The 90 Illini #31: Eddie Smith
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One month from today, Illini football. Seems crazy, what with no training camp schedule (or any preseason information at all), but it's true. August 28th, actual football. Which means we're probably what, 100 days or so from the first basketball game?
Let me look that up. Two years ago the basketball opener against Grand Canyon was on November 8th. November 8th is... 103 days from today. So yes, basketball is about 100 days away. If I was doing a 90 Illini for basketball (you know, if there were 90 basketball players), I'd have to start on August 10th.
31. Eddie Smith
Uniform number: 8
Year in school: Sophomore (without the Covid waiver, 2 years to play 2; with the Covid waiver, technically 3 years to play 3)
Height: 6'-0" -- Weight: 200 lbs.
Hometown: Slidell, Louisiana
High School: Salmen HS
Five best offers: Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Ole Miss, TCU
Tom Cruise rating:
2020 statistics: Played in 2 games at Alabama
Smith, just like Art Sitkowski, is a "good thing he took a redshirt year" transfer. Their paths are identical, actually. Both played as true freshmen in 2018 (Sitkowski at Rutgers, Smith at Alabama). Then both redshirted in 2019 (Smith played in only one game, Sitkowski played in two, so both qualified for redshirts after crossing the 4-game mark their freshman years). In 2020, both played, but the season didn't count eligibility-wise. So now they transfer, with immediate eligibility, as fourth-year players who are redshirt sophomores. Had they both played in 2019, they'd be "3 to play 2" on the list above. Instead, both of them are "3 to play 3."
Smith didn't really play much at Alabama (9 games total in three years), so he's a bigger unknown than some of the other transfers like Calvin Hart and Jafar Armstrong. But if there's any school's transfer portal to watch closely, it's Alabama's portal. They more or less hand-select their recruits (no such thing as a "project recruit" at Alabama, mostly because they never have to move to Plan B), so a kid who couldn't beat out Jordan Battle and DeMarcco Hellams might just be the 27th-best safety in the SEC. And the 27th-best safety in the SEC is probably a level above anyone we have in our safety room.
That's the theory anyway. Sure, some players are simply busts. Not every player jettisoned from Alabama can be a star somewhere else. But the hope here is that Alabama's 4th-best safety in 2020 can be our best safety in 2021.
By putting him here at #31 I'm basically saying that I have him as the third safety. I've not watched him play a second of football yet, so until I do, I'm going to assume that the top two safeties will be Sydney Brown and Quan Martin. But there's also the chance that with one viewing I'll wish that I had Smith 14th on this list. He could, in fact, be the top safety on the roster.
Whatever the result, he picked the right place to transfer. If he left Alabama because he wants to get in the rotation (or the first string), here's a huge opportunity. With the new scheme and different responsibilities for the safeties, he picked a safety room that doesn't have a single name in ink on the depth chart yet.