The 90 Illini #6: Julian Pearl
How many people remember that Julian Pearl was once committed to Northern Illinois? Wow, that's actually more hands than I expected to see. You people know your stuff.
Julian Pearl was originally headed to Northern Illinois. But he decommitted very early and flipped to Illinois. That had to be, what, early 2017? In fact, I know it was because this is how my brain works. I associate Julian Pearl flipping to Illinois with some article I had just read about the first 100 days of the Trump administration. So it had to be late April of 2017. I will now look this up.
Pearl flipped on April 21, 2017. And Trump had been in office for 91 days at that point. So my brain didn't have it exactly right. The article would have been 10 days later. But that's how long ago it was that Julian Pearl flipped from NIU to Illinois. 91 days into the Trump administration.
6. Julian Pearl
Uniform number: 54
Year in school: Senior (1 year to play 1)
Height: 6'-6" -- Weight: 315 lbs.
Hometown: Danville, Illinois
High School: Danville HS
Five best offers: Only two published offers - Illinois and Northern Illinois.
Previous 90i rankings: #74 (2018), #78 (2019), #57 (2020), #38 (2021), #10 (2022)
Tom Cruise rating:
2022 statistics: Started 12 of 13 games (injured for Indiana).
Well, we can rest assured that there probably won't be another Illini player with a 90 Illini progression like that. Mostly because there won't be many players after Pearl who get six college seasons. But he redshirted + got a Covid year + stuck around for all six seasons so he has that 74-78-57-38-10-6 progression you see above.
When Pearl showed up on campus, he was a skinny basketball player. When he took the field for his first practice, he was a skinny defensive end. When he takes the field tomorrow, he'll be a massive 315 lb offensive tackle. We won't see many progressions like that, either.
With Isaiah Adams the better pro prospect (at least right now), you might wonder why I have Adams at 10 and Pearl at 6. My answer is that this is a "most important Illini players" list, and the left tackle is really, really important (especially with a first-time QB), and Pearl, in his sixth season in Champaign, is one of the leaders on the team.
So that earns you a spot right here at #6. My stretch goal for Pearl: have such a good season that you're picked ahead of Isaiah Adams in April.