The 90 Illini #6: Josh Ferguson August 26, 2012
5′-10″, 185 lbs.
rs-Freshman (on scholarship, 4 years to play 4)
Joliet Catholic HS / Naperville, IL
ALE Ranking last year: #74
What I Know About Him:
There’s only ever been one freshman in the top-10 of my ALE rankings – Nathan Scheelhaase. Ferguson makes two, by way of medical redshirt after a hamstring tear in our third game last year. And I think that was a very fortunate break (er, tear) for us.
In the Paul Petrino offense, Ferguson was trying to find a role. He looked really good in camp last summer, but I’m not even sure Petrino knew how he was going to use him. Petrino’s offense was built for backs like Mikel Leshoure and Donovonn Young.
But this spread is built for guys just like Josh Ferguson. Small, shifty, quick, great with the ball in space. We’ve heard that word from our coaches all summer – “get the ball to our playmakers in space” – and I think Ferguson is their #1 target. Line him up in the backfield for the zone-read, line him up in the slot for a fly sweep, line him up on the wing and throw him a bubble screen – I think Ferguson will be the #1 target for so much of this offense.
What I Expect From Him:
Why, to leave school in 2015 as the all-time Illini leader in all purpose yardage, silly. Robert Holcombe leads with 4,737. If Ferguson starts for 4 years and returns a few kicks here and there, he could do something like finish no higher than 8th in Big Ten All-Purpose yards in any of his four seasons and still shatter Holcombe’s record.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s talk this season. I expect a lot out of Ferguson this year – I think he’s our main option at tailback. But I’m not expecting too much, at least not yet. Just think back to Pierre Thomas as a freshman, or Rashard Mendenhall as a freshman, or Mikel Leshoure as a freshman. It sometimes takes 12-18 games before any tailback is fully prepared to face a Big Ten defense every week. So I expect Ferguson’s numbers to be a bit muted in his first (real) season.
After that, though, I really think he can take this perfect fit and really make something of it.