Preps Talk

Illini coaches have met with Penn State players

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Illini coaches have met with Penn State players

Illinois coach Tim Beckman emphasized his eight assistant coaches did not make "a sneak attack" when they visited Penn State players who are interested in transferring from the school. Abiding by NCAA rules, Beckman said his coaches met with players who contacted the Illinois staff. The meetings took place this week at a Starbucks and another restaurant beyond the Penn State campus.
Beckman did not reveal how many players met with his staff. Penn State players will be able to transfer to other schools and retrain their eligibility after the NCAA handed down sanctions amid the schools child sex abuse scandal.
"We did not go onto their campus," Beckman said Thursday at Big Ten Football Media Day at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago. "We only talked to individuals that would be willing to meet with us. We did not go after them. They had the opportunity to come to us if they would like to come to us and speak to us."
Beckman said Penn State was aware which players Illinois would talk to, as Illini staff provided the Nittany Lions with a list of names before the visit. Illinois coaches were seen in State College, Pa., carrying bags with team logos, according to reports. Beckman said he did not make the trip. His coaches talked to players they had previous connections with through recruiting, Beckman said.
"We went there to reach out to the guys that were contacting us previously that we talked to before we went there and then gave them an opportunity to come to us," said Beckman, who replaced the fired Ron Zook, who was 34-51 in seven seasons at Illinois. "We did not go after them. We told them where we were at, and if they would like to come and talk to our coaching staff, we would be willing to speak with them off campus."
While other Big Ten coaches said Thursday they would refrain from recruiting Penn State players out of respect, Beckman said he wants to give players the opportunity if they want to transfer to Illinois.
"I didn't want it to be a big scene or anything like that, and it ended up being more of a scene than it was," Beckman said. "But everything we've done has been NCAA compliant. Penn State knew.
Penn State coach Bill OBrien said Thursday he had yet to speak with Beckman about the situation. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany sounded less than enthused about conference schools recruiting Penn State players, but he conferred with the school presidents.

"My advice to them was this is not a healthy place for us to be." Delany said. "Their response was unanimous. And that was this is not about competition between and among schools. It's about the student-athlete having a full spectrum of opportunities."

During his sessions with the media, Beckman also addressed his transition from Toledo and the Mid-American Conference, his offense and the issue of two ineligible teams (Ohio State and Penn State) in the Leaders Division.
Although Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible for the postseason, leaving Wisconsin, Purdue, Illinois and Indiana as the eligible teams among the Leaders, Beckman said his team still has to win games.
As for his quarterbacks, Beckman said hell put his best players on the field. He used two quarterbacks at Toledo, and he suggested the possibility of doing the same at times in the spread offense at Illinois.
Both of them are great leaders, Beckman said. Nathan Scheelhaase runs the football, and Reilly OToole is a little bit more of a thrower. But its still about the success of the team and the success of the offense, so were going to be able to play whichever one is most consistent and can move our offense down the field.
Last season, Toledo averaged 42.2 points per game under Beckman, who went 21-16 in three seasons at the MAC school. Illinois is coming off a 7-6 season. The Illini began 6-0 but lost six in a row before beating UCLA in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
"With the offense that we're installing in Champaign, it will be a dual-threat offense," Beckman said. "You'll see two running backs in the football game at times. You'll even at times see two quarterbacks in the football game with quarterback Miles Osei lining up at running back also. So, it's a commitment that our offensive staff has made to running the football, and we've got to establish the run first for us to be successful."

High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

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High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups. Some playoff dreams came to fruition while others crashed and burned. 

Watch tomorrow as the IHSA playoff brackets are revealed tomorrow on NBC Sports Chicago+ at 8 p.m. Be sure to also follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights. 

DRIVE: Prairie Ridge: Episode 10

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Back of the Yards QB Jeremiah Harris

St. Xavier Team of the Week: De La Salle Meteors

Friday's Top 25 Games

No. 1 Lincoln-Way East 18, No. 19 Bolingbrook 14 

No. 2 Prairie Ridge 55, Dundee-Crown 14

No. 3 Maine South 56, Niles West 9

No. 4 Marist 42, Joliet Catholic 14

No. 5 Lake Zurich , Mundelein

No. 6 Phillips 53, Clark 0

No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 50, Sandburg 14

No. 10 Barrington 40, Conant 19

No. 11 Huntley 45, McHenry 7

No. 12 Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21

No. 13 Hinsdale Central 42, Hinsdale South 14

No. 24 St. Charles North 35, No. 14 Batavia 28

No. 16 Wheaton North 20, Waubonsie Valley 10

No. 17 Crete-Monee 52, Cahokia 8

No. 18 St. Rita 47, Marmion 14

No. 20 Lyons 31, Oak Park-River Forest 14

No. 21 Nazareth 48, Marian Catholic 7

No. 22 Oswego 30, Plainfield Central 0

Mount Carmel 35, No. 23 Providence 34

Other Highlights

Tinley Park 29, Evergreen Park 0

T.F. South 21, Oak Forest 14

Glenbard North 24, Neuqua Valley 14

St. Edward 29, Wheaton Academy 28

Marian Central Catholic 44, St. Patrick 21

Saturday's Top 25 Games

No. 7 Loyola vs. Brother Rice

No. 8 Glenbard West vs. Proviso West

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.