Looks Like University Of Illinois - Casey Washington
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Truth: I've been wasting time on the internet for nearly two hours avoiding writing this post. I'm so disappointed with how recruiting has gone in June and July and I don't want to write about it because you'll all throw tomatoes. I promised that the Tom Cruise ratings would be the most accurate Illini recruit ratings on the internet, and as I've been adding the Tom Cruise ratings for each player on The 90 Illini I've felt really good about players I thought would flop/players I thought were wildly underrated, so I have to continue down that path.
Peter (and Simon) Cvijanovic's father sent me a 2,000-word email when I rated Peter with one Tom Cruise, and I believe his son turned out to be a one Tom Cruise player. I'm not here to make you feel good about every single recruit and say things like "great upside potential" (although I'd probably sell more subscriptions that way). I'm here to study the schemes, look for the kinds of players the coaching staff needs, and then tell you when I see the staff adding those players.
With this one, I'm not sure I see the staff adding that player. Which, honestly, could just mean that I don't understand the type of receiver that Rod Smith wants. I mean, I thought I understood with the commitments of Fabian McCray and Bryce Childress, and I guess teams do need X receivers and Z receivers, but still, I'm not seeing this one.
And I should revisit The Way I View Football again. I'm a "fit" guy (not a "fit guy"). I believe in it to my core. The biggest difficulty during a coaching change - any coaching change - is the lack of "fit" on the current roster.
We just saw this with basketball. Jalen Coleman-Lands, DJ Williams, Te'Jon Lucas - they weren't "fits" for the Underwood system. They might go on to success at DePaul, GW, and Milwaukee, but for what this coach is looking for, they didn't really fit.
That's probably a bad example because Underwood's roster turnover seemed to be about personality (he wants Trents who can be pushed hard and then pushed hard again) more than anything. Guys like Trent and Da'Monte and AJ play the game the way he wants it to be played.
In football, often it's more about the type of player you are. Just look at defensive end. Tim Banks' scheme had the "Leo" position (a weakside defensive end who will sometimes drop into pass coverage). When Banks arrived in 2012, he didn't have any Leos on the roster - just defensive ends who fit what Vic Koenning wanted to do. So Banks went out and found his guys (Dawuane Smoot, Henry McGrew) and developed them. But then Banks left and when Lovie took over, he needed a different kind of weakside end. Guys like McGrew who were still on the roster and would have been the starter in the old scheme (the 2015 coaches couldn't stop talking about McGrew's potential as a Leo) were moved to offense (McGrew played tight end) and true freshmen were brought in (Isaiah Gay, Owen Carney) to fill the weakside end role for Lovie's D.
Illinois has changed schemes (on both sides of the ball) more than any Big Ten team the last 15 years. Illinois has lost more conference football games than any Big Ten team in the last 15 years. These two tidbits are related.
Which brings us to Washington. And since I just watched the second half of Big this weekend when I flipped past it on TV, I'll go all Josh Baskin: I don't get it.
First off, we have to view him as a player that Kansas was slow-playing. A slow play is "we're interested, but you don't really have any other offers that worry us all that much so we're going to string you along because we're not sure if we want to prioritize you". As long as there's no risk of losing that player, hold off on your offer and pursue your main targets. If another Power Five school does offer? Offer the kid the next day. Which is what happened with Washington and Kansas (they offered the day after his first P5 offer from Illinois).
Why was Kansas - one of the most desperate-for-talent Power Five programs of the last 40 years - slow playing Washington? I think we have to conclude that he's a fringe Power Five player. Now, fringe Power Five players go on to college (and NFL) success all the time. It's a much smaller percentage than the players with multiple P5 offers, but it still happens. And, I should note, I do believe this staff is much better than the last two at spotting talent (if the 2017 class is any indication).
But I'm still not sure I see the fit here. Washington does some nice things on his film (specifically breaking tackles, something I praised Childress for), but he doesn't have the "quicks" I think this offense needs. We've just spent quite some time and effort overhauling the receivers from what Bill Cubit wanted (tall and long like Sam Mays) to what Lovie has wanted (smaller and quicker like Ricky Smalling), so it's odd (for me) to see us go after a Cubit-type receiver.
Again, I might just not be understanding Smith's scheme. He may be looking for a bigger, stronger receiver at one of the spots. That might be why they moved Justice Williams over to WR after Smith was hired (and it might be why they added Washington). They might need mostly Smallings and McCrays... and one or two bigger/stronger/not faster guys. If so, this makes more sense.
But for now, I'm just not seeing it. And as I say every time I write one like this: now go prove me wrong, kid.
Tom Cruises are minimal here. Just can't see much more than 1.5. I was excited for June and July to be a big push after our coaches had hit the road in April and May selling Beason/Williams momentum. That just hasn't happened, which is why I'm in this mood, which is probably why I'm handing out 1.5 Cruises.
Casey Washington - One and one-half Tom Cruises.