2024 Three Deep

Oct 24, 2022

You thought I forgot, didn't you? I didn't forget. Bye Week I is all about next year's three-deep. Bye Week II is all about the three-deep two years down the road. It's less "here are the players I think will be starting" and more "here is the depth we have at each position after the current juniors and seniors leave."

Obviously, this is much harder to do in the age of the Transfer Portal. There will be two full portal cycles between now and the season opener in 2024. At least 15 of the names below will transfer out. At least 15 new names will transfer in. But, like last year, perhaps this gives us some good insight on where those portal movements might happen.

For all players I'm choosing to play out their Covid eligibility. But there will be some players you'll see on the chart which will make you say "no WAY Johnny Newton is still here in 2024". I agree. But this is a three-deep, and Johnny Newton technically could be included on the 2024 three deep. Even though he's almost certainly declaring after this season or next.

You might also see a name here and say "yeah, that guy was a bust - why do you still have him on the roster in 2024?". I'd only urge you to think of your thoughts towards Kendall Smith in 2019 and your thoughts towards Kendall Smith in 2022 before you assume a player is a bust. If Kerby had five interceptions last year and Kendall Smith has four interceptions this year then get ready for {insert player you forgot about} to have six interceptions in 2024.

To the three-deep. Remember, my depth charts have true backups (one offensive tackle is usually the backup at both RT and LT) and my three-deeps list three players at each position. And I still use 12 positions on each side of the ball (2 TE/3 WR on offense and 5 DL/5 DB on defense).

QB | Leary (rs-SO) | Swanson (rs-FR) | Michaux (JR-walkon)
RB | McCray (SR) | Love (SR) | Laughery (rs-SO)
TE1 | Reiman (SR) | O. Anderson (rs-SO) | Cargill (rs-SO)
TE2 | Boyer (rs-SO) | Moore (rs-SR) | Guinn (rs-FR)
LT | Whitenack (JR) | Cronin (SR-walkon) | Aamland (rs-FR)
LG | Barlev (rs-JR) | Davis (SR) | Elias (SO-walkon)
C | Jo. Kreutz (rs-JR) | Okla (rs-SO) | McMillan (rs-FR)
RG | Schuster (JR) | Gesky (rs-JR) | Leonard (rs-SO)
RT | Crisler (SR) | Møller (rs-SO) | Fries (rs-SO)
WR | Williams (SR) | M. Scott (rs-JR walkon) | Pugh (rs-SO)
WR | P. Bryant (SR) | Hollins (rs-SO) | Edwards (JR)
WR | Beatty (JR) | S. Miller (rs-SO) | Lott (rs-FR)

ROLB | Coleman (SR) | Badie (rs-SO) | Cooper (SR)
RDL | Randolph (SR) | Kirts (SR) | Bray (rs-FR)
NT | T. Edwards (SR) | McConnell (rs-JR) | Lorenzo (SO-walkon)
LDL | Newton (SR) | Muragin (rs-FR) | Farrell (rs-FR)
LOLB | Jacas (JR) | A. Bryant (rs-JR) | C. Smith (rs-FR)
ILB1 | Odeluga (JR) | Ja. Kreutz (rs-SO) | Hayden (rs-FR)
ILB2 | Rosiek (JR) | Meed (SR) | Zardzin (JR-walkon)
CB | Nicholson (SR) | Strain (rs-JR) | Wilcher (rs-FR)
CB | Rooks (rs-SO) | Mc-Cantos (rs-SO) | Snyder (rs-JR)
STAR | X. Scott (JR) | Tobe (rs-FR) | Clarke (rs-FR)
SS | Turner (SR) | Griffin (rs-SO) | Karriem (rs-FR)
FS | Bailey (JR) | Curry (rs-JR) | Green (rs-JR)

Kicker | Pinton (JR) | McManus (JR) | Olano (rs-FR)
Punter | Robertson (JR) | Duley (rs-FR) | Leff (rs-SO-walkon)
Longsnapper | Hall (SR) ~OR~ L. Hansen (JR)
Punt Return | Beatty (JR) | M. Scott (JR)
KO Return | Love (SR) | Laughery (rs-SO)

Before I get to some thoughts, a reminder that at least 15 names are missing. The QB might be a transfer. Johnny Newton and Keith Randolph likely leave early and their replacements might be transfer portal guys. I'm saying that the starters at linebacker in 2024 would be Kenenna Odeluga and Dylan Rosiek but it might be James Kreutz and walkon Luke Zardzin. There's so much we don't know. (Still fun to assemble, though.)

OK, some thoughts:

  • I know that Matt Bailey is the anchor of the 2024 defense but I don't know where to put him. Right now he's playing mostly free safety in that dime package but... do they maybe see him as a Sydney Brown in the future? Maybe he's the next Quan Martin? So much to learn in the defensive secondary after all these seniors graduate (and then, you know, we play an entire season and THEN we learn the 2024 depth chart).
  • It will not happen, and it's a good thing (not a bad thing) that players will be leaving for the NFL, but a 2024 defensive line of Coleman (SR), Randolph (SR), Edwards (SR), Newton (SR), and Jacas (JR) would be the greatest defensive line in Illini history.
  • Offensive line was the toughest. Palcho and Pihlstrom leave after this year and then Adams, Pearl, and Slaughter leave after next season. So as of right now, 2024 is Zy Crisler (if he doesn't leave early) and four completely open spots. That's normal college football stuff (to have to replace two linemen one season and then three lineman after the next season), but still, a lot of unknowns for this 2024 line.
  • Aidan Hall has been snapping "longs" (punts) and Lane Hansen has been snapping "shorts" (field goals and extra points) so I'm showing both of them as starters (in 2023 and 2024).
  • We don't know if Pat Bryant and Isaiah Williams are here in 2024 but if they are, with the emergence of Hank Beatty this year, I suddenly feel a hundred times better about wide receiver the next few seasons.
  • I made every incoming freshman in the 2023 class a redshirt freshman for 2024, but obviously some of them will play. Looking over this list, I'd say the two spots where true freshmen will get on the field next year are defensive line (whoever is ready the quickest) and safety.
  • As far as "who might we add from the portal?" is concerned, interior DL jumps off the page here. Say both Newton and Randolph leave after this season. You do have Bryce Barnes for one more year (in 2023), but then are you ready to start... Evan Kirts? Sed McConnell? Maybe those guys are developed and ready... or maybe we're going to go portaling.

As always, my conclusion upon finishing "three-deep for two seasons from now" is that we don't know enough to complete a three-deep for 2024. The portal has changed college football.

But I'm still going to do it forever and ever because I love Illini football and oh by the way we're #17 right now and if we win our next six games we go to the playoff go Illini.


SactownIllini on October 24, 2022 @ 10:40 PM

Even with those graduating and/or NFLing, I feel good with those names up there. Some talent in the three deep. I don't think I've felt that way since...well ever?

jruge34@gmail.com on October 25, 2022 @ 12:32 AM

Chief4ever on October 25, 2022 @ 12:41 AM

Robert. Not having Kreutz starting at LB? Really? I’m not angry. Just disappointed.

gman on October 25, 2022 @ 07:39 AM

Its so encouraging to see names of players whom there is hope of true developement into quality BIG 10 players. Its even more encouraging to know we have staff qualified to get them there !

hallkevin13@gmail.com on October 25, 2022 @ 08:47 AM

Did you forget walkon for some of the specialists? Or between K, S, Snapper, will we really be using 7 scholarships?

Norcal Illini on October 25, 2022 @ 11:34 AM

Robert, I enjoy reading your columns, but I've stopped reading these. Trying to predict a roster two years out is a fool's errand. For example, did you have Isaiah Adams, Zy Crisler, Tip Reiman or Tommy DeVito on the list you made in 2020? Bielema said at his presser that he spent two hours talking about the future roster. That's his job, and it indicates that there will be players on the roster that no one has heard of.

"As always, my conclusion upon finishing "three-deep for two seasons from now" is that we don't know enough to complete a three-deep for 2024. The portal has changed college football." I guess I did read the last two paragraphs.

danny on October 25, 2022 @ 01:42 PM

Robert: I’m in the same camp as NorCal. I go to the IlliniBoard everyday to see your latest. I didn’t read this one and don’t read the predicted roster articles. College roster construction changes so quickly today, this just doesn’t grab my attention. The 2022/23 basketball roster is prefect example of trying to predict a roster a year in advance.

I post this cause you mentioned the time you spent on articles for your supporters.

Nathan on October 25, 2022 @ 03:35 PM

Caught a small mistake -- you have Snook Edwards at receiver, when everyone knows the path is defensive back --> receiver --> starting free safety who leads the team in interceptions.

Efrem on October 25, 2022 @ 03:36 PM

I have a hard time believing Feagin won't be in the top 3 at RB for us in 2024

Seems like a tough kid to keep off the field

Nathan on October 26, 2022 @ 08:57 AM

I noticed that, too. I think for the format of this exercise -- no guessing who goes pro or transfers out -- it's tough to leave any of McCray, Love or Laughery off in favor of Feagin, but I'd imagine the chances of Feagin getting meaningful reps in the backfield rotation by 2024, by hook or by crook, are high to quite high.

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