Edgy Tim

Early signing period brings new drama/challenges


Early signing period brings new drama/challenges

Are you ready for Signing Day? Already?

Members of the Class of 2018 will have their first opportunity to early sign a National Letter of Intent from Dec. 20-22 as the NCAA has allowed a first-ever early signing period in football.

What can we expect in a few weeks for all D-1 level recruits, college teams and the recruiting merry go round?

1. Expect a lot of the top names in Illinois and the Midwest to sign on the first day. Illinois (and the upper-Midwest in general) has always been the land of the early verbal commitment. Now, those same early decision makers can end the recruiting process before the holiday season. When looking at the EDGYTIM.com Class of 2018 Top 70 preseason recruit rankings, I expect no more than a dozen of those names to go unsigned in that early LOI period. And out of those names, at least half will not sign because of academic issues.

2. The upper Midwest schools love this new early signing period—and expect them to be very active. Major college programs here in Illinois and also in the surrounding states will undoubtedly benefit the most by an early signing day. Why? Kids in these recruiting areas, unlike the south, have traditionally wrapped up recruiting well before the traditional National Letter of Intent Signing Day (held the first Wednesday every February). The sooner colleges can fill their recruiting class the sooner its recruits are effectively "off the market" by the binding LOI. Also, having potential signees make official visits to less tropical locales (think Champaign, Evanston and DeKalb) in mid-to-late January isn't exactly a recruiting advantage for Midwest-based colleges. 

3. Expect even more drama starting on Dec. 23. Once the smoke clears from the early signing period, the athletes who have not yet signed will start an even-more serious round of heavy recruiting in January. The dash to the next signing day period (Feb. 7) has the potential top be even more drama-filled for many of the top names than in years past. The state's top-ranked recruit in the Class of 2018 is Carterville four star-ranked tight end Luke Ford (6-foot-7, 250 pounds), who is also the top-ranked tight end in the nation according to Rivals.com. Ford, whose top three schools include Alabama, Auburn and Georgia, is planning to announce his college decision on Jan. 6 at the US Army All American Bowl game. Once the early signing period is completed — and if any other college doesn't sign a tight end or two as they expected — I fully expect even more schools to make a harder push to land Ford.

4. Recruits need to sign at their own risk. The bottom line is once a recruit signs the National Letter of Intent, regardless of any potential future coaching changes, once you are signed — you are signed. The biggest complaint about the early signing period is that once the NLOI is signed, it's a done deal regardless of any potential staff shakeups. I fully expect kids to sign to a school that will have a coaching change in some capacity. And I also fully expect to hear even more outcry from parents, recruits and high school coaches.

Which Chicagoland HS football teams are the ones to watch in 2018?

Which Chicagoland HS football teams are the ones to watch in 2018?

There are a mere 269 days left until IHSA Football Kickoff 2018. Why not look ahead to August? Here are some teams to watch as preseason favorites next season.

Loyola Academy: The Ramblers always seem to find a way to reload. They have advanced to the Class 8A state title game in five of the past seven seasons. Loyola brings back seven underclassmen starters from the 2017 state runner-up team including junior WR Noah Jones and junior OLB Armoni Dixon. Both Jones and Dixon are already drawing early scholarship offers and recruiting interest.

Lincoln-Way East: This year's Class 8A state champions will return just five starters going into next season; that said, very few schools can claim to have as deep of a roster than the Griffins. Sophomore WR AJ Henning already has offers from Illinois, Minnesota and Northwestern and is back along with three starting offensive linemen.

Nazareth Academy: The Roadrunners will bring back 12 starters (six offense, six defense). Those numbers include several top-level 2019 recruits including RB/DB Devin Blakely, WR/DB Michael Love, WR/S Diamond Evans, DB Jermaine Baker and DE/LB Cameron Leach. And the cupboard is more than stocked for just this year. The 2020 Roadrunner class looks to be quite promising. 

Phillips: The Wildcats have a terrific chance at making another deep run in 2018. Phillips features several key juniors including TE Jahleel Billingsley, WR/DB Fabian McCray and WR/DB Joseph Thompson. The sophomore class is equally loaded. It is headlined by DB Ronald Pledger, who already has an early offer from Illinois. 

Other notables: Homewood-Flossmoor, Maine South, Glenbard West, Bolingbrook. Richards, Batavia and Naperville Central.

Thoughts from the IHSA State Football Finals


Thoughts from the IHSA State Football Finals

6.5 ain't bad

The 2017 IHSA Football State championships overall were the best group of games since the start of the 8-class system in 2001. With the exception of the Class 5A Phillips 33-7 win over Dunlap and the second half of the Class 3A Immaculate Conception 35-0 win over Pleasant Plains, you'd be hard pressed to find a better group of evenly-matched games since we started the 8-class system.

NIU just works

NIU hosted the 2017 IHSA Football State finals this past weekend at Huskie Stadium for the second time over the past three years. Should NIU be the consistent host? 

It just works.

While Huskie Stadium may lack some of the more recently upgraded modern conveniences of say Memorial Stadium in Champaign, it's hard to argue that the games at NIU don't have a better overall look, sound and feel in the smaller Huskie Stadium. The overall location also seems to be helping attracting more fans in attendance overall.

Biggest fan draw this past weekend? The Class 7A game seemed like the biggest overall attendance and Batavia by far had the biggest overall fan support.

Issues? Some fans complained about a lack of open concession stands (especially on Friday) yet overall, most fans I spoke with really enjoyed NIU.

Coolest move this past weekend? Kudos to Immaculate Conception, head coach Bill Krefft and staff for making sure that injured starting quarterback Luke Ricobene was able to take one more snap in the Knights 33-7 win over Pleasant Plains. Ricobene, who was a huge key in leading the Knights 2016 3A state title team was lost to a season-ending injury early in the regular season and took a knee in the Knights last offensive possession of the 2017 season. 

Underclassmen talent on display

The IHSA State Football Finals was a terrific stage for several players to be seen. Here are just a handful of underclassmen names who impressed this past weekend.

Lena Winslow sophomore TE/DE Isaac Bruce (6-foot-3, 240 pounds) - Bruce was simply an impact player on both sides of the football in Lena's for the Panthers and has been that way for the entire 2017 season. Bruce has good size, runs very well and has still room to grow and develop.

Dunlap junior WR/DE Josiah Miamen (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) - Miamen is a big, strong and physical two way player who has the overall size/frame and tools to play at the high college level.

Phillips junior TE Jahleel Billingsley (6-foot-5, 227 pounds) - Billingsley, who is already touting multiple BCS level offers is just a very high level athlete and player who presents a nightmare for any and all defensive backs at the high school level. Billingsley has great size. length and reach and also possesses very good speed. Billingsley is just one of multiple underclassmen Wildcats who stood out in the Wildcats win over Dunlap. 

Nazareth Academy junior WR/DB Michael Love (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) - Love is simply a play maker who can and will play multiple positions including receiver, running back, defensive back along with returning kicks and punts. 

Loyola Academy junior linebacker Armoni Dixon (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) - Dixon already has an early offer from Western Michigan and it won't be long before he's holding multiple BCS level offers. Dixon made huge strides in his game this fall and was a force in the Ramblers defense against Lincoln-Way East.

Lincoln-Way East sophomore WR/RB AJ Herring - Henning, who is also a standout sprinter for the Griffins track team already has scholarship offers from Illinois, Northwestern and Minnesota showed his exceptional speed and big play potential in the Griffins 23-14 win over Loyola in Class 8A.