There are two ways to ask The Champaign Room your questions. You can tweet them at us on Twitter using the hashtag #AskTCR -- it makes it easier to keep track -- or you can email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you've got a personal question and you're worried about your privacy, just tell us. We'll change your name to Cuonzo Martin when we publish it on the site. And remember, you can ask us ANYTHING. It doesn't have to be about Illinois or even sports.
@Champaign_Room It was nice to see Smoot's talent recognized in the draft. Any Illini 2018 draft candidates to keep an eye on? Who's most likely to go?— Tim Cermak (@toweringCU) May 2, 2017
The Illinois 2017 NFL Draft class held a fair amount of talent. I’m a little surprised Carroll Phillips ended up as an undrafted free agent, and think he’s the guy with the best chance of making an NFL roster with a camp invite (Joe Spencer also looks REALLY good FYI).
But you asked about next year’s class, so lets get to it.
Malik Turner is the front runner for the 2018 Illinois Draft Class. The starting WR is the centerpiece of the Illinois receiving corps and will likely be Chayce Crouch’s go-to target. Turner finished top 10 in the Big Ten in receiving yards, receiving yards per reception, and receiving touchdowns in 2016. Before the season starts, Turner could work his way into the middle rounds of the 2018 draft.
Another offensive threat that could hear his name called in next year’s draft is RB Kendrick Foster. With Ke’Sahwn Vaughn transferring in the off-season, Foster will be the go-to back for the Illinois offense. Foster was 8th in the Big Ten in rushing yards per carry, with 720 total rushing yards in 2016. As the likely starter in the backfield, look for a 1,000 yard season from Foster, and a mid round spot in the draft.
(Other notables to watch: OL Christian Dilauro, DB Jaylen Dunlap, OLB James Crawford)
#AskTCR: Any update on Dwayne Lawson and his eligibility at Illinois? Is there uncertainty he may not qualify, or doubts as it drags on?— Michael Berns (@MichaelBerms) May 3, 2017
This was a major concern with the signing of Lawson back in December of 2016. While Lawson has the assets to be a great quarterback, his academic eligibility and lack of commitment to the playbook at Virginia Tech are concern-able red flags.
In order for Lawson to be eligible for NCAA play next season, he needs to earn an Associate’s Degree at the JUCO level. According to a Chicago Tribune report in February, Lawson’s JUCO coach said they are “waiting to finalize some grades.”
Then this came out during Illinois spring practice:
#illini Lovie on Crouch: "He is our starting quarterback. He is the undisputed leader of our team."— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) April 12, 2017
As Lawson’s future at Illinois continues to be shadowed in doubt, Lovie Smith and Garrick McGee have moved forward towards next season with the tools they know they have in place. While Lawson would be a much welcomed addition to the Illinois offense, his future with the program is unknown.
What surprises me is that Underwood has not truly recruited a “center” or a “true five” for the 2017 roster outside of Jeremiah Tilmon. There is no doubt that Leron Black and Michael Finke will get starting spots at the four and five, but it has been interesting to see Underwood offer scholarships to players like Obadiah Toppin and Justin Minaya that are more of your three/four power forward guys. Since Badocchi chose Virginia earlier this week, one or both of these offers need to land to provide depth to next season’s roster. Chicago’s Manny Patterson could be another good target at PF, but Underwood’s staff clearly favors Toppin and Minaya.
@Champaign_Room Assuming no additions for 2017 class, what's the ceiling for the team with a Black/Finke combo at center?— Ryan Rubly (@B_Jammin2008) May 3, 2017
No additions to the 2017 class means a SUPER thin bench for Underwood, meaning you likely see some playing time for Cameron Liss if you figure Black/Nichols/Finke are the regular starters at the four and five spots. Thin bench means losses in close games, and losing close games means the ceiling is around the 23-24 win mark. Sure, there is a lot of guard talent that would carry the team, but you cannot rely on guard play for an entire season. 23-24 wins still gets the team to the NCAA tournament, but that 2018 class better be forward and center heavy.
There will always be an effort to try and recruit players from in-state to come to Illinois, so there is no need to worry about any in-state recruiting efforts.
If you check out our latest basketball recruiting article (shameless plug), the trend for the 2018 class is Florida. Six players that were offered scholarships are from the sunshine state, meaning that our new head coach has a pipeline in mind.
Need seems to be the common theme with the blue bloods. As things stand today, Kentucky has 3 PGs on their roster, Syracuse has 4, Villanova has 5, Arizona has 3, and North Carolina has 3. Only Duke and Kansas have 2 or fewer, but both teams are famous for focusing more on shooting guards. Dosunmu fits better as a point guard than a shooting guard.
One would have to think that Jalen Coleman-Lands has the potential to be one of the best scorers in the league next season under the new offense. He has spent the last two seasons in the Top 10 in three point field goals, and is expected to boom under Coach Underwood’s scheme. Do not be surprised if JCL jumps into the Top 3 in Big Ten scoring this season.
We need depth at the power forward and center position, so landing a Silvio De Sousa or Darius Days would be big for the program. Sousa is the must-get, but Days would be just as valuable.
ESPN will go bankrupt the longer they decide to show outdated B-roll of downtown Champaign (see below):
Absolutely. When the golf team has had more NCAA Tournament appearances than your men’s AND women’s basketball teams combined in the last ten years, you’re officially a #GolfSchool
Let’s not even mention the eight Big Ten Championships in the last nine years, or the two individual NCAA Championships in three years from 2010-2012, or the seven consecutive individual Big Ten Championship streak currently running...