these comments is this:

The last three years have not been a struggle to find time to write. They've been a struggle to find my voice.

orangeandblue on September 4, 2023 @ 08:32 AM

The 90i is too many posts in my opinion. I love it as pre-season hype material. But by the time we hit the week of game 1, let’s talk about game 1. Maybe do the 90i in groups of 10 with shorter summaries like this article. LLUOI is disappointing in this format. I get that recruiting has changed. Content has to change with it. As a subscriber, I always looked to LLUOI to know if that recruit I saw that signed on Twitter is something I should be excited about or not. The long delay in getting them means the excitement for the commitment is gone. Is there no way to have some kind of content when the exciting announcement has been made? Even if you have to do an article like this later that’s the adjusted Cruise ratings? I’d also say that one big reason I’m a subscriber is the writers here are fans that know a lot about football. I’m just a fan. I don’t want to hear about our chances against Kansas from a reporter. I want to hear it from a fan who knows about football. Sometimes the posts are over my head with the football expertise, but that’s ok. I actually learn some stuff from that and when I don’t have time to read it, I always jump to the end and get the main conclusion. The preview this year was amazing. Best ever. Much less run on thinking out loud and way more focused. I found myself reading almost all of it. It’s a fantastic idea, that you should leverage to get subscribers because it adds a ton of value that frankly no one else is going to take the time to do.

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