The 90 Illini #40: Kendall Smith
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Just like that, we're about to enter the 30's. I always assume the full "rotation" to be around 40 players. It's not that only 40 players will participate - the participation chart will have 50+ players - but when you really talk about the players involved in the game every Saturday, it's usually around 40. Here's how I see it.
On offense, typically, the offensive line and quarterback will play every snap without coming out of the game. Then you rotate three running backs, three tight ends, and five receivers. That's 17 players total.
On defense, typically, there's a deeper rotation on the lines and at linebacker. In the front-7, you usually average two guys rotating at each position (the linebackers a little less than the linemen). So that's 14. In the defensive backfield, I'd say it's typical to primarily use three corners and three safeties. Some coaches go a full four-man rotation at both corner and safety, some just stick with the starters nearly the entire game. So for the defense, 14 + 3 + 3 = 20.
Add a punter, a placekicker, and a longsnapper, and now we're at 40. There will be additional guys on coverage teams, and the fifth tight end is on the punt team protecting the punter or whatever, but if we just limit this to "the numbers you need to know", it's 40.
Now, I say that and then I'm pretty sure I have six offensive linemen in the top-40 here, so I'm already breaking my own rules. But these are 2021-specific issues (Palcho had ACL surgery on December 8th and might not be 100% yet by August 28th so Julian Pearl needs to be in the 30's somewhere). My point: start paying attention to the numbers now because these are the players you'll need to know every Saturday.
40. Kendall Smith
Uniform number: 7
Year in school: Senior (1 year to play 1)
Height: 6'-1" -- Weight: 200 lbs.
Hometown: Bolingbrook, Illinois
High School: Bolingbrook HS
Five best offers: Nevada, Wyoming, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Toledo
Tom Cruise rating:
2020 statistics: Played in all 8 games - 7 tackles, 1 PBU
With Ricky Smalling having left the team a few years ago, I guess we can say that Kendall Smith was Lovie's first recruit? They committed within five minutes of each other back in 2016. I want to say Smalling was first on Twitter but Smith was first on Instagram? Something like that.
He was listed as an ATH recruit coming out of high school and has been tried at every single ATH position over his four years. He's switched from WR to defensive back twice (two times) and has even flipped between safety and cornerback. It's something like WR-CB-S-WR-S-CB. I probably missed a few. Last year, by the end of the season, he had settled at CB. And that's where he was this spring. And likely where he'll be this fall.
First off, I think we can say that he's likely to be out there on coverage teams. That's the main reason he played as a true freshman in 2017 (and every year since). Beyond that, there's every opportunity for this fifth-year senior to go out and grab the third CB spot. Only the two starting spots are wrapped up. The competition for that third CB spot is a walkon-turned-scholarship senior (Leitzsey), a redshirt freshman (Nicholson), and four true freshmen. It's all there for Smith to just go grab the spot.
The other thing that comes to mind here: there's probably going to be a whole host of number changes once the season starts. Smith himself has changed numbers... six times? Let's see if I can remember all of this correctly:
Smith used to be #17, but then when James McCourt won the starting kicking job, Smith couldn't be #17 because both 17's couldn't be on the kickoff team at the same time (I guess you could say that Smith was only ONE OF THE SEVENTEENS). So he wore 94 while covering kicks the year McCourt won the kicking job. He then switched to 7 but during the games where Coran Taylor was the QB, Smith couldn't wear 7 so he switched to 16. But then he went back to defense and wore #7. This year, Coran Taylor is switching to safety, so one of them is going to have to give up the #7 jersey since they'll both be defensive backs.
I might have a few of those details wrong. All I know is this. Smith has gone WR-CB-S-WR-S-CB and he's also gone 17-94-17-7-16-7.