The 90 Illini #72: Alec McEachern
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The number of times I adjust the rankings on this list would blow your mind. Just this morning I went through the list and moved Taz Nicholson up six spots because I woke up with this feeling that maybe some of the freshmen cornerbacks won't be ready by August 28th and Nicholson will almost certainly be in the two-deep.
Sometimes I'll just look at the list and swap two players. Instead of 64 and 65 on the list, they should be 65 and 64. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that I'll adjust at least one player on this list 6 out of every 7 days. I rarely open up the Google Doc without going through the list to see if someone sticks out as too high or too low.
I think I've moved McEachern 5-6 times at this point. I've honestly had him as high as the 60's and as low as the 80's. His final spot: #72. Which, at this moment, for our sixth linebacker and three-year special teams starter who was put on scholarship this spring, feels way, way too low.
72. Alec McEachern
Uniform number: 46
Year in school: Junior (without the Covid waiver, 1 year to play 1; with the Covid waiver, technically 2 years to play 2)
Height: 6'-1" -- Weight: 220 lbs.
Hometown: Plainfield, Illinois
High School: Benet Academy
Five best offers: n/a - walkon
Tom Cruise rating: n/a - walkon
2020 statistics: Played in all 8 games - 5 special teams tackles
First off, it's Mc-CARE-un, not Mc-EACH-ern or Mc-ECK-ern. Also, it's Alec, not Alex. AleCK mc-CARE-un.
Second, he's played in 25 straight games. He played in the final four games of 2018 (mostly on special teams), all 13 games in 2019, and all eight games last season. Look at the field on most every kick coverage and punt coverage situation and you'll see #46 out there. This spring, that led to a scholarship. So now this fall he tries to continue his streak of 25 consecutive games played, now as a scholarship linebacker.
One other thing about his background: it wasn't all special teams appearances. He was used as a blocking fullback at times in 2019. The Dre Brown direct snap touchdown against Rutgers in 2019? Lead blocker: Aleck Mc-CARE-un.
If we lose the toss for the opening kickoff against Nebraska, or if we win the toss and defer, it will be fascinating to see which ten players run out on the field with the kicker. As I've mentioned many times, under Lovie (mostly due to Ligs), it was usually more walkons than scholarship players. Ligs built a team of coverage specialists (McEachern, Sean Coghlan, Michael Marchese, Christian Bobak, etc) from the walkons. Bret Bielema has said that he likes to use starters on coverage teams, so all eyes on those 10 guys in the huddle before the opening kickoff. Will it be the coverage specialists (McEachern, Coghlan, Marchese, Bobak, even Georgia transfer Prather Hudson who started on their special teams coverage units for 53 consecutive games) or will it be Jake Hansen and Tony Adams?
I don't think McEachern will make the linebacker rotation this fall. There's just two spots now (last year there were three), and there seem to be five linebackers locked in on those two spots (Jake Hansen, Khalan Tolson, Tarique Barnes, Shammond Cooper and NC State transfer CJ Hart). So the spot for McEachern to contribute will be kickoff and punt coverage. We shall see which direction the coaching staff goes. And we might know after the very first play of the Nebraska game.