The 90 Illini #83: Sean Coghlan
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If I did one of those online quiz things where you have 10 minutes to fill out the form with every Illini player who has played in every game the last two seasons, and there's 29 spots, I'm guessing lots of people could get to 26 or 27 players but no one would guess Sean Coghlan. Actually, I should probably look that up. I'm fairly certain he has played in every game, but maybe he missed a game or two with an injury.
He did miss a game with injury: Minnesota 2019. So he has played in 20 of the last 21 games, missing the game at Minnesota in 2019. Betcha didn't know that. Coghlan, Alec McEachern, Michael Marchese, and Christian Bobak have basically made every kickoff coverage tackle the last three seasons. OK, yes, slight exaggeration, but those four walkons (three now on scholarship) have been the anchor of the coverage units.
We'll talk about those guys later. This post is for Coghlan.
83. Sean Coghlan
Uniform number: 51
Year in school: Junior (2 years to play 2)
Height: 6'-0" -- Weight: 210 lbs.
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
High School: St. Rita HS
Five best offers: N/A - walkon
Tom Cruise rating: N/A - walkon
2020 statistics: Played in all 8 games - four tackles on special teams.
I've talked about this a fair bit, but hey, let's mention it again. The kickoff coverage units the last few years have been incredibly walkon-heavy. The main four walkons who have been part of those coverage units: Sean Coghlan, Alec McEachern, Christian Bobak, and Michael Marchese. Bobak and Marchese both played in 2017 so this is their final season. McEachern and Coghlan, technically, have two seasons left.
So for someone like me (who attends a lot of practices), their numbers are etched in my brain like the starters. I'll sometimes have to look up a walkon number (especially a freshman walkon), but I know Coghlan's 51 like I know Jake Hansen's 35. Been part or the rotation (at least on special teams) for what seems like forever.
The big question for 2021: will the new staff use walkons on special teams like the old staff used walkons on special teams? Bret Bielema has already noted at a press conference that he likes to use starters on coverage teams, so it's already an up-hill climb for guys like Coghlan. But sometimes a statement like that simply means "my punt return unit is just my starting defense with the free safety pulled off the field and the returner sent on."
The question is then the coverage units - both punt coverage and kickoff coverage. I'm sure that this staff, when watching film (and looking at the stats) has seen how kick coverage numbers have improved with this squad of walkon defenders leading the way. Do those guys hang onto those spots? Or will the staff use some of the true freshmen on coverage teams as a way to get them acclimated on the field?
Either way - my guess is the Coghlan is an anchor on punt coverage and kickoff coverage. Let's get him a forced fumble this year.