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The Last Post On A Lion Eye July 31, 2013 Comments Off

Don’t freak out.  I’m not going anywhere.

Well, I am going somewhere, but ALE isn’t going anywhere. OK, fine, it’s moving to another place, but… here, I’ll back up.

John Brumbaugh is bringing back Illiniboard – the first (and best) Illini community on the world wide internet.  And I’m taking this blog over there.  It’s all explained on the first post there.

Everything you’ve read here for the last four and a half years – Stream Of Consciousness, LLUOI, Check The Tape – will now simply happen over there.  The layout is a bit different (improved, I must say), but the content won’t be.  It will be this, only better.

The plan is to expand my writing there with the eventual goal of doing that full time.  There’s a lot of hurdles between here and there, but if you’ve joined me on ALE for the past 4.5 years, I truly hope you’ll join me over there.

So update your bookmarks.  I’ve moved the archive over, too, so all 1,042 posts in ALE history are now found over there.

Oh, right – the link.  Everything you ever wanted to know about the Illini will now be found at:

Illiniboard.com

 

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90i #33: STEVEHULL July 30, 2013 4 Comments

STEVEHULLHull
Wide Receiver
6′-2″ 200 lbs.
Senior (on scholarship, 1 year to play 1)
Sycamore High School / Cincinnati, Ohio
Jersey Number: #9

What I Know About Him:

First off, if you’re new, I’m physically unable to type his name without giving it the STEVEHULL treatment. It’s not even my joke – when Hull signed with Illinois my friend Jacob made the “STEVE HOLT!” Arrested Development reference and it stuck. For four years on here, I’ve been saying STEVEHULL. I can type his last name just fine, but if I add the first, STEVEHULL.

Hull arrived as a wide receiver. And a decently recruited wide receiver, too. Fun fact: in high school he made SportsCenter’s Top Ten for a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown. He redshirted as a freshman and was Scout Team Player of the Year as a receiver. Then, in Rantoul in 2010, Supo Sanni tore his Achilles and we were suddenly very short on safeties. So maybe only 10 days before the Missouri game, Hull made the switch to safety. And he played there a lot, more or less becoming a three year starter there.

But his time at safety was severely limited by – and don’t quote me on this but I watch a lot of game on film so this is probably a pretty accurate count – his shoulder popping out of joint 93 times. It must have reached the point where he just can’t tackle anyone anymore, so for his final season, he has moved back to wide receiver.  And because Donovonn Young has the #5 on offense, Hull has switched to #9.

What I Expect From Him:

Hull and Nathan Scheelhaase were roommates as redshirt freshmen.  And whenever Nate wanted to work on certain routes, Hull was his receiver (including the morning of the spring game in 2009 when Scheelhaase was so hyped up to play football he woke Hull up very early and asked him to go to the stadium and run routes). I say that to point out that Hull and Scheelhaase should have pretty good chemistry on the field.  Will Hull’s shoulder hold up?  Who knows.  But he showed good enough hands to win Scout Team Player of the Year, and I’ve seen him run some great routes in Rantoul, so it’s possible.

Best case scenario is maybe Mark Kornfeld’s final season – Hull moves to receiver as a senior and we wonder why he didn’t play receiver every season.  Worst case scenario is an interception on the first play from scrimmage against Southern Illinois and then Hull pops his shoulder out making that tackle.  Word of advice, STEVEHULL: sweep the leg.

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90i #34: Jake Feldmeyer July 29, 2013 2 Comments

Jake FeldmeyerFeldmeyer
Offensive Lineman
6′-4″ 295 lbs.
Senior (on scholarship, 1 year to play 1)
Centerville High School / Centerville, Ohio
Jersey Number: #67

What I Know About Him:

You never really realize how many players we have from one area until you go through an exercise like this, detailing 90 players in 90 days.  We have a lot of players from Ohio.  A lot.  And they’re kind of grouped together.  There’s the Cleveland corner of the state, with Justin Hardee, V’Angelo Bentley, Simon Cvijanovic, LaKeith Walls, Jeremey Whitlow, and, stretching further out, Mason Monheim, Mike Svetina, and Christian DiLauro.  And then there’s the Cincinnati/Dayton corner of the state, with Jarrod Clements, STEVEHULL, Brad Janitz, Joe Spencer, and Jake Feldmeyer.  And then there’s several Columbus area guys in this new class, like Caleb Day and Dawaune Smoot and Austin Schmidt. Is that it?  No, Tim Kynard and Chris Boles are from Toledo.  And I’m sure I’m missing a few.

Jake Feldmeyer is that Cincy/Dayton corner – Centerville is just south of Dayton, somewhat near Springboro, which is where basketball freshman Maverick Morgan is from.  Aren’t you enjoying this geography lesson?  YOUR University of Illinois Fighting Ohioans.

I met Feldmeyer’s parents at the 2010 Rantoul High School scrimmage.  Fun story they told me: it’s easy to find Illini gear with their son’s number.  He wears 67, and there’s lots of Illini gear in the stores with a ’67 on there (for 1867, of course).  Note to future Illini offensive linemen: pick #67 and then see your number all over campus.

What I Expect From Him:

Feldmeyer will most likely be the 6th man this year.  The starting five is probably set, and Feldmeyer is maybe the odd man out there, but I still think he sees lots of time backing up the guard positions and Alex Hill at center.  We’ve had a lot of productive “6th men” over the years, some on their way to a starting spot, some just being that versatile sub that we need.  Eric Block, Randall Hunt, Jack Cornell, etc.  Jack Cornell is probably the best example here.  Cornell wasn’t a starter in 2010, but he played so much that he might as well have been.

That’s the kind of 6th man I’m talking about when discussing Feldmeyer.  Something like a scenario where Alex Hill plays 70% of the snaps at center, Teddy Karras plays 70% of the snaps at right guard, and Jake Feldmeyer plays 60% of the snaps because he fills in for both.  I think redshirt freshman Joe Spencer will push him for minutes (and I think Spencer might get all of the backup minutes at left guard), but that’s a good problem to have.  Tim Beckman wants a deeper team this year, with backups he can lean on to rest the starters, and Feldmeyer provides that.

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90i #35: Dami Ayoola July 28, 2013 1 Comment

Dami AyoolaAyoola
Running Back
5′-10″ 205 lbs.
Sophomore (on scholarship, 4 years to play 3)
St. Thomas Aquinas High School / Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Jersey Number: #22

What I Know About Him:

Ayoola was the sneaky-good player in the 2012 recruiting class.  The way I remember it, he verballed the night before the Minnesota game in 2011.  We lost, Zook was fired, and then he was back on the market.  The first weekend that Tim Beckman was hired (maybe two days after his press conference) he had Ayoola in for a visit and he confirmed his commitment to the program.  Which was a surprise to me, given that he had many other options.  Ayoola was reportedly down to Illinois and Notre Dame (and had visited Notre Dame the weekend before he verballed to us).  But he also had offers from Auburn, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Iowa, and several others.

He comes from arguably the top high school program in the country – St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale.  We’ve landed a player from there each of the last three years (Justin DuVernois, then Ayoola, and this year, James Crawford).  Which is always a good thing.  Players from top programs that play games all over the country are always just a little better prepared for the college experience.

What I Expect From Him:

I’ve been thinking about the 2014 offense a lot lately. A lot. Like, a whole bunch. All the time, really.

Planning for future success in college is never about just saying “we’ll have this guy at tailback and this guy at quarterback and these two receivers”. You have to look at it and say “we have these two quarterbacks and these 5 receivers and those four tailbacks, and from those, we should be able to find a pretty good first string”. Maybe only half of the players you recruit that you think will be impact players down the line ever really turn out to be impact players.

Look at the wide receivers in 2008. We had major impact recruits like Chris James and Marquis Wilkins and Jeff Cumberland and Cordale Scott and Arrelious Benn and Jarred Fayson and then we added a freshman stud in AJ Jenkins (and several other receivers). And out of all of that, I’d say really only half of those guys were major impact players. We had good receivers those years because we recruited seven solid guys and found three or four.

Since recruiting fell off the table at the end of 2009, we really haven’t been able to look at any future rosters like that. But I think we can start to do that with the 2014 offense (defense is a different story, but let’s not talk about that right now). At quarterback, it’s 4-star Wes Lunt vs. 4-star Aaron Bailey. May the best man win. At wide receiver, we just added a few solid jucos (including a 4-star) that will be ready to make a major impact.  We’ve actually added six receivers in the past eight months: Dionte Taylor, Marchie Murdock, Mike Dudek, Malik Turner, Tyrin Stone-Davis, and Geronimo Allison.  From depth issues to… not.

Which brings me to Ayoola. Adding Ayoola in the 2012 class and Matt Domer in the 2014 class makes me feel pretty good about future tailback rotations. I think Donovonn Young can be a pretty good feature back in 2013 and 2014, but there’s depth behind him in Josh Ferguson and Dami Ayoola.

The test for this year – will Ayoola climb past Josh Ferguson and become the second tailback? Ferguson was perfect for the Chris Beatty/Billy Gonzales offense last year – what’s the role for a shifty, speedy tailback in this offense? We shall see in Rantoul. Bill Cubit says he wants to go more “north-south” with his running game, and that benefits Young and Ayoola.

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Looks Like University Of Illinois: Geronimo Allison July 27, 2013 Comments Off

First, let’s just talk about it. Yes, his first name is that of the famous Bedonkohe Apache leader from the 19th century. We’re the Illini. We kinda sorta had this controversy at one time over Chief Illiniwek. Maybe you heard about it.

So yes, there will be references to his name and the Chief and our history and our name and whether the “Fighting” refers to some no-longer-in-existence tribe or the soldiers in World War I. Frankly, I’m just hoping that it all becomes a national referendum on this.

OK, so let’s talk Wes and The Jucos. If Wes Lunt wins the starting quarterback position next year (and I say “if” because I think that people are still severely underestimating the unstoppable force that is Aaron Bailey), we will have brought in a lot of that offense this summer. Lunt transferred in, and then we added the #2 juco WR in the nation (Tyrin Stone-Davis) and now we added the #11 juco WR in the nation (Allison). With so many senior WR’s graduating (Lankford, Harris, Osei, Hull), it’s possible that the three leading receivers in 2014 will all be juco guys: Martize Barr (who will be a senior then), Stone-Davis, and Allison. Yeah, Justin Hardee might have something to say about that, but stay with me here. Wes and The Jucos.

And there’s a chance that Allison is the best of the three. Every downtrodden program in the country is trying to find sleepers. If you have no chance of landing the top kids because the top kids all want to play in the SEC, you have to be on the hunt for sleepers. And Allison might be just that.

He played a little bit with the varsity his freshman year in high school. His sophomore year… he was suspended because of academics. His junior year… he was suspended because of academics. Let’s just say that if you don’t play high school football before your senior year, you’re not going to get recruited.

Allison turned his academics around enough to get into junior college. Here’s an article from 2011 that discusses how he made his way from Spoto High School in Tampa to Iowa Western Community College:

Ineligible as a sophomore and junior, Allison signed with Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He’ll arrive as an A-B student, according to Spartans coach Dale Caparaso.

“He really turned it around academically,” Caparaso said.

Allison (6-foot-4, 180 pounds), a junior varsity call-up on Spoto’s playoff team in 2008, returned with a vengeance this past season. He led the Spartans with 26 catches for 567 yards and four TDs, adding 47 tackles and an interception on defense.

An obscure Caparaso connection helped him land in the Midwest. Iowa Western assistant Donnie Woods is a former offensive line standout at Pasco, where Caparaso coached from 2003-06.
“He and I missed each other when I went to Pasco by one year,” Caparaso said.

“He knew who I was, I knew who he was. He said he heard we had a receiver who had some academic issues. … He did a great job with Geronimo because Geronimo absolutely loves the guy.”

At Iowa Western, as a freshman, he found himself behind three sophomore receivers – Deon Long, a 5-star recruit headed to Maryland, Martize Barr, a 3-star recruit who you’ll get to know this fall, and Andrew Stone, who ended up at Iowa. Allison finished fourth on the team with 26 catches for 428 yards.

With Long, Barr, and Stone all gone, Allison just might have himself a year. Iowa Western won the Juco national title last year, and they continue to bring in FBS players who need help with their grades (like Illini 3-star defensive tackle commit Merrick Jackson, who is headed there this fall). They lost their quarterback to Kansas State, but if they can find a replacement, there’s a chance Allison puts up video game numbers this fall. For example, last year, Deon Long (5-star headed to Maryland) caught 100 balls for 1,626 yards and 25 touchdowns… in 12 games.

OK, maybe not those numbers, but there’s a good chance that Allison, in his first year unfettered by high school academic issues and college depth chart issues – this will really only be his third season playing organized football – will show that he’s a sleeper recruit that can finally show what he has. What he showed last year was good enough to earn offers from Kansas State, Iowa State, Colorado State, Louisiana Tech, and Illinois. What he shows this fall might be good enough to show that he can play big-time football.

There are risks, though, of course. This is a kid who had academic issues in high school and had to go to junior college, so making the jump from that to the University of Illinois is a large one. There are many examples of jucos we tried to bring in that couldn’t meet admission standards. And there’s a reason Kansas State is known as the juco factory, given that their admission standards are, um, how do I put this nicely… here, I’ll just quote from their website:

Any transfer student with a college grade point average of 2.0 GPA after completing 24 or more college credits will be admitted to K-State.

In case your wondering, for a junior college student to transfer into LAS at Illinois, they need between a 2.7 and a 3.2, but they also have to meet a certain other standards – national certification of the specific community college, review of coursework to eliminate certain non-transferrable credits, review of high school test scores, and on and on and on. It’s why our coaches over the years have responded to “why don’t we just bring in a bunch of jucos?” with “you have no idea how hard it is.”

So most of our jucos come pre-screened. Before we offer, we review their grades and their transcript (and their institution) to see if there’s a chance they’ll be admitted. Last year, we were six for six (in getting the junior college student athletes admitted). This year, here’s hoping we’re three for three.

Film: There’s not much out there – there usually isn’t for juco freshmen – but if you’d like a few HOLY CRAP moments, we can go back to his senior film in high school. Skip to the 1:00 mark and check out his punt returns on this video:

HOLY CRAP.

So now to Tom Cruises. Allison has all the marks of a solid sleeper, and he looks really fluid in and out of his cuts on film, but he’s still just that, a sleeper. Lots of potential, lots of signs he’s ready to show what he has after this long journey, but still, not there yet. Need to see it first. So I can’t go above three Tom Cruises. Until he catches 101 balls this fall.

3Cruises

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