The 90 Illini - 90 ~ 86

Jun 02, 2019

This gets harder every year. I've done this for... 11 years now? (Nope - 10. There was that one year where I didn't do it.) 90 days before the season, I start the countdown of the 90 most-important Illini players for the upcoming season. This year, 90 days before the season, I feel like we still don't know the full roster?

Like, there's going to be a quarterback recruit, right? We've brought in Tommy Stevens (he picked Mississippi State) and we've brought in Matt Fink and we've brought in Brandon Peters, so you'd expect that we add one of those guys before the season. So I need to save a spot for a graduate transfer QB, right?

I probably need to explain why this is difficult. When making this list, I usually just go through the roster and place the player above or below the previous player. I'll get to, say, Jake Cerny, go through my list, and slot him one spot ahead of Kerby Joseph but one spot behind Isaiah Gay. And I do this for every player on the roster (and on the commitment list), including the walkons. And that's how I get to the #90 - it's usually a cutoff between two walkons.

But what do I do when I expect more players to be added to the roster? Say we go through this thing and we're in the top-60 and then we add three grad-transfers in July. What then? How do I fit them in? If we add a grad transfer QB soon, he'd probably slot into the top-20. But then what? That would mean that #90 should really be #91, but I've already covered #90. Do I go with 20A and 20B?

And what do I do if someone else leaves? Or if one of the transfers doesn't show up? Did you know that transfers sometimes don't show up? My strategy there is to hold one of the walkons off the list - I'm picking someone who caught my eye in the spring, defensive back Tailon Lietzsey - and if a spot opens up, I'll put Lietzsey there and be all "keep an eye on this kid".

Such is the issue with a summer-long countdown. It's nearly impossible to put together a 1-90 list on June 2nd. But count down I shall. Starting with a walkon who should really be more like #87 but might really be #93...

90. Nolan Bernat

Bartlett High School / Bartlett, Illinois
Senior walkon (1 year to play 1)
Tom Cruises: not rated (walkon)

What I Know About Him:

I'm already thinking "how can a guy who had an interception in a game last season be NINETIETH on this list?". This is already the worst 90-Illini list ever. Bernat will likely make the kickoff coverage team and I'm placing him behind true freshmen who are near locks to redshirt?

Bernat's interception, you might recall, was in the Western Illinois game. There's not much that excites me more than a walkon interception. Here's a guy busting his butt at practice for years (without the motivation of a scholarship) and he gets this one moment to shine in a game. Perfection.

What I Expect From Him:

I guess I'm putting him at #90 because I've listed so many redshirt senior walkons in the past only to watch them graduate and move on to something else instead of playing football for a fifth year (while paying for grad school, too). I don't think that's what will happen with Bernat, but given that it's happened a lot in the past, I considered not even including him on my list. As a compromise for my brain, I listed him at #90.

If he does stick around (and if he was here in the spring, he likely is sticking around), then he should be much higher on this list. Might even get a second interception in a game.

89. Josh Plohr

Offensive Lineman
CBC High School / St. Louis, Missouri
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 1.5

What I Know About Him:

I like the wings at his mom and dad's restaurant. The sauce is like a sweet buffalo sauce. I don't know the family - as I mentioned in his LLUOI post, my youngest son went to high school with his older brother - but I know of them. So it's cool to see a kid like that wear the orange and blue.

Given that he was an after-signing-day verbal, mostly because he's undersized for Big Ten football right now, I think he's a near certain redshirt. I see a lot of meals in his future and a lot of trips to the weight room. And maybe some chicken wings.

What I Expect From Him:

Look at that! I'm two players in and I made my first "write the stuff that should go under 'What I Expect From Him' under 'What I Know About Him'" mistake of the year. There will be more. Many more.

What do I expect? A redshirt, chicken wings, and Body By Lou.

88. Dalevon Campbell

Wide Receiver
Fort Bend Marshall High School / Missouri City, Texas
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 1.5

What I Know About Him:

It seems like I just wrote about this yesterday. Because I just wrote his LLUOI yesterday. Because he just verballed on Friday.

So what do I know about him? It's all in that post. He's a track guy from a track high school who was on track to track in college but we offered him a football scholarship and will now teach him to play wide receiver.

What I Expect From Him:

Certain redshirt, I think. We're desperate for WR help, but I can't see a track kid who only played one year of high school football coming in and getting on the field. I think we'd redshirt him for three years if that was a thing.

So put me down for "redshirt and learn everything there is to know about running routes, creating separation, and high-pointing the ball". Maybe he can get on the field during garbage time during our non-conference games (you know, as long as he doesn't play in more than four games), but once the Big Ten schedule rolls around, certain redshirt.

87. Evan Kirts

Offensive Lineman
Brother Rice High School / Oak Lawn, Illinois
True Freshman (5 years to play 4)
Tom Cruises: 1.5

What I Know About Him:

I know this is the "where I'm putting the true freshmen who received 1.5 Tom Cruises on the 90 Illini list" section. Plohr, then Campbell, then Kirts - the three lowest Cruise ratings of the 2019 class fall in at #89, #88, and #87.

Let's see, what do I know about Kirts. Oh - I did observe him meeting Isaiah Williams for the first time. It was at some Illini open practice. I want to say Marquez Beason walked Kirts over to Williams and they shook hands. And I'm sitting there thinking "if Kirts is another Palcho - senior year find by the coaching staff - then I just witnessed Isaiah Williams meeting the guy who will protect his blindside in the future".

(I don't think Kirts is another Palcho. Mostly because we haven't had a tackle like Palcho in a long time so to expect lightning to strike twice is really pushing it.)

What I Expect From Him:

A redshirt, chicken wings, and Body By Lou.

86. Alex McEachern

Benet Academy / Plainfield, Illinois
Redshirt sophomore walkon (3 years to play 3)
Tom Cruises: not rated (walkon)

What I Know About Him:

I know he was the star of the spring game. They didn't keep statistics, but in my observation, he led the team in tackles. That's enough to get you on the 90 Illini list.

Well, that and the fact that he found his way onto the field as a special-teamer last year. He redshirted in 2017, didn't play in the first eight games of 2018, but then pushed his way onto coverage teams and played in the final four games.

What I Expect From Him:

There's a real opportunity for a walkon linebacker to get on the field. We saw Jimmy Marchese do it, and he's no longer here, so maybe McEachern is the next walkon linebacker to join the rotation. Right now we probably only know four linebackers who will certainly be in the rotation - Jake Hansen, Dele Harding, Milo Eifler, and safety-turned-linebacker Delano Ware. They might rotate six guys throughout the season, and there's a chance that McEachern is one of those six.

I mean, not a great chance - it's still the same massive uphill battle for a walkon linebacker, which is why I'm putting him here at #86 - but a chance nonetheless. Linebacker Jacob Hollins left this spring, so McEachern and the other walkon 'backers will be competing with sophomore Khalan Tolson and true freshmen Shammond Cooper and Tarique Barnes for those two "open" spots. I don't think it's crazy to suggest that a third-year walkon could beat out scholarship sophomores and freshmen, especially at the beginning of the year.


uilaw71 on June 03 @ 07:38 AM CDT

Watching Campbell’s track tape, an Illini football memory leaped up: throw the bomb, Bob.

Hoppy on June 03 @ 02:18 PM CDT

I’m curious where Edwin Carter was on the 90i last year.

I can’t go back and look as all posts past a certain time give me the “URL not found” error.

CraigG on June 04 @ 09:12 AM CDT

He checked in at #80 last year. Robert was unsure if he was going to play WR, or be a Kendall Smith athlete type. Also said if he stayed at WR, he should be higher in the list.

Hoppy on June 04 @ 11:57 AM CDT


Hoppy on June 04 @ 12:03 PM CDT

Interesting. I wonder how much higher he would have moved though. Maybe into the 70s? I mean, he was a low 3 star, with a pretty bad offer list and Robert rated him at 1.5 TCs and wasn’t impressed. I’m guessing he wouldn’t have moved up past 75. (Robert, correct me if I’m wrong here)

With that being said, WRs are tricky. I guess we will see if Campbell really is 88 or if Robert simply has trouble with WR evaluation. =P

I will caveat with the fact that Carter never played against our tougher competition so maybe he wouldn’t have produced once the non-con was over.

Bear8287 on June 04 @ 11:25 AM CDT

Hey Hoppy, let me help you out here. I've mentioned this to Robert and Brumby for over two years now and nothing ever seems to happen. Even joked about not renewing until it was fixed. :-D

Anyway, for the useful part of this note:

Say you want to go to the story which happens to be at the top of the second page (at the moment that's Braggin' Rights Night 2019).

If you try to click on it to follow the link to the story it uses this URL:

and you get this message:

Not Found
The requested URL was not found on the server. If you entered the URL manually please check your spelling and try again.

Now if you just remove the "forum/page/" portion of the link to form this new URL:

Voila. Everything works. It's an incredibly easy fix and I really don't get why someone doesn't go into the code and just delete 11 characters to make this work.

Happy searching through the archives. I also find that Google is pretty good at finding old stories on IlliniBoard too.

Hoppy on June 04 @ 12:00 PM CDT

Awesome! Thanks Bear!

dwalker444 on June 03 @ 02:52 PM CDT

Campbell brings memories of Trenton Jackson to mind; lettered in track (+Olympics), football (+NFL, briefly), basketball, and baseball (drafted by the Cardinals) in the mid 1960's.

ktal on June 05 @ 10:35 PM CDT

Maybe make the 90i only for players who are on the roster on June 1st? But if Tate transfers you'll need a 1A and 1B for sure.

John Case on June 08 @ 03:24 PM CDT

The Asamoah award this year is now a toss up between Dalevon and Washington. Both have ridiculously good film if you know what you want to see in a HS WR film.

deadguy on June 08 @ 04:51 PM CDT

The team may not be good but your lists are always entertaining. Don't ever change Robert.

Also, I suddenly have a craving for chicken wings.

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