Signing Day Is Wednesday – Let’s Peek At The 3-Deep Again January 27, 2012
Next to hiking in the mountains with my wife and looking at gif images of a confused Pat Fitzgerald (click on it – no, seriously, click on it), my favorite thing to do in the world is to put together an Illini football depth chart. I love it so much that I go three-deep. Because it’s one more than two.
With signing day coming up next Wednesday, I thought I might go through the three-deep again to see if our current class is lining up with our future needs. I’m not gonna lie – Terry Hawthorne, Michael Buchanan, and Akeem Spence flirting with the NFL but returning to school makes this three-deep much more attractive.
I have to make a few guesses with this depth chart. We don’t really know the schemes that Gonzales/Beatty and Banks will run, so I really don’t know if I should put down four wide receivers or two tight ends. So I’ll try to cover all positions on offense (except for fullback), and I’ll return us to a basic 4-3 defense with no bandits or Busseybackers. I’m also taking out the weak/strong offensive line and going back to having a left tackle and a right tackle.
QB: Nathan Scheelhaase (JR) / Reilly O’Toole (SO) / Chase Haslett (rs-FR)
RB: Donovonn Young (SO) / Josh Ferguson (rs-FR) / Ean Days (SO)
TE: Evan Wilson (JR) / Jon Davis (SO) / Justin Lattimore (JR) / Matt LaCosse (SO)
LT: Simon Cvijanovic (rs-SO) / Patrick Flavin (rs-FR) / Chris Boles (rs-FR)
LG: Hugh Thornton (SR) / Tyler Sands (SR) / Ted Karras (rs-FR)
C: Graham Pocic (SR) / Jake Feldmeyer (JR) / Tony Durkin (rs-FR)
RG: Alex Hill (rs-SO) / Shawn Afryl (rs-SO) / Kevin Griffin (rs-SO walkon)
RT: Michael Heitz (rs-SO) / Corey Lewis (SR) / Scott McDowell (rs-FR)
WR1: Darius Millines (JR) / Jeremy Whitlow (rs-FR) / Kenny Knight (rs-FR)
WR2: Spencer Harris (JR) / Jordan Frysinger (rs-FR) / Fritz Rock (rs-SO)
WR3: Ryan Lankford (JR) / Miles Osei (JR) / Jake Kumerow (SO-walkon)
DE: Michael Buchanan (SR) / Justin Staples (SR) / Brandon Denmark (JR)
DT: Glenn Foster (SR) / Jake Howe (rs-SO) / Chris O’Connor (rs-FR)
DT: Akeem Spence (JR) / Austin Teitsma (rs-SO) / John Valentine (rs-FR walkon)
DE: Tim Kynard (JR) / DJ Woods (rs-SO) / Kenny Nelson (rs-FR)
WLB: Houston Bates (rs-SO) / Henry Dickinson (SO) / Beau Sullivan (JR walkon)
MLB: Jonathan Brown (JR) / Ralph Cooper (SO) / Alex Porter (SO walkon)
SLB: Ashante Williams (SR) / Earnest Thomas (rs-SO) / Zephaniah Grimes (rs-FR)
CB: Terry Hawthorne (SR) / Eaton Spence (rs-FR) / Kaeman Mitchell (JR walkon)
FS: Steve Hull (JR) / Ben Mathis (JR-walkon) / Austin Abner (rs-FR walkon)
SS: Supo Sanni (SR) / Patrick Nixon-Youman (SR) / Nick North (rs-FR)
CB: Justin Green (SR) / Valdon Cooper (SO) / Jack Ramsey (SR)
K: Taylor Zalewski (rs-FR) / Nick Immekus (rs-SO) / Brennen Van Mieghem (rs-FR)
P: Justin DuVernois (SO) / Brad Janitz (rs-SO) / Garrett Stroup (rs-FR)
So next year looks very defense-y. 2013 looks very offense-y. And 2014 looks very scary.
With Hawthorne, Buchanan, and Spence back, Tim Banks has a lot to work with next year. The loss of Mercilus, Thomas, Wilson, and Henry will be large – I have no idea who will be the nickel corner next year (Jack Ramsey?) – but there are some legitimate stars in Jonathan Brown, Terry Hawthorne, Michael Buchanan, and Akeem Spence. Get a few big senior years from Justin Green and Glenn Foster and maybe this defense won’t take that large of a step back.
But in 2013, from this view, yikes. Gone are Buchanan, Foster, Williams, Hawthorne, Sanni, Green, and PNY, with a good chance Akeem Spence declares early and also the possibility of Jonathan Brown leaves. Good luck, Tim Banks.
The good news is, the offense should be solid in 2013. Next year we’ll likely only have 2 seniors contributing – Hugh Thornton and Graham Pocic. Every other position – even going 4 deep at tailback and 6 deep at receiver – there are no seniors. What we see next year is basically what we’ll see in 2013.
But in 2014, from this view, yikes. We’ll lose almost all of our passing game (Scheelhaase and possibly his top 4 targets) and maybe a few more offensive linemen. Reilly O’Toole will have to develop a rapport with a whole new crop of receivers.
Now, at this point I realize the ridiculousness of projecting the 2014 team. 60% of those players aren’t even on the roster yet. But that’s why I’m doing this. I’m trying to find our needs in a few years. Football recruiting isn’t about next year – it’s about recruiting for 2-3 seasons from now. What are our needs then? In order:
- Secondary. After next season, we’ll have 4 scholarship players in the secondary: Steve Hull, Valdon Cooper, Eaton Spence, and Nick North. We should have 8 or 9.
- Defensive Line. Defensive Tackle more than Defensive End, but we need both.
- Running Back. No seniors, no juniors. At tailback right now we have Donovonn Young, Josh Ferguson, and converted safety Ean Days. We should have 5 or 6 on the roster.
- Offensive Tackle. We have a lot of guard-and-center types, but I only see 4 true tackles. I’d like to see two more.
So how does the current class break down?
QB – 0
RB – 2
OL – 3 (2 OG/C, 1 OT)
TE – 0
WR – 3
DE – 0
DT – 2
LB – 2
CB – 1
S – 2
K – 1
Combine those two lists, and here’s where it leaves us: with issues defending the pass. In a few years we’ll be woefully short at defensive end, cornerback, and safety. We’ve spent a lot of time recruiting bandits (undersized defensive ends that can also line up on a slot receiver like Brandon Denmark and Darrius Caldwell), and now we’ll be asking them to play more of a traditional defensive end role.
On offense, we’ve addressed the tailback situation (although we’ll need two more tailbacks next year), but I still feel we’re short at offensive tackle. And what happens at receiver after the Millines/Lankford/Harris trio graduates? One more thing – we’ll need a QB in next year’s class who can come in and understudy for a few years.
So in the next 5 days, I’d sure love to close on a few defensive linemen (I’m looking at you, Vincent Valentine) and maybe another cornerback (hi there, Sean Draper). And next year, a QB, a few offensive tackles, a stud receiver, a monster defensive end, two athletic corners, and a ballhawking safety are desired, nay, required. It’s only the most important recruiting class of your career – no pressure, Coach Beckman.