Thoughts: Spring Game Rosters

And in-depth and in-detail look at the Orange and Blue rosters in advance of Saturday's spring game.

I didn't spend too long pondering the question — who would I take with the first pick in the Illinois player draft? You know, if I had a pick and it was the first. Easy answer. Wes Lunt. Next.

That's exactly what happened, although it's interesting to note the team selecting first, the Blue squad, had quarterback Reilly O'Toole already on board as a captain.

Maybe with a quarterback in place, the pick could have been used elsewhere, a spot with depth issues. Take an o-lineman or d-lineman and begin to leverage the other group.

Senior defensive lineman Austin Teistma told me before the draft: "You're definitely going after line first. For us, that's a huge thing. If you don't have a line there's a lot of things that will fall apart."

His strategy was on point. But he's also quick on his feet and smart enough to adjust. Even with O'Toole in the fold, the Blue Team used the first pick to select the best player in Lunt.

That was a winner. But which team won the rest of the draft?

I'll get to that. Let me first say, you could make a pretty good team with the players that are out due to injury.

Past starters Jon Davis, Matt LaCosse and Michael Heitz would bolster the offense. And you could work with Jaylen Dunlap, Eric Finney and Dawuane Smoot on the defensive side. Unfortunately we won't get a look at those guys until August camp.

As for the players that can play on Saturday, I think those on the Orange Team should be clear favorites. The Blue Team may have the best overall guy in Lunt, but the Orange seniors did a good job of out-maneuvering their counterparts in the draft.

Check this offense out… QB Aaron Bailey, RBs Josh Ferguson, Donovonn Young and WRs Geronimo Allison, Martize Barr, Mike Dudek, TE Tim Clary and an OL led by Ted Karras and Simon Cvijanovic.

Yeah, that's the top two overall running backs, three of the top four wideouts and the two best offensive linemen on the team.

What was the Blue Team thinking? Did those guys draft Lunt and forget he needed others around him?

Major edge to the Orange on offense.

Defensively, the Orange Team isn't bad, either. The headliners include linebackers Mason Monheim, Ralph Cooper and Mike Svetina, James Crawford (Star) and Zeph Grimes (Star), lineman Jarrod Clements, Kenny Nelson and Jake Howe, secondary members Caleb Day, Darius Mosely and Zane Petty.

That's three of the overall top four linebackers, two good options at Star, as decent a d-line as possible and a good enough secondary.

I'll reserve judgement on the defensive edge until I lay out the Blue Team's look.

Real quick on special teams, the Orange Team pulled off a trifecta, drafting Taylor Zalewski (starting kicker), Justin DuVernois (starting punter) and Zach Hirth (starting long snapper).

Major edge to Orange for special teams (if that will ultimately matter, I don't know).

Here's your Blue Team offense: QBs Lunt and O'Toole, RB Kendrick Foster, WRs Justin Hardee, Devin Church, Marchie Murdock, Peter Bonahoom, TE Tyler White, OL Alex Hill, Patrick Flavin, Austin Schmidt and Joe Spencer.

This is a cast with two of the top three quarterbacks (though only one can play at a time), weak at running back and decent at wide receiver. White at tight end will be the guy to watch on this unit, with an offensive line that is plenty solid despite not having a headliner like Cvijanovic or Karras.

The Blue Team did better defensively… Linebackers T.J. Neal, B.J Bello and Earnest Thomas (Star), a line with Teko Powell, Austin Teitsma, Joe Fotu, Paul James and Dejazz Woods (Leo) and a secondary made up of Eaton Spence, V'Angelo Bentley, Dillan Cazley and Taylor Barton.

Alright, after typing all that out, I'll give the edge defensively to Blue. It's d-unit is deeper and has more talent, top to bottom.

And just for fun, let's glance at the coaching staffs. It's hard to not like what the Blue Team has going, with "cool" guys like Mike Bellamy, Al Seamonson, Juice Williams and Rashard Mendenhall representing. Tim Banks and Tim Salem provide the group with two of the three coordinators as well. But… But… Are you really going to go against Bill Cubit? He's on the Orange staff, along with A.J. Ricker, Mike Ward, Dana Howard and Martez Wilson.

Edge, Orange.

Adding it all up, I'm taking the Orange Team to win on Saturday and ride off into the offseason sunset as champions (dramatic, sure). Go ahead and give those guys their steaks and cakes (or whatever) and the other guys beanies and weenies (or whatever).

Book it!

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