Looks Like University Of Illinois - Kionte Curry

May 27, 2021

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First off, I'd like to apologize for all the gifs below. Dial-up warning or something. But I'm just now getting to all these LLUOI posts, and this is a player who committed the day of the Michigan State basketball game (the one where, you know...), and I'm having this WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME ABOUT THIS KID? moment, so I went a little gif crazy. Maybe I won't use them all.

But WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME about this kid? I love this film. I need to calm down before I go and 4-Cruise him or something. Let's start by looking for a "why" here. As in, "why was this kid available on February 23rd, three weeks after signing day?

The answer is that he was headed to junior college, and then he decommitted from Dodge City Community College and committed to Illinois. This, of course, reminds me of Devon Witherspoon, another Florida defensive back who was headed to junior college, got his transcript fixed in the spring and summer, and enrolled at Illinois. So let's maybe start with that stuff.

There are usually three paths to junior college football.

  1. The first one is the most common. We'll call it the Aaron Rodgers path. Didn't have any offers in high school (for Rodgers, because Illinois said no), he goes to juco, he proves himself, he gets a P5 offer. This is the majority of players at juco. Two years to prove that they should have gotten scholarship offers in high school.
  2. A player can't get past the NCAA Clearinghouse. Sometimes that's on his school (guidance counselors need to start the path freshman year to get a kid qualified for a Division I scholarship), sometimes that's on him (kid skipped class and didn't turn in any of his papers and doesn't have the grades or the test scores to qualify). So he goes to junior college to get the grades/credits necessary to play Division I football. If you watched Last Chance U on Netflix, you know about some of academic hurdles involved.
  3. A player was kicked off his Division I team and dropped down to junior college football to prove himself worthy of another Division I scholarship. Bennett Williams followed this path. Was kicked off the team by Lovie Smith, spent one season at the College of San Mateo (a junior college in California), then was offered a scholarship at Oregon where he played last season.

Of these, I think most people understand 1 and 3 and almost everyone gets #2 wrong. Or maybe I should say it like this: almost everyone thinks #2 means "he got a bad score on the ACT" or "he got an F in biology". It's often just "the school wouldn't accept those two math classes as part of his four required math credits".

It's complicated how this all works, and yes, sometimes it's as simple as "he failed that class so he only has 3 of the required 4 English credits". But I always explain it like this.

Our youngest son took some placement tests when going into high school. He went from public school in 8th grade to a private school in 9th grade, and they do placement tests to see which track he should be on. He struggled mightily with his freshman math class that fall and was struggling even more in the spring. So the guidance counselor set up a meeting.

Long story short, the counselor said that it probably would have been better if he had been placed in this math track over here vs. the math track he was currently on. The counselor was really nice about it (with my son sitting there), explaining that he did some research on the math curriculum at our old school district and he never should have been placed into the math track he was on. There was a gap in certain concepts that he had never learned (and yes, I suppressed my "if he's like me he was probably throwing paper airplanes when they were covering that topic").

The guidance counselor proposed a solution. Go down to this more basic math class for the rest of that year. They'll work with the teacher to get him caught up on all of the concepts (some kind of "double" math class where he'd complete that entire course in the one semester). Then he'd re-start this math track as a sophomore. We asked if there were any issues in the future with college applications and such. As I recall, he asked my son "are you planning to play football at Michigan?" and explained that some of the higher-end schools would not accept a transcript with this mid-year math switch and then being a year behind the other math track.

I kind of butchered that explanation, but I think that covers the basic concept. When a school starts recruiting a kid, they ask for a current transcript. Sometimes, that transcript shows a kid dropping down to a different match class mid-semester and then only taking three math classes the next three years. That's enough to graduate high school, and that's enough to gain admission to a smaller school, but it's not going to pass admissions at Michigan. You needed four math classes at {whatever level} to gain admission and that Math Concepts class you took as a freshman does not count.

Again, I'm generalizing (and making up course names), but this is usually the issue. And often, it sucks for a recruit because he had no idea he was a future Division I athlete when he was a freshman. By the time he realizes he started down an academic track in high school which would get him his high school diploma but nowhere near the transcript required to get past the NCAA Clearinghouse and Wisconsin admissions, it's almost too late to fix it.

I've always used East St. Louis HS as a great example of a school that makes sure the kids know what might be required if they go on to play sports in college. Their course catalog has "(NCAA)" next to classes that will put them on the Division I track. Algebra II has "NCAA" next to it as a choice for juniors taking math. Principles of Algebra and Geometry does not have "NCAA" so it would not be accepted. At many other high schools, by the time a kid learns that taking "Principles of Algebra and Geometry" means he won't have a transcript that will be accepted at the Division I schools recruiting him, it's too late.

And the route is then junior college. The transfer process is different from the high school admissions process, and a kid at juco can start building his Division I-ready transcript as soon as he arrives at junior college. There are other options as well. You might remember that DJ Richardson went to Findlay Prep in Nevada for his senior year of high school. Maybe that was just to improve his game, but often, a kid has more opportunities to square-up his transcript at a prep school than he does at a public school.

My point: so often, people will hear "might have to go juco" and think "he must have flunked his classes and gotten a 14 on his ACT". That's often not the case. Sometimes it's an awful situation like "he had a breakout season as a junior, started to get recruited, schools asked to see his transcript, he sent it, and they said "sorry son - someone should have told you two years ago that none of those freshman and sophomore classes would get you past the NCAA Clearinghouse and our admissions department".

The NCAA changed their rules in 2016 or so to attempt to bring more clarity. A more standardized "here's what's required" so that all high schools would tell all students "if you're planning to play sports in college, here's the classes you need to take". But there's still the misconception out there that any time you say that a kid might have transcript issues it means he has three D's and two F's. It might just mean that nobody told him what would be required until it's too late.

Why spend that many words on something like that before finally getting to the evaluation of the recruit? Because this is a kid whose recruitment suddenly went silent (I'll explain in a bit), and my guess with something like that, especially when it's followed by the kid committing to a junior college, is that he had transcript issues and has hopefully now repaired them. You just did it again, didn't you? I said "transcript issues" and you thought I meant grades and ACT score. Stop that. (I know you didn't. Just hammering my point.)

The main reason I think that Curry might fall under transcript issues (which, honestly, is a horrible thing to guess when a kid might have the best transcript in this class) is the following:

  1. He transferred high schools (always brings up issues with this school supplying this class and that school supplying that class).
  2. He named a top-5 last summer and then nothing happened recruiting-wise for six months. He didn't tweet a single thing about recruiting.
  3. He signed with a junior college this winter. When a kid has all of these offers, then everything falls completely silent, then he signs with a juco, it's typically "schools backed off because of his transcript".

Let's go through all of those so you see what I'm saying.

When you search for him on Twitter you find two accounts. He started at Titusville HS and had this Twitter account. His first two offers (UCF and Kentucky) are all listed there. Then he transfers to Cocoa HS for his junior season and, for whatever reason (maybe the coaches at the old high school helped him set up the account to get his film out there?), he switches to this Twitter account. The first offer he tweets from that account is listed as his "third" (from Rutgers). He also adds offers from Nebraska, West Virginia, Georgia Tech, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Washington State, and several G5 schools.

In August, he names his top five: Nebraska, Iowa State, Washington State, Cincinnati, and Georgia Tech. And then, radio silence. Pretty much nothing at all about his recruitment until one of his high school coaches is hyping him up on Twitter this winter. He signs with Dodge City Community College and that's that.

When I see a timeline like that, I just think transcript. Might be grades, might be the classes that transferred from one high school to the next, might just be "no one told him his freshman year", but "signs with juco" after all of those offer almost always means that there's something on the transcript side that will need to be fixed at the junior college level. Well, I should be more specific. It almost always means the schools backed off because of transcript risk.

See, some of these things can be "cleaned up". Kids can take concurrent English classes to get caught up on the English credits they're lacking. I believe Devon Witherspoon cleaned up what he was lacking in two months over the summer and then gained entry into Illinois (and played that fall) in 2019. I should have probably said more about that above. It's not "no chance he can qualify". It's sometimes just "we have these other three cornerbacks we're looking at and all three have pre-approved transcripts so we're going to expend our resources in that direction". Kid might be working his butt off to qualify and schools are backing off left and right on the chance he doesn't. Again, it's a really cruel game sometimes.

So here's my total and complete guess: Aaron Henry, who Twitter tells me is the only person I follow who also follows Kionte Curry's first Twitter account from his sophomore year, is recruiting Curry. Henry is at Vandy, and Vandy does not offer. Vandy, as you might imagine, has an even tougher time with their admissions department saying "admission denied on transcript technicality". Henry still has his eye on Curry, and when Henry gets the defensive backs job at Illinois, he urges Bielema to offer. Maybe that means he's made progress on his transcript from last summer to now, maybe it wasn't even a transcript issue to begin with and he needed better test scores which he's gained since then, but my guess here is that this is a P5 recruit who fell off the map due to something that had nothing to do with football and Henry/Bielema decided to offer in February and say "we think he'll get there by this summer."

(Or, like, everyone backed off after some film came out, his only option was juco, and Henry/Bielema think he's a Division I player. I'm guessing here.)

Why do I think it's something other than football? His film, which tells me that it's insane that nothing ever developed out of those offers. Let's finally get to the film.

First, a note. When Aaron Henry talked about his defensive backs this spring on a Zoom call, he noted how "four cornerbacks" arrive this summer. There were only three in the class that signed this winter, so that tells me they plan to use Curry at corner, not safety.

And when evaluating corners, I hope to see instincts. These six plays might be the best instincts of any corner I've evaluated (since 2014). He's probably going to get burned as a freshman for staring down quarterbacks too much - college quarterbacks are much better at faking you out than high school quarterbacks - but this senior film is just read after read after read.

Watch this one several times. At first, my thought was that he didn't have safety help and just left his guy to take the underneath route. But no - eyes on the QB, ball is away, break off and chase the ball. 99.8% of all high school cornerbacks just run deep with the WR here.

All of the film is just one read after another. Love the swipe from behind here, too.

This is by far my favorite. I cannot tell you how good of a read this is. 25 yards down the field, reads where the pass is going, leaves his guy to hit the receiver while he's still in the air.

My goodness, kid.

Read after read after read after read after read.

OK, yes, he does more than just read plays. Love the aggression here. WR is blocking him so he pushes the tailback off course using the wide receiver.


One more. His reaction time to spotting this fumble and beating the quarterback to it is just amazing to me. Does he have some kind of 20/10 vision or something?

I've seen enough. I'm both super excited about him joining the Illini and also super scared that academics were the actual reason for the dead spot in his recruiting timeline and ultimately he won't qualify. Really want to see him show up as enrolled in a few weeks. Because then I can start to proclaim crazy things like "is he going to be the best Illini cornerback since Vontae Davis?"

I probably need to calm down. Rivals rates him as a 5.5, so the lowest 3-star rating. 247 rates him as an 83, so a lower-third 3-star. I'm likely seeing something I want to see (again).

But I said the same thing when I wrote the Chase Brown LLUOI. "Robert you're giving a Western Michigan transfer running back who only had 352 rushing yards at WMU 3.5 Cruises?" And now I'm wishing I would have followed my gut and given Chase Brown 4 Cruises.

So I'll land in the middle here.

Kionte Curry - Three and three-quarter Tom Cruises.


greenbergj23 on May 26, 2021 @ 08:00 PM

You also love to use the 1/4 pictures you have.

Brave Illini on May 26, 2021 @ 09:29 PM

It's one thing to read plays, but then to be able to follow through and make a play based on the read is extra special. Your description and the one Gif remind me of Tony Adams' interception late in the 2019 Wisconsin game.

Douglascountyillinifan on May 28, 2021 @ 06:59 AM

Agreed. This kid goes from zero to 100 in an instant once he makes his decision. Really rooting for this kid.

IBFan on May 26, 2021 @ 09:44 PM

The reads are next level...wow

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