1) Bill Cubit – Yeah, all offseason you heard Bill Cubit, Bill Cubit, Bill Cubit. And now in fall you're hearing about Bill Cubit, Bill Cubit, Bill Cubit. I don't know what it is, but the man gives you a peaceful, easy feeling. All Eagles references aside, 2014 quarterback commit summed it up best to me in June when he said Cubit has charisma. Corey Lewis told me Cubit makes you feel confident about whatever it is you're doing. 2015 wideout Miles Boykin said he trusts Cubit "100 percent." That's just talking about Cubit off the field.
On the field, his offense at least looks like it knows what it's doing, which is mad improvement over a year ago. North-south runs for a back like Donovonn Young and quick-hitting throws for quarterbacks with either average arms or a lack of experience. Hmmm… No offense to Cubit, but why was that so hard to figure out?
2) Jonathan Brown, Earnest Thomas, Houston Bates, Tim Kynard and Mason Monheim. Yeah, but the defensive line and secondary units are young and – wait, hold up, this is about optimism, hope and feel-good-alright-yeah areas. There will be plenty of picking apart the spots lacking for later.
But for now, the defense has a strong group of five with those listed above. Hey, diss me if you want, but a buddy and I like to play a game where I tell him who on Illinois' roster could make it on an elite SEC team. There's different levels to it, like earning a scholarship, playing as a senior, being a backup, a solid starter or a difference maker. Brown, along with Young, are always my choice as headliners. Physically, he's an NFL type for sure. Mentally, he seems locked in, which hasn't always been the case in the past. Bates seems completely suited for the Leo spot. Thomas is fine at safety and has been one of the more vocal leaders in practice and in media sessions. Monheim has the best attitude ever and is only going to improve from last season's breakthrough. And while I'm not sold on Kynard ever being a dominant force on the line, the guy has embraced a Captain-line role on a defensive line vessel that would otherwise probably be lost at sea.
3) Alex Golesh, Marcus Berry and Matt Sinclair – Golesh needs only one sentence. He knows what he's doing when it comes to recruiting. Period. As for Berry and Sinclair, those two guys are a major upgrade in the recruiting room. Let's take Sinclair first: He played on the Illini's Big Ten Championship team in 2001, spent five years in the NFL and he's also a great person. Honestly, tell me who could be better to sell the program? He's somebody that won at Illinois, had success in the NFL and he told me his dream job is to just to be somewhere with the potential to be a role model for kids, even if it's just one, like the coaches he had growing up. That's real.
Berry spent four seasons at North Carolina. Say what you want about some of what went on down in Chapel Hill, but Berry has seen recruiting work at a school that's supposed to be good only at basketball. Hmmm... think that will help here? Uh, yeah.
I've spoken to both those guys. I've watched both interact with recruits. It's a major, major enhancement for the program having them around.