The 90 Illini #27: Jafar Armstrong
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I write the Verdis Brown 90 Illini post and then 12 hours later we find out he moved from offense back to defense. So now I'm hesitant here. What if I write the Jafar Armstrong 90 Illini post and then he moves to safety? OK, he's not moving to safety. He was brought here to help at receiver, and he was at receiver today (I just went and checked the photos), so receiver it is.
Of course, he was a running back at Notre Dame....
27. Jafar Armstrong
Uniform number: 8
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: Lee's Summit, Missouri
High School: Bishop Miege HS
Former school: Notre Dame
Five best offers: Notre Dame, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Baylor
Tom Cruise rating:
2020 statistics: Played in 12 games at Notre Dame. 3 catches for 38 yards.
Interesting background here. As mentioned above, we learned today that Verdis Brown moved to defensive tackle. So that means he was a defensive tackle in 2018 (while redshirting), then he moved to offensive guard for 2019 and 2020 (and started all eight games there in 2020), and now he's moving back to defensive tackle for 2021.
Jafar Armstrong was a wide receiver in 2018 at Notre Dame. Then he moved to running back in the spring of 2019. He was a running back in 2019 and 2020 until halfway through the 2020 season he moved back to wide receiver. In the offseason he put his name in the portal and transferred to Illinois as a wide receiver.
So Verdis is DT-OL-DT and Jafar is WR-RB-WR. Similar "just needs to find the right position and settle in" vibes.
It's fairly obvious that one of first tasks on the new coaching staff's to-do list was "get help at wide receiver." So far we've seen Isaiah Williams and Marquez Beason moved there, Jafar Armstrong brought in from Notre Dame, and Casey Washington brought back after his transfer to Wake Forest. And, the staff has made WR a priority in the 2022 class with the top two players in the class so far (using the Composite ratings) being wide receivers.
So that means there's a very real opportunity for Armstrong here. As I've said as we've reviewed wide receivers during this countdown, it seemed to me in the spring that only two names were in ink (Donny Navarro and Brian Hightower). Isaiah Williams was then moved there, and you have to think his name is in ink now, but if they rotate 5-6 wideouts, there's still 2-3 spots there for the taking. Obviously, by putting Armstrong at #27, I'm expecting that he grabs one of those spots.
He also might be an answer returning kicks. Perhaps kickoff return? The "is he a WR or is his a RB?" types always make the best kickoff returners. There's no clear kickoff returner on this roster right now (my best guess is Jakari Norwood), and looking at his bio, Armstrong returned kickoffs at Notre Dame part of last season, so maybe that's a spot where we see him a lot.
The staff is looking for more athleticism, and he has it, so here's hoping that he's a fit for this offense and can use that athleticism to matriculate the ball down the field.