The 90 Illini #26.5: Calvin Avery
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I've done this before. Somewhere along the way, while making some summer adjustments to The 90 Illini list, I'll make some changes and accidentally delete one name. I did that this year with Calvin Avery. I originally had him at #32 or so, but I just ran a final check on my top 26 players and there was no Avery to be found.
He should have been around #32 or so. Which means CJ Hart should have been 33 and Ethan Tabel should have been 34 and so on. To fix it, I'll just slide him in right here at 26.5. He's going to be part of the rotation this fall - perhaps a big part of the rotation - and so I need to get him on here. The next player on The 91 Illini is......
26.5: Calvin Avery
Uniform number: 93
Year in school: Junior (without the Covid waiver, 2 years to play 1; with the Covid waiver, technically 3 years to play 2)
Height: 6'-2" -- Weight: 335 lbs.
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
High School: Bishop Dunne HS
Five best offers: Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, USC, Notre Dame
Tom Cruise rating:
2020 statistics: Played in seven games, starting two. 14 tackles, 1 sack.
The three highest-rated players on the roster Cruise-wise: Isaiah Williams (5 Cruises), Marquez Beason (5 Cruises), and Calvin Avery (4.5 Cruises). And talent-wise (at least pre-injury for Beason), I still stand by that. Calvin Avery has physical attributes that make him one of the five most talented players on the roster. There's a reason his offer list looked like it did.
The issue, at least with Lovie's coaching staff, was playing weight. They wanted his weight down and he never got his weight to where they wanted it. I don't really even want to comment on that issue because A) I don't really know the conversations they had about ideal playing weight and B) mirrors exist. Moving on.
If you're one of the 56 Illini fans who watched the Penn State game last year, you'll remember that Avery kind of had a breakout game (5 tackles, TFL, sack). He was disruptive the entire game. End of his third season... that's about the time the light bulb should come on.
With the Covid waiver, he gets two more years, not just one. So like a lot of the 2017 and 2018 freshmen, he gets the redshirt year he never had. This is good news for a guy like Avery.
Now there's a new defense. And it seems to have a very firm nose tackle role (at least more than the last defense had a "shade the center every single play" nose tackle). That seems like it should fit Avery very well. So we should be looking at this as his breakout season, I think.
He won't start, I don't think, but at a spot like that it doesn't really matter. Interior DL positions usually have pairs as starters. Roderick Perry will get the majority of snaps, but I'd guess it will be something like 60/40 Perry snaps to Avery snaps. If you don't do that, nose tackles are usually tapped out by the middle of the third quarter. So I'd say we look for Calvin Avery to get 40% of the snaps this year (with Perry getting 60%) and then 60% of the snaps next year (with Verdis Brown getting 40%).