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VideOTE Games: Illinois Fighting Illini Virtual Roster Ratings Review

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IMPACT PUNTER

NCAA Football: Iowa at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Well, it’s time to see if the roster we’re using for VideOTEGames 2020 agrees with my assessment that Illinois was going to be Also Receiving Votes-caliber this year.

For the record, as I refuse to upgrade past a PS2, my most recent copy of NCAA Football is in fact NCAA Football 10. I purchased this one several years later, and I got this version specifically because it was made in anticipation of the 2009 season, when Illinois was expected to be a dark horse contender for the Big Ten title. Not only were Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn the absolute studs they were always meant to be, but Jarred Fayson lived up to the hype, and since it was up to me and not Gus Schultz, I actually ran the option and threw to my NFL-caliber tight ends and didn’t turn the ball over every time I tried to field a punt.

Anyway, that’s how I understand this game. I haven’t played the latest generation as extensively, but I know to expect a lot of penalties on PAT’s.

So! Let’s see what we have here!

Quarterbacks

Okay, so here’s where there’s some nuance and understanding of the game required, because Brandon Peters’ ratings are wildly inaccurate, but if we made them realistic, he wouldn’t run the offense the way he’s supposed to, right? So I think he might be a little overrated at 84 OVR, but he’s definitely at least an 80. But speed, agility and acceleration are all in “run-first QB” territory, so let’s take them to the high end of “adequate scrambler” at 70, 80 and 80. Maybe a slight knock to awareness, down to 86, in order to justify buffing his arm. Put power up at 87 and accuracy at 83, as long as that doesn’t put his OVR above 84.

Isaiah Williams has the opposite problem. He’s too good at throwing. He was recruited by big-time schools as a receiver, so let’s put his speed at 85, drop awareness to 58 and drop accuracy to 74. Maybe give him 74 catch.

Matt Robinson profiles as maybe a decent MAC dual-threat prospect. I’d put his speed at least to 70, on par with Peters, and his ACC/AGI to 75 or so. Awareness can drop to 72 and accuracy to 76.

The QB depth chart should show Peters as a decent passer who runs adequately, and reflect that we’re totally screwed if he goes down.

Running Backs

OK so first off, I’m petitioning to get Ra’Von Bonner, Ricky Smalling and Jake Cerny back on the Illinois roster. They all left the team in August, and while only Bonner directly cited COVID, reports about the other two lead me to believe they would have played for Illinois this year if COVID hadn’t happened. We can scratch Norwood from the roster and add Bonner.

This is a great situation for Mike Epstein, since his foot is going to be OK in the virtual world. He’s been very similar to Reggie Corbin when healthy, so I’d upgrade his elusiveness to at least 80. Knock a point off his speed/AGI/ACC if that balances it. Also, he’s an excellent blocking back; I’d put both his block ratings at 60.

Bonner should probably be around a 76 OVR with SPD/AGI/ACC/AWR/BTK/ELU/CAR/CAT/PBK/RBK around 84/87/86/78/70/65/80/65/50/45. He was probably in line to get the second most carries this year.

No issues with Reggie Love or Chase Brown.

Tight Ends

These look pretty good, except you can probably knock Luke Ford down to 75’s for blocking and give him 73 speed and 80 catch, and knock Daniel Barker’s blocking down to 70/70. Also, is there any way that you can edit Barker’s discipline or something to make it so that he does a celebration and gets flagged every time he scores? We’re trying to be realistic.

Wide Receivers

First thing’s first. Josh Imatorbhebhe needs to have a jump rating of at least 96.

Dude floats. I don’t see where these ratings are, but you can knock some points off his route running to add to his catch-in-traffic, spectacular catch and stiff-arm ratings. Trust me, I was at the Michigan State Spartans game. His catch rating should probably be at least 89, but other than that, I’m happy.

Trevon Sidney is an unknown since he played so little before getting hurt. Let’s add Ricky Smalling back in by cloning pre-adjustment Imatorbhebhe and dropping his AGI/ACC to 89, AWR to 76 and CAT to 80. Hopefully that will produce an OVR of between 78 and 80; if not, adjust til he gets there.

Switch Dalevon Campbell’s speed with Kyron Cumby’s, since Cumby is the track star in this equation. Also, change Brian Hightower’s name to Edwin Carter, since Hightower (and also Khmari Thompson) is not eligible to play this year. I’m not gonna be out here arguing for a point or two for former walk-on Donny Navarro.

Finally, as Smalling racked up three tackles in pretty limited action last year, let’s make sure his tackle rating is at least 70. I don’t know if it’s a good thing that he got those tackles, but he should be rewarded.

Offensive Line

And then let’s get Jake Cerny, who apparently married and had a kid and decided to move on from football, back on the roster. Feels like maybe he doesn’t make that decision in non-COVID circumstances. Clone Verdis Brown, but dock strength to 82 and bump awareness to 82.

The Illini O-line is much better at run blocking than pass blocking, so let’s knock Palcho, Green and Lowe down to 87/84/84 in that department. Let’s put The Ineligible Man Downfield (Vederian Lowe)’s awareness at 80, giving him a penalty while acknowledging he’s gotten better at that. Bump his run blocking to 89 while you’re at it. Kendrick Green is the strongest of our OL, so he needs to be at least an 84 in that department.

Finally, to create some separation, put Verdis Brown at 74 awareness. I have no basis to pump up Blake Jeresaty, so the ratings should reflect that the RG spot is a toss-up between him and Cerny, probably going to Jeresaty.

Defensive Line

Okay, I have a lot of issues here. Where exactly is Isaiah Gay getting all this love from? He did better than expected as a true freshman in 2017, and that’s about it. 95 awareness?!?!?! I’ve seen Illinois play read-option teams. No Illini DE should have above an 80 in awareness. Cap pursuit and play recognition at 70 for all DE’s.

Is there an Illegal Use Of Hands Hands To The Face stat? Because I’d set Calvin Avery’s at a minimum of 80. Still, let’s give him 80 power move, because he’s been disruptive when he’s not being flagged.

Deon Pate’s 67 tackle seems unfair. Let’s give him 76. He was probably going to be the 3rd DT in the rotation, with an argument to start.

Do we get to have Roderick Perry? The FCS preseason All-American transferred from South Carolina State when the MEAC cancelled their fall season due to COVID...

Other than that, no, my only complaint is that you need to make the defensive ends substantially less good at football.

Oh also, Keith Randolph can dunk. Give him a 90 jump rating.

Linebackers

Wow! Some respect on Jake Hansen’s name! Kind of weird that he’s faster than Milo Eifler. Let’s switch their speed ratings, but give Hansen 80 acceleration and 93 tackle. I’m justifying 92 tackle by his nation-leading 7 forced fumbles last year!

Man coverage and zone coverage for the LB’s top out at 70. Is that shitty enough? They’re really bad at pass coverage. Like, really bad.

Tarique Barnes should be an 86 speed since he’s definitely the fastest linebacker.

I forgot about Isaac Darkangelo. What a great name.

Secondary

Damn! They love them some Sydney Brown! Well, I’m also going to insist that he get 60 elusiveness and 60 catch. I don’t know that it’s fair to give any Illini a great zone coverage rating, so knock Brown to 86 in that department. Hobbs should get bumped down to 84 in zone coverage.

Marquez Beason should have 93 speed and 96 AGI/ACC. He’s probably the punt returner ideally.

Derrick Smith was a linebacker at Miami and I think his tackle ability is massively underrated and should be boosted to 80.

Devon Witherspoon is also underrated; he started a few games at corner and proved to be a B1G level starter, so I think he should amount to at least 75 OVR. Give him 80 AWR, 82 MCV and 78 tackle.

Finally, Michael Marchese’s ratings require adjustment. Amend SPD/AWR/TAK/MCV/ZCV to 70, 30, 20, 30, 10.

Kickers

IMPACT PUNTER!

I think it would be fair to give Blake Hayes 95 accuracy in exchange for 96 power. I do appreciate that he has 70 carrying and 63 catching, but in light of his exploits in the rain against Purdue, I’d advocate for boosting both ratings to 90.

James McCourt’s accuracy is acceptable, but if 60-yard range doesn’t get you at least 94 kick power, I don’t know what the point of that stat is. This is a Lovie Smith kicker. He misses 58-yarders, but not because he’s short.