LLUOI 2023: The Rest
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:
Mannnnn THAT’s how you portal right there. Freshman All American at FIU, he’s ready to move up to a higher level of football, we grab him at a position of need.— Robert Rosenthal (@ALionEye) May 14, 2023
Just imagine if FIU’s only other Freshman All American (T.Y. Hilton) had done the same. https://t.co/N94tZDjwA2
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.