Preps Talk

Bolingbrook's Morrison aims for the top

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Bolingbrook's Morrison aims for the top

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011
Posted: 10:50 a.m.

By Taylor Bell
CSNChicago.com

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Antonio Morrison was impressed with Florida assistant coach Bryant Young, who earned All-State, All-America and All-NFL recognition at Bloom, Notre Dame and the San Francisco 49ers.

Morrison also was impressed by Florida's reputation as a national championship contender, the professionalism of the coaching staff, the campus, the 90,000-seat stadium known as the "Swamp," the warm climate, southern hospitality and down-home atmosphere.

He was also impressed with the idea of playing in the Southeastern Conference, the most competitive and most celebrated football league in college football. If he is to realize his dream of playing in the NFL, he reasons, the SEC will pave the way.

All of that happened because Bolingbrook's 6-foot-3, 220-pound linebacker made a commitment to work relentlessly in the off-season to be better than he was a year ago, to command the attention of college recruiters who weren't so impressed with his performance in 2010. All except Florida.

"They called me sometime in February. I don't know what they saw. They just called and offered, even before I visited the campus in July," said Morrison, who chose Florida over Oregon and Illinois. "I had a good feeling about Florida. I could see me being part of the Gator family."

Morrison had 25 scholarship offers. He could have waited for more, but he committed to Florida on Aug. 1. "I wasn't looking for any more offers. After my visit, it sealed my decision," he said.

What did Florida see that others didn't?

"He is the most underrated player in the country," said nationally respected recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS College Sports Network. "I loved him on film. He out-runs most opponents. He is capable of big plays, which is what separates the great ones from the good ones in high school. He is capable of turning games around because of his speed. He will rank among the top 100 players in the nation at the end of the season."

Bolingbrook coach John Ivlow said Morrison is the best player he has produced in 10 years. Better than former linebacking standout Kyle Williams, who was rated as the No. 1 linebacker in the nation in 2002 by Rivals.com.

But Ivlow didn't tout Morrison as highly as Williams after his junior year--in fact, he listed him as the fifth best prospect on his roster in November--because the youngster was making a transition from defensive end to linebacker and still was rounding into form.

"He had a good junior year but not a fantastic season," Ivlow said. "He had some kinks. He lacked experience at the position. But he acquired strength and muscle over the summer. He power lifts 650 pounds and dead lifts 600. He can run and hit. He plays very fast. We knew he had potential."

What convinced Ivlow and many scouts was when Morrison tackled Aaron Bailey, Bolingbrook's outstanding quarterback, in the open field during a scrimmage. Bailey, a junior, has already accumulated offers from Illinois, Northwestern, Iowa, Minnesota, Purdue and Indiana.

Morrison knew it was only a matter of time before college coaches and recruiting analysts acknowledged his talent. As a junior, he was listed as 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds with 4.8 speed. Hardly the kind of numbers that excite recruiters. But now he is bigger and stronger and faster.

"It was a big transition last year," Morrison said. "As a linebacker, I have to drop back in coverage and make more reads. I have more responsibilities. It was new for me. I didn't get embarrassed but I had to learn the position. I felt it was my future."

He dedicated himself to getting stronger, faster and better over the summer. He listened to advice from his older brother Anthony, who played linebacker at Eastern Illinois. He virtually slept in the weight room and trained relentlessly to build up his bulk and muscle and improve his speed and explosiveness.

"It paid off," said Morrison, who had 11 tackles and two sacks in Bolingbrook's opening victory over Plainfield South. "The fun of playing linebacker is you get to hit people without getting a foul called on you."

While Morrison is proving he is one of the most accomplished linebackers in the country, he hopes to lead his team back to a position of prominence in the state playoff. Last year's team was 5-5, the worst record since 2004 and only the second time since 1981 that the Raiders hadn't posted a winning record.

Bolingbrook was un-ranked in the preseason but has climbed to No. 13 in the first three weeks. The Raiders smashed Joliet Central 60-6 last Friday and have a date with Joliet West on Friday night before meeting what shapes up as their toughest opponents of the regular season in the following weeks, Homewood-Flossmoor and Lincoln-Way East.

"We're used to being a dominant team," Morrison said. "I think people are overlooking us. We're trying to get back where we used to be."

NBC Sports Chicago to carry live coverage of the 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships

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NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago to carry live coverage of the 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships

Network to televise LIVE coverage of the Class 1A-4A IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships from Redbird Arena in Normal, IL over the next two weekends

PLUS -- Live streaming coverage of EVERY IHSA Girls Basketball State Championship telecast – including surrounding pre/postgame coverage – to be made available to authenticated subscribers on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and via the NBC Sports app

NBCSportsChicago.com/Preps to air highlight packages from all semifinal, consolation, and championship games; “High School Lites” Girls Championships specials to air Feb. 23 & Mar. 2 at 11:00 PM CT

Chicago, IL (February 20, 2018) NBC Sports Chicago, the home of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Championships, will be airing LIVE cross-platform coverage of the 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships on Friday, February 23 & Saturday, February 24 (Class 1A & 2A) and Friday, March 2 & Saturday, March 3 (Class 3A & 4A) from Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena in Normal, IL.  Over the next two weekends, Illinois preps hoops fans can look forward to seeing every action-packed semifinal, consolation and championship battle starting Friday at 11:00 AM CT featuring four, live semifinal match-ups, along with a pair of consolation and two huge state championship title games on Saturday.  Plus – EVERY game will be telecast in a high-definition (HD) format.  The 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships will be produced by the IHSA & PlayOn! Sports.

In addition -- EVERY IHSA Girls Basketball State Championship telecast on NBC Sports Chicago, including surrounding pre/postgame coverage, will be streamed LIVE on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and will be made available via the NBC Sports app on tablets and smart phones.  Authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers can watch live IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships action from anywhere in the United States.  The live streaming service is currently available to customers of Comcast/Xfinity, DIRECTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, Mediacom, RCN, WOW!, Time Warner Cable and Charter among numerous other carriers.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago is also available on numerous digital streaming services including DIRECTV NOW, Hulu, fuboTV, Sling TV, CenturyLink Stream, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV.  For a full list of carriers and more information about NBC Sports Chicago’s live streaming service, viewers are urged to visit nbcsportschicago.com/live-faq.

IMPORTANT NOTES:

  • Several IHSA Girls Basketball State Championship telecasts will all air live on NBC Sports Chicago+…NBC Sports Chicago+ is located on Comcast/Xfinity ch. 201 in the Chicago area and in South Bend, IN, and on ch. 285 in Comcast/Xfinity’s Peoria, Springfield, Rockford and Champaign markets…viewers are urged to visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s special “Channel Finder” section (http://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/channel-finder ) or IHSA.org for complete channel location details for ALL games throughout the state. 
  • Fans are also strongly urged to interact via Twitter throughout the entire weekend by utilizing the hashtag #IHSA to share their comments and showcase their school spirit for their favorite teams. 

In addition, NBCSportsChicago.com’s IHSA Preps section (NBCSportsChicago.com/preps) will feature highlight packages from all games over the next two weekends, plus – NBC Sports Chicago viewers can look forward to a special championship editions of High School Lites on Friday, February 23 & Friday, March 2 (both nights live at 11:00 PM) for a complete rundown of every girls championship game, including expanded highlights and player/coaches interviews, along with the latest highlights and playoff scenarios for the upcoming IHSA Boys Basketball State Championships, which will take place the weekends of March 8-10 & March 17-18 at Carver Arena in Peoria, IL.  (NOTE: Full schedule details regarding NBC Sports Chicago’s live coverage of the 2017 Boys Basketball State Championships will be announced the week of March 5.)

The following schedule details NBC Sports Chicago’s coverage of the 2018 IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships over the next two weekends (all times Central Time) (play-by-play/color analyst/sideline reporting teams are in parentheses):

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 23

11:00 AM –      Class 1A Semifinal #1: Okaw Valley (Bethany) vs. Stockton (Lee Hall/Chloe Barnes/Elise Menaker)

12:45 PM –      Class 1A Semifinal #2: Lebanon vs. Schlarman (Danville) (Lee Hall/Chloe Barnes/Elise Menaker)

5:30 PM –        Class 2A Semifinal #1: Harlan (Chicago) vs. Eureka (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Elise Menaker)

7:15 PM –        Class 2A Semifinal #2: Marshall (Chicago) vs. Teutopolis (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Elise Menaker)

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24

11:00 AM –      Class 1A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Lee Hall/Chloe Barnes/Elise Menaker)

12:45 PM –      Class 1A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Lee Hall/Chloe Barnes/Elise Menaker)

5:30 PM –        Class 2A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Elise Menaker)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

7:15 PM –        Class 2A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Patricia Babcock-McGraw/Elise Menaker)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

FRIDAY, MARCH 2

11:00 AM –      Class 3A: Semifinal #1 (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Katy Winge/Camron Smith)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

12:45 PM –      Class 3A: Semifinal #2 (Teams TBD) (Dave Bernhard/Katy Winge/Camron Smith)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

5:30 PM –        Class 4A: Semifinal #1 (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/TBA/Katy Winge)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

7:15 PM –        Class 4A: Semifinal #2 (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/TBA/Katy Winge)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

SATURDAY, MARCH 3

11:00 AM –      Class 3A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Mike Bradd/Katy Winge/Camron Smith)

12:45 PM –      Class 3A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Mike Bradd/Katy Winge/Camron Smith)

(NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER   for the exact channel location in your area)

5:30 PM –        Class 4A: CONSOLATION GAME (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/TBA/Katy Winge)

(NOTE: This game will air in its entirety on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit NBCSportsChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER  for the exact channel location in your area)…ALSO, this game will be joined in progress on the main NBC Sports Chicago channel location immediately following “Blackhawks Postgame Live”

7:15 PM –        Class 4A: CHAMPIONSHIP GAME (Teams TBD) (Nate Baliva/TBA/Katy Winge)

2017 Bears position grades: Outside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Outside Linebacker

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

2017 grade: C-

Level of need: High

Decisions to be made on: Willie Young (contract), Pernell McPhee (contract), Sam Acho (free agent), Lamarr Houston (free agent)

Possible free agent targets: DeMarcus Lawrence, Ezekiel Ansah, Adrian Clayborn, Connor Barwin, Kony Ealy

 

Would you believe that no true outside linebacker in this year’s free agent class had more sacks than Lamarr Houston did last year? Houston and the Rams’ Connor Barwin each had five, underscoring how rare it is for an elite edge rusher to make it to free agency.

 

There are a few that, for now, are due to hit the open market. DeMarcus Lawrence racked up 14 ½ sacks with the Dallas Cowboys last year, but played as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. The same goes for the Detroit Lions’ Ezekiel Ansah, who had a dozen sacks in 2017. But if either reaches free agency, it’d be a surprise -- again, pass-rushers with that kind of production rarely escape the franchise tag.

 

If Lawrence or Ansah do become available, the Bears would likely be a part of the feeding frenzy to sign either player. Whether they could convince either player that 1) Chicago is a desirable destination and 2) that they’d be just as, if not more, productive in a 3-4 base instead of a 4-3 is a different question.

 

The same goes for Atlanta’s Adrian Clayborn, who had 9 ½ sacks last year (including a ridiculous six-sack game) but played in a 4-3 and may not be looking to leave Atlanta. The Falcons, though, could be in a tricky salary cap situation with defensive lineman Dontari Poe and longtime kicker Matt Bryant both due to hit free agency.

 

Fangio’s scheme is malleable, though, and any of these players would be a fit in it one way or another. Spotrac estimates Lawrence would command an average annual salary of $14 million per year, while Ansah would be slightly lower at $13.2 million. Either way, either of those guys could command the biggest contract Pace has given a defensive player (although the Bears were prepared to give cornerback A.J. Bouye more than the $13.5 million average annual salary that he’s receiving with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

Both Willie Young and Pernell McPhee could be released this off-season, too, to free up cap room. Cutting Young would net $4.5 million in cap savings, while a release of McPhee would free up a little over $7 million, according to Spotrac. Of the two, Young may be the more likely guy to stick around, despite coming off a season-ending triceps injury. While he’ll be 33 next September, Young has 9 ½ sacks in the last two year while McPhee has eight (while playing in more games than Young). This may not be an either-or situation, though -- the Bears could very well cut both.

 

Houston is an interesting option to retain after he racked up four sacks in five games after returning to the Bears last December. He’s struggled to stay healthy in his career, though, and the Bears probably wouldn’t re-sign him and count on the 30-year-old to be a starter in 2018, especially considering the uncertain recovery status of Leonard Floyd. Sam Acho could be brought back as a solid depth option, too.

 

The success of this unit, though, will hinge more on Floyd than whatever the Bears are able to do in free agency or the draft. The Bears need their 2016 first-round pick to A) stay healthy and B) improve as an edge rusher after injuries have limited him to 22 games and 11 ½ sacks in his first two seasons. If every team needs three reliable pass-rushers, the Bears will need to pencil in Floyd next to Akiem Hicks (who, for what it’s worth, is more of a run-stuffer, but did total 8 ½ sacks in 2017) and then either a free agent or a draft pick.

 

The most likely route to land that third pass rusher, though, is probably through the draft unless a top talent like Lawrence, Ansah or Clayborn hits free agency -- and then matches with the Bears.