88 Illini (Part 6) July 17, 2010
48. Craig Wilson
How many Wilsons do we have? Tavon, Martez, Craig, and Evan. We’re also recruiting Tampa Jefferson linebacker Ramik Wilson for 2011, so we might add to that. I see lots of Cast Away jokes in my future.
Anyway, Craig Wilson, as of right now, is our third offensive tackle. As I said earlier, if Hugh Thornton moves back to tackle after Corey Lewis’ injury, Wilson will be our 4th tackle. But as of right now, if Allen or Palmer are out for any reason, Wilson’s the guy. A highly rated recruit coming out of prep school, Wilson was passed by Jeff Allen as a freshman and has sat behind him since. Watching him in practice, he reminds me of junior year Akim Millington – decent pass blocker, but isn’t fluid at all when he runs. Which is why Wilson was so far behind in the spread offense. Hopefully, with the possibility of a more maul-n-brawl running game, Wilson will step forward as a solid backup tackle.
47. Chris James
The happiest man on the Illini. I’ve never not seen him smile. My favorite Chris James story from my time at Camp Rantoul last summer:
I love Chris James. Apropos of nothing, he turns to Mike Schultz on the sideline and, from twenty yards away, says “Hey Coach Schultz… Hey Coach Schultz… Hey Coach Schultz… Hey Coach Schultz” (Schultz finally looks up) “How do you like Rantoul??” (Schultz gives a thumbs up and a smile) “Allriiiiiiight!”
Because of this, you’ll hear phrases thrown around about Chris James like “consummate teammate”. Here’s hoping we can also say things like “senior surprise” and “finally put it all together”. His over-the-shoulder grab against Michigan could be just the start, and with a receiving corps waiting for a second receiver to emerge, I’m secretly hoping it’s him. Good guys deserve to go out on top. (and by “on top” here, I mean “Pizza Pizza Bowl”).
46. Justin Staples
I need to start giving out awards. You know what? I’m in charge here. I’ll do this retroactively.
Spring 2009 – Spring Ball Crush: Mikel LeShoure; Eye Opening Player: Jerry Brown (*snif*)
Camp Rantoul 2009 – Camp Crush: Juice Williams (*sigh*); Eye Opening Player: Joelil Thrash
Spring 2010 - Spring Ball Crush: Nathan Scheelhaase; Eye Opening Player: Justin Staples
Staples moved from outside linebacker to Rush End (Clay Nurse’s position) this spring. Impressively. I made mention of him the first night of practice, saying this:
HOLY COW did Justin Staples look quick at DE. Of course a linebacker is going to look quick, but HOLY COW. I watched that little arm-swat the tackling dummies and go grab the (fake) QB drill – he dominated. Even if their plan for him is third down edge-rusher occasional-drop-in-coverage situational guy, I like. Creativity. Thanks, Vic.
That’s what I’m wanting from him this fall – situational pass rusher. But I feel a little better about defensive end after Clay Nurse leaves.
45. Troy Pollard
I seems like this is Bucket O’ Hair’s 5th year with the Illini, but he’s only a redshirt junior. When I think of BOH, my first thought is always the Syracuse game in 2007. He had a couple 20 yard runs and we immediately started dreaming of future 20 yard runs. Then he got injured at Indiana, missed the season, struggled to return to form in 2008, and battled Justin Green for scatback minutes in 2009. While I’d love to see a return to 2007 this fall (in more ways than one), I can’t help but think that Justin Green gets more carries. But if Troy Pollard wanted to return a kickoff for a touchdown after they start kicking away from Black Cat, well, I’d be OK with that.
44. Steve Hull
The Jordan Shipley comparisons are obvious, aren’t they? Wide receiver. Roommate of quarterback. I mean, we’re headed for 18 “you know, he’s Scheelhaase’s roommate” references per game in 2012, right? Hull was Scout Team Player of the Year last year as a redshirt, so he already has a leg up on his roomie. And when Scheelhaase couldn’t sleep the night before the Spring Game, he woke up his roommate at dawn and headed over to Memorial Stadium to run some routes. My goals for Hull this fall: 22 catches, 2 TD’s, and 3 “you know, he’s Scheelhaase’s roommate” references.
43. Patrick Nixon-Youman
You know, I don’t know as much as I should about his leg injury in 2008. All I remember reading about it was something like “horrific injury”, and I never investigated further. Whatever it was, it took a long time to get back from it. He was fully recovered this spring, and he played well enough at corner to allow Joelil Thrash to give free safety a shot. He’s currently stuck behind what I’m currently referencing as The Best Corner Combo In The Big Ten, so he might see much of the field in 2010, but we really need a third corner if Miami Thomas isn’t all the way back from injury, and it looks like PNY is it.
42. Chandler Whitmer
I’ve been a Scheelhaase guy since Camp Rantoul last year. Something about the way he holds himself just screams FOLLOW ME – FOLLOW ME TO FREEDOM. But for 2 hours in April, I cheated on Nate. He was standing 10 feet away from me, but I all could do was stare at Chandler Whitmer’s arm. Scheelhaase would throw an out-route – “OK, that was a decent pass.” Charest would throw the same route “Decent, but that hitch drives me nuts.” Whitmer would throw the same route – “HOLY CRAP CAN THIS KID WING IT.” Whether he has the brains to go with his arm is yet to be seen (conversely, whether Scheelhaase has the arm to go with his brains is yet to be seen.) But the Elite 11 QB (and winner of Most Accurate at the Elite 11, beating out multiple 5-star QB’s) has the potential to be a good one down the road. And that road may come this year, should something happen to Scheelhaase. With Charest’s departure, Whitmer is the likely backup.
41. Joelil Thrash
As you may remember from my now-famous camp awards, Joelil Thrash won Eye Opening Player at Camp Rantoul last year. Let’s revisit what I said then, because I’ve cleared 1,000 words and I’m tired of typing.
Who are you, Joelil Thrash? Better question: What are they feeding cornerbacks in the greater Washington DC area that makes them all so great-y? He stuck out to me this morning, and stuck out again this evening, even before he read Eddie’s eyes, jumped a route, and returned an INT to the house.
Here’s my concern with Thrash. With Garrett Edwards’ injury and Tommie Hopkins’ departure, he was moved to safety this spring. Which is great – I want to see him on the field as soon as possible. But halfway through camp, he was moved back to corner because “it’s his more natural position”. OK, great – find the place he fits best. Then, in the last week of camp, 10 seconds after Walt Aikens was arrested, he moved back to safety. I’ve made the decision to trust Vic Koenning until I hear or see otherwise, so if he knows what he’s doing (and his history as a secondary coach says he does), then I’m down with the Thrash musical chairs. Mostly, though, I just want to see him find a position. And make more plays like he did in Rantoul.