Our friends at Black Shoe Diaries recently had some fun taking a player from each of Penn State’s 2018 opponents. So, we are going to do something similar. Instead of taking from our opponents, we will expand the pool by taking a player from each Big Ten school. Why would we do this? Because it’s mid-July, the World Cup is over, and imperialist fantasizes are fun.
To make this a little more interesting, we will not just take the most highly touted player on each roster. We are going to attempt to take the player that would be most useful to the Illini.
We started our pillaging in the Big Ten East. Now, we move on to pillage the Big Ten West.
Player - Adrian Martinez - QB
We picked up a Quarterback in our Big Ten East Edition, but we are going to get greedy and pick up another one because you can never have too much depth at the position.
Adrian Martinez is approaching his true freshman season. Despite only being on campus for a few months, he looked like a starting quarterback in the Husker’s spring game. Yes, it’s only a spring game but Martinez has the speed to seriously punish defenses.
He also has the arm and shiftiniess to open up the passing game. Rod Smith would terrorize defenses with a talent like Martinez.
Player - Andrew Van Ginkel - LB
For starters, Van Ginkle has long hair which brings back memories of J Leman, but more substantively, at Outside Linebacker, Van Ginkel is a terror in the passing game. He has the speed and agility to defend the open spaces on the field from sideline to sideline. This allows Van Ginkel to reek havoc when blitzing or when dropping back to defend the pass.
Player: Joe Gaziano - DE
Gaziano is a terror coming off the edge. In 2017, he amassed 12.5 tackles for loss and 9 sacks. He would require double teams, which would make life easier for the Illini’s Linebackers and interior Defensive Line. Also, Gaziano will probably be playing on Sundays in 2019.
Player: Cedrick Lattimore - DT
This one is more of a project than our other picks. Lattimore came to Iowa as a strong side defensive end. He showed promise as a freshman but, following a position switch to Defensive Tackle that required him gaining 30 pounds, Lattimore underwhelmed.
Now that he has a year playing in the middle and now that he’s adjusted to his new body, Lattimore is expected to shine. Lattimore’s size and quickness would require double teams in the middle, thus opening things up for the Linebackers and Defensive Ends to make plays.
Player - Jacob Huff - S
Huff is a stalky Safety from Bolingbrook, Illinois, who at 5-foot-10, 210 pounds has an ideal frame to play the run but also be effective in pass coverage. In 2017, he recorded 47 solo tackles and made three interceptions.
As both a reliable tackler and menace on pass defense, Huff would give the Illini a steady presence in the back end, which would allow the Illini to be a little more aggressive with the Defensive Line and Linebackers.
Player - Markell Jones - RB
Jones got lost in the shuffle of a four-headed Running Back rotation at Purdue and did not get significant playing time until October. He still ended up being Purdue’s leading rusher.
More importantly, he rushed for 217 yards in the rivalry win over Indiana. Jones, at 5-foot-10, 211 pounds, has ideal size and speed to be highly effective in Rod Smith’s zone read.