Playing Catch-Up

Jun 03, 2017

I will now give you my opinion on Illini goings-on that have happened over the last two weeks. You've already digested them and forgotten about them, but I will now act as if my opinion is important. I'm a newspaperman in a blog world. Here goes nothing:

JCL Transfers

In September of 2014 I had lunch with a friend - he wanted to meet to discuss WordPress/Twitter and how he could use a blog for his business (and he asked to meet with me. Right?). While we were meeting and I was showing him how I use Twitter... JCL committing to Illinois popped up on my Twitter. I remember telling him "well, Illinois basketball is back". Jawun Evans would certainly follow, giving us the top freshman backcourt in the nation, and we'd be BACK.

How many times have I predicted us to be back at this point? I said it when Jereme Richmond committed... and then he lasted half a season. I said it after Quinton Snider committed... and then he flipped to Louisville. I said it when JCL committed... and now he's transferring.

This one hurts, I think. I had him as the leading scorer next season. It puts so much pressure on the freshman guards to be great immediately. And we haven't had a freshman guard who was great immediately since... McCamey? I guess BP3 was pretty great as a frosh. My point: we now need two freshman guards to be great immediately.

I covered some of this while writing the Mark Alstork LLOUI post (because the JCL news broke while I was writing the post), but the minutes are now so very thin across the board. With nine scholarship players (eight until DaMonte Williams is 100% cleared), pretty much every scholarship player is going to get major minutes. The Alstork transfer takes some of the sting out - he can be JCL next season (leading scorer?) and then we can recruit an impact freshman to "be" JCL for what would have been his senior year - but this is still a big loss.

I agree with what Teddy Greenstein said (WHAT?) when he wrote about these Illini changes being a complete house-cleaning. Gone are Javon Pickett, Jalen Coleman-Lands, DJ Williams, and Jeremiah Tilmon, and Brad Underwood will immediately begin building around his own recruit (Mark Smith). The overhaul has already begun. Does that mean WE'RE BACK??


Three Football Players Gone

Yes, on June 2nd I'm writing about the three football players dismissed several weeks ago. Two thoughts here. 1. It hurts line depth. 2. WHAT??

Let's do #2 first. WHAT?? You rob someone in your dorm, they recognize your voice, you take your mask off and try to play it off like a joke, but you still steal money? And then you hang around in the hallway afterwards talking to the RA from the dorm floor? What?

It's such a strange story. Robbing someone who knows you and will recognize your voice? The victim identifies you by name before you take the money? Everyone hangs around after (or returns to the scene later) like it was no big deal? It's just so... WHAT??

It's sad to see three players throw away everything with a decision like this. The chance to play for Lovie, chase a dream, maybe even start on a Big Ten team, and they threw it all away.

How does it affect the roster? Well, we've struggled on the line and we just lost three linemen - Zarrian Holcombe had recently moved to defensive end and Darta Lee and Howard Watkins were offensive linemen. Of the three, Lee was the most likely to contribute, perhaps as a starter for the next three years at right guard. Watkins and Holcombe were probably a ways off from contributing, but any time you lose three players, it's a hit. Especially during a rebuild.

Any time players leave/transfer/are dismissed, I always try to identify "well, that just means __ will have to step up". With Holcombe gone, there are immediate replacements - he had just moved to defensive end, and this fall we bring in seven freshman defensive ends. For Lee and Watkins, I'd say it means one of the incoming freshman lineman (most likely Larry Boyd) and one of the 2016 (Cubit class) offensive linemen (Kurt Gavin?) will need to contribute sooner rather than later. Perhaps a glance at the depth chart will emphasize this point.

Quick-T | DiLauro (SR) | Cerny (rs-FR)
Quick-G | Megginson (SO) | Gavin (rs-FR)
Center | Allegretti (JR) | Kramer (rs-FR)
Strong-G | Boyd (FR) | Lowe (FR)
Strong-T | Solomon (SO) | Fagan (SR)

Given that Alex Palczewski is the only other scholarship offensive lineman, depth is very thin. You want 15-17 offensive linemen, and we have 11. I think you'll see several linemen added to the 2018 class.

Overall, both of these news items are similar. One basketball player leaves, three football players are gone, and that means thin depth is even thinner. Freshmen will need to step up.

But given that both are rebuilds, I'm patient. This would be a huge blow if these were teams we were expecting to compete for Big Ten titles, but that's not our current situation. Because of that, the takeaway here is this: rebuilding rebuilds just got a little rebuildier.


bigmcq16 on June 03 @ 12:35 PM CDT

More so than recognizing their voices, how about recognizing their bodies?! These are all massive human beings, likely around 6'4" and 300 pounds. I can't imagine there are too many people that big wandering around Bromley.

HiggsBoson on June 03 @ 06:27 PM CDT

Reports out that Pickett will reclassify to 2018, probably go to prep school, then go to Missouri to be with Tilmon. Wonder if Tilmon will reclassify, too? I'm as yet unconvinced that Tilmon suits up for Mizzou this upcoming season.

Also waiting to see where Coleman-Lands ends up. If it's DePaul quickly, you'd have to wonder about tampering. If not, the longer it goes, the more I'll think it was not wanting to put in the work Underwood will require.

Re: the article, I think Underwood will be competitive sooner than you think, while Lovie will take longer, assuming he doesn't retire before it happens.

Groundhogday on June 03 @ 07:33 PM CDT

This one hurts, I think. I had him as the leading scorer next season.

My opinion, right from when Underwood was hired, was that JCL wasn't a good fit. This hurts from a depth perspective this year, but by 2018-19 we'll be glad to have the scholarship.

Bear8287 on June 04 @ 11:43 AM CDT

Losing Gentry hurts more than losing JCL.

If what GHD and Higgs have said about JCL is true then in terms of establishing a culture for the team having JCL leave isn't all bad.

mrmill on June 05 @ 09:45 AM CDT

Only Illini message board fans would think losing a non-coaching assistant that had only been with the program for 6 weeks is worse than losing your leading, returning scorer. Hilarious.

Bear8287 on June 05 @ 12:00 PM CDT

Quick, who had a better FG% last season Tate or JCL? Who shot more free throws last season Tate or JCL? Nichols and Finke both shot better than JCL from 3 and Black had a higher pts/game average.

Losing one of the few personnel that Underwood was able to bring with him and had worked with at his last two stops hurts more...

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