National Signing Day is fast approaching. While diehard college football fans along with various media outlets will be following closely, one thing is for certain: This Signing Day has a much different feel compared to years past.
In case you didn't pay attention (and by the very limited national and regional media coverage and attention, you were not the only one) the Class of 2018 was the first class allowed to ink an early Letter of Intent from Dec. 20 to Dec. 22, well before the traditional first Wednesday in February.
The impact was evident locally as well as nationally. Out of the 250 players from across the country ranked in the Rivals 250, only 67 have yet to sign. In Illinois, 27 of the top 30 recruits and 60 of the top 70 recruits have already signed.
The number of Class of 2018 recruits who took advantage of the early signing period was surprisingly high, with roughly 75 percent of all Division I level recruits signing in December, according to Rivals.com Midwest recruiting expert Josh Helmholdt.
"My numbers show that 75 percent of all three-star ranked or higher names signed early in December," Helmholdt said. "We still have a good handful of high-profile names who will sign on Wednesday. Yet this signing day won't have nearly the same scale or scope of past signing days in February."
With a large majority of the Class of 2018 signed, the month of January has suddenly become one of the hottest recruiting periods for the underclassmen classes. Over the past few weeks we've seen a record number of early scholarships being offered weeks before even the Class of 2018 is officially signed.
"College coaches have more time now to focus on the next class," Helmholdt added. "Coaches are using this evaluation period to get ahead of the next class."
Chicago De La Salle senior linebacker Joe Bonds (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and soon-to-be NIU Huskie will have zero problems fitting into the "The Hard Way" mantra once he reports to DeKalb this summer.
I had a chance to catch up with Bonds and his teammates at the sixth annual Franklin Middle School Dodgeball Tournament in Wheaton. Proceeds from the event benefited the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Cammy Can, Jack’s Army and Franklin Middle School.
Bonds, a three-star inside linebacker is one of several Chicagoland headline names who comprised of a very strong NIU recruiting 2018 class.
Bonds, who signed with the Huskies over offers from multiple FBS level schools, looks ahead and discusses his soon to be transition from De La Salle to college football and more.
A state champion will be crowned Saturday at the United Center, when Loyola Academy Gold plays Stevenson for the Boys Red Division State Championship.
Here are some of the storylines we’re watching ahead of the game.
1. Coaching connection: These two coaches have known each other for more than 20 years. Loyola head coach D.J. LaVarre coached against Stevenson head coach Tom Wood when Wood played youth hockey. LaVarre also knows Tom’s dad, Jim, who is the former head coach at Stevenson. Currently the coach Stevenson’s JV 2 team, Jim won the AHAI high school coach of the year in 2007.
2. Fun rewards for players of the game: At Stevenson, the player of the game is awarded a hard hat. At Loyola, it’s a championship belt.
3. International influence: Stevenson’s goalie, Elias Sandholm, is a transfer student from Sweden and has the highest save percentage in school history, .951. He made the all-state team and the Chicago Showcase team.
4. Next man up: In net for Loyola will most likely be Hugh Brady, a senior who stepped up when Thomas Moran went down with a hip injury. Brady has played 47 games and has a .945 save percentage.
5. A drought will be snapped: Stevenson has never won a state championship. Loyola is looking for its first since 1996.
Puck drop is at 3 p.m., with the girls’ state championship game, Glenbrook vs. New Trier, starting at 11:30 a.m.
One more fun note: Team USA gold medalist and Palos Heights native Kendall Coyne will drop the ceremonial puck prior to both games.