The 90 Illini #22: Josh McCray


Robert
Aug 5, 2022
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3 Comments

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"There's no way he's a running back", I said. "He'll be an outside linebacker. Two Cruises."

I've referenced that so many times over the last year because it's very important to acknowledge WHY I was wrong. McCray was the first Bielema recruit, and it was the very first signal that "bigger and taller" would be the theme. Everyone always talks about the new coach adding "bigger" players - somewhere there's a Vanderbilt fan talking about how much bigger the offensive line has gotten since Clark Lea arrived - but this is different from that. Bielema has added:

  • McCray, a 245 lb running back.
  • A 6'-4" cornerback (is that even possible?)
  • A 6'-9" offensive lineman from Denmark.
  • A 6'-4" running back.
  • A 6'-6", 270 lb tight end.
  • A 6'-7", 345 lb offensive tackle.
  • A 6'-6", 360 lb offensive guard.

This isn't just "bigger linemen". It's closing in on winning Tallest Illini Football Team In History. In fact, I'm ready to award it.

Nick Smith Award. Tallest (Team) In Illini History.

22. Josh McCray

Running Back
Uniform number: 0
Year in school: Sophomore (4 years to play 3)
Height: 6'-1" -- Weight: 240 lbs.
Hometown: Enterprise, Alabama
High School: Enterprise HS
Five best offers: Tennessee, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Kentucky, South Carolina
Tom Cruise rating:

2021 statistics: Played in 11 of 12 games (sat for Nebraska). 112 carries for 549 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Background

I can tell you the moment when I realized I was dead wrong about him playing running back. It was the run in the Maryland game. His stiff-arm from that play is the photo on his official team bio page:

Yeah, that's a running back. And a really good one.

I wish we knew the teams who came after him between the day he verballed to Illinois and the day he signed. When announcing his signing that February signing day, Bret Bielema talked about how he was notified about McCray by the same high school coach who told him "hey, you need to check out this Melvin Gordon kid" when he was at Wisconsin. And then Bielema noted how that just before McCray's signing day, they had to hold off "some of the same teams that were coming for Gordon before he signed with Wisconsin". Really want to know the names of those teams.

2022 Outlook

These "outlook" sections get a whole lot easier as we get closer to #1. Instead of writing "not sure if he'll be the third or fourth cornerback", we pretty much know the specific roles each one of these guys will play.

For McCray, it's simple. Chase Brown is 1A. Josh McCray is 1B. They combined for 1,500 yards last season. This year, they need to clear 2,000.

Done and done.

Comments

ILLINI88ME on August 5, 2022 @ 11:27 PM

Watching warm ups before the Nebraska game last year…..had to triple check the roster to understand why a DE was warming up with the RBs. And that zero was really a freshman. He was that big in person.

RonSwanson on August 5, 2022 @ 11:53 PM

Looking forward to McCray making his home state school pay for letting him slip out of state when the Illini roll through Bama n the playoffs in 2023. I'll put down the orange Kool-aid now...

Robert on August 26, 2022 @ 07:40 AM

(bump to get this one above all the spam responses)

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