Steve Sturm - Football Writer
Courtesy Illinois Football
I have to admit that I'm irrationally excited about Illinois' newest addition: Michigan State transfer Max Rosenthal. After four years at Michigan State, Rosenthal still retains two years of eligibility in the orange and blue. I realize he has some ability as a defender and has above-average straight-line speed which makes him a viable receiver, but my eyes light up when I see these blocking highlights.
What does he bring to the orange and blue?
Rosenthal's blocking is sure to be his calling card. He shows a special ability to accelerate into the defender while coiled and roll his hips into the block while extending which is perfect for a player of his dimensions. Any team should want a player like that in short yardage situations. Plus, Michigan State found use for Rosenthal right away as a walk-on redshirt freshman special teamer. Rosenthal earned a scholarship the following winter and graduated to a regular role as a fullback and H back in 2018 and 2019, scoring two touchdowns as a receiver while delivering more punishing blocks. However, Michigan State never let him take the field in 2020. The Spartans employed a new offensive scheme, but one would think that Rosenthal's short yardage and special teams ability would have earned him some playing time regardless of the scheme. Regardless, Michigan State's loss is Illinois' gain.
Where does he fit?
This is the really interesting part of the article, because Illinois fans know that Illinois does not currently have a player like Max Rosenthal on the roster. But do you know who does? Appalachian State. If you read the article on Tony Petersen and saw the clips of the Mountaineers' offense last year, you undoubtedly saw how Appalachian State used an H back to create a mismatch on the edge on every play or create the option that they could use him on a dive play in order to force the defense to keep defenders in the middle of the field. The two players Appalachian State used in that role were both 6'3 and roughly 230 pounds. Anyone want to guess Rosenthal's listed size when he came out of high school? Yes, it was 6'3 and 230 pounds. He must have been fudging his height estimates, and three years in a Big Ten weight program has allowed him to add a lot of muscle, so he was last listed at 6'2 and 270 pounds. Not only that, but Joshua McCray is roughly the same height and weight as Rosenthal when he was coming out of high school.
Those bread crumbs are going to lead to a higher than usual rating for a player whose upside might be somewhat limited by the fact that he didn't have any snaps at Michigan State in his final year there. My reasoning is that Appalachian State not only had an h-back on the field on every play, they used their h-backs as receivers fairly frequently as well, running them on all kinds of influence routes and check downs. I suspect that Illinois intends more than a complimentary role for Rosenthal, and I'm rating this addition as a 9.