Eastern Illinois in-state recruiting class recap


Eastern Illinois in-state recruiting class recap

EDGY's Eastern Illinois Panthers Grade: C

Eastern Illinois and head coach Kim Dameron were able to sign 20 names in the Panthers' 2017 class, including five Illinois high school players. Eastern Illinois was able to fill in some depth at multiple positions with offensive line being a slight focus. The Panthers have been hovering slightly about the overall winning mark for the past few seasons. Hopefully this class, along with a veteran roster back in 2017, will help EIU get toward the top of the Ohio Valley and back into the FCS playoffs.

Headliner Of The In-State Class?

Eastern Illinois was able to bring in some solid names here, but from an upside/down-the-line-potential I'm a big fan of Phillips offensive linemen Johari Branch (6-foot-3, 295 pounds). Branch has terrific size, quickness and length and was impressive at various one-day camps this past summer. Belleville Althoff wide receiver/defensive back Edwyn Brown (6-foot-5, 180 pounds) might be one of the more intriguing names in this class. Brown has great size and length and could develop down the line and into a potential steal.

The One Who Got Away?

Eastern Illinois offered two terrific in-state recruits in Rochester wide receiver Avante Cox along with Belleville Althoff wide receiver C.J. Coldon. Both Cox and Coldon wound up signing with Wyoming.

Final Thoughts on the Eastern Illinois Panthers Recruiting Class:

Eastern Illinois was able to go out and bring in some in-state names to its 2017 class who have a chance down the road to become contributors. I would love to see EIU hit the high school/in-state numbers a bit harder, including seeing a better overall percentage of in-state signings. Yet the Panthers have been winning games and use their out-of-state recruiting connections, FBS and FCS transfers and incoming freshman names well so far under Dameron.

Despite the various issues, the Panthers have been competitive and playing winning football. EIU was actually off to a strong start in 2016, going 5-2 with wins over Miami of Ohio and Illinois State. EIU lost three of its last four games to end the year 6-5. With a deep and veteran roster returning in 2017, plus a solid 2017 class just signed, look for EIU to again challenge for an FCS playoff spot in 2017.

Say it ain't so: DePaul commit Tyger Campbell reopens recruitment


Say it ain't so: DePaul commit Tyger Campbell reopens recruitment

It looks like it was too good to be true.

Tyger Campbell shocked the recruiting world when he committed to DePaul on May 8.

Less than four months later, Campbell has reopened his recruitment.

The four-star point guard out of La Lumiere High School in Indiana, who is the No. 66 prospect in the 2018 Class, took to Twitter Friday night to explain his decision.

One of Campbell's original draws to the Blue Demons was DePaul hiring Shane Heirman as an assistant coach. Heirman coached Campbell for two seasons at La Lumiere.

"I like DePaul and honestly my coach (Shane Heirman) just went there and we have a great connection and he's always had my back," Campbell told when he committed to the Blue Demons. "I like [DePaul] coach Dave Leitao, too. I like his program and he's an intelligent guy."

Campbell currently has offers from a handful of D1 schools, including Illinois, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Purdue, SMU, Memphis and Tennessee.

Upset alert? Why a confident UIC is challenging juggernaut Kentucky


Upset alert? Why a confident UIC is challenging juggernaut Kentucky

On the heels of a 12-win improvement, UIC basketball is riding confidently into the new season. 

And why shouldn't they be? Head coach Steve McClain returns a young, talented nucleus that's expected to challenge for a Horizon League championship and NCAA Tournament berth. 

In fact, the program is in such good shape that they thought: Let's play Kentucky. 

Yup, that's right. The UIC Flames will match up with the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena on Nov. 26, a necessary stage in development, according to McClain. 

“Every year you build your program, there’s steps you have to take," McClain said. "When we got the opportunity to go to Kentucky, I think that’s the next level of exposure for our program.

"When you're chasing trying to be great, you gotta show your kids and show people what greatness looks like. I don't think anyone can argue what Kentucky has done, so I want to put our kids in that environment so they see what it is." 

The contrast between programs is severe. UIC hasn't made an NCAA Tournament since 2004. The Wildcats have made 11 since then. UIC has never advanced out of the first round at the Big Dance. Kentucky has eight National Championships. 

Even this upcoming season, as the Flames boast one of their most skilled teams in school history, none of them were ever touted like Kentucky's freshman class, which ranks No. 2 in the nation per ESPN. 

But the disparities in past successes don't seem to bother UIC. Instead, players, who were likely snubbed by bigger schools in recruitment, are excited about the opportunity to compete on a national stage that the Flames rarely see. 

“First I was like, ‘It’s about time we got someone like (Kentucky) on our schedule,’" said center Tai Odiase, one of the few seniors on the roster. "We’ve been trying to play bigger teams to showcase what we’re made of."

“I don’t see why you go into a place like that without a chip on your shoulder. You don’t go in there just to play basketball, we’re trying to win."

UIC will be heavy, heavy underdogs. There's no way around that. But there are certain spots where they may not be at such a disadvantage. 

On the defensive end, Odiase continued to terrorize guards and big men alike, finishing fifth in the NCAA with 2.9 blocks per game. The dynamic guard duo from "The Six," Godwin Boahen and Marcus Ottey, are quick enough to hang and both took a huge step down the stretch last season. Then there's the return of 2015-2016 Horizon League Newcomer of the Year Dikembe Dixson, who is recovering from a torn ACL.

"The doctors at times thought he was a freak of nature because he was back as quick as he was," McClain said.  

Still, it's a tune-up game for Kentucky, who also scheduled Kansas, UCLA and Louisville on their non-conference slate. But one team's expected walk through is another team's vital experience. 

"Our guys can walk in and see that on a given night, you can compete with anyone," McClain said. 

Given new athletic director Garrett Klassy's comments at his introductory press conference, it doesn't seem as if games like this are a one-hit wonder for UIC. 

“I am an aggressive scheduler," Klassy said. "I helped with the scheduling at George Washington. We’ll play anyone, anytime, anywhere.

"You want to measure yourself against the best. We have a lot of returning starters. It’ll be nice to go on the road, play a tough game and maybe sneak out an upset."