Preps Talk

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 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 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.

Recruiting news and notes: Nazareth Academy's Devin Blakley verbally commits to Miami of Ohio


Recruiting news and notes: Nazareth Academy's Devin Blakley verbally commits to Miami of Ohio

Nazareth Academy junior three star ranked defensive back Devin Blakley (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) decided to give Miami of Ohio his verbal commitment earlier this week.

"Miami of Ohio is just a great fit for me so I decided to commit," Blakley said. "I've known for a while now that Miami was the place for me. I just didn't see any reason to keep waiting so I called up the coaches and committed."

Blakley, who had offers from the likes of Iowa State and Air Force long with multiple Mid American Conference schools is the second State of Illinois pledge for the Redhawks Class of 2019. Blakley joins Simeon QB Alante Brown who earlier this month gave Miami of Ohio his verbal commitment. 

New Trier junior three star ranked athlete recruit Duke Olges (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) has been looking harder at his multiple college offers and options. Olges, who has been playing baseball for the Trevians this spring will make two unofficial visits this weekend then will begin to narrow down his favorite schools.

"My plan is to go see Duke and Virginia this weekend and see how everything goes with those visits," according to Olges. "After that I'm either going to narrow things down to a top schools list or I might even make a decision. I just feel that I have some great offers right now and don't want to wait too long in making a decision. Playing the waiting game is a risk because kids are already starting to make decisions. I don't want to miss out and lose some great offers."

Stevenson junior inside linebacker recruit Maema Njongmeta (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) has continued to add scholarship offers this spring including recent offers from both NIU and Toledo. Njongmeta was also able to head out east over his recent spring break and made a handful of college visits.

"I was able to go out to visit Princeton, Army and Penn over my spring break then we headed up to Canada to visit with some family," Njongmeta said. "All three visits I felt went very well and overall it was a fun trip. I thought it was very beneficial to see all three schools in person. Army has the whole military stigma but it was good to see the academy in person. It was great to see what West Point and academy life is all about in person and it was super cool. Every school brings something different to the table. I was able to definitely get a better feel for each school I visited."

Njongmeta has reached also out to someone very familiar with the recruiting process in former Stevenson and current Northwestern super back Cameron Green.

"We have a wonderful lady who works at our school who was able to get me in touch with Cameron Green. I knew of Cameron since I was in eight grade but didn't know him at all. He's a great guy and has been a big help for me. He's given me some good advice and is someone who's been through the process and knows what I'm going through with the recruiting process."

Urban Prep Bronzeville junior defensive back Jeremiah Webb (6-foot-1, 187 pounds) was able to add his first scholarship offer earlier this week from Northern Illinois University. 

"I'm still really excited (about adding his first offer from NIU) and my phone has been blowing up," Webb said. "I've been working hard for a long time now and it just feels good to add my first offer from NIU."

Webb has been eyeing the NIU Huskies program for some time now.

"I've been looking into NIU for a long time. They have a great, winning program and have been to multiple bowl games over the years. NIU is also close to home and I've been to NIU for a camp last summer and I also went to the NIU spring game. It's great to get my first offer from such a good program like NIU."

Webb has also drawn recruiting attention from Northern Iowa, Iowa State, Cornell and Holy Cross so far this spring. 

Recruiting news and notes: Simeon's Alante Brown verbally commits to Miami of Ohio


Recruiting news and notes: Simeon's Alante Brown verbally commits to Miami of Ohio

Simeon junior quarterback Alante Brown (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) earlier this week decided to give Miami of Ohio his verbal commitment. Brown, who narrowed down his Top 4 schools to the Redhawks along with NIU, Western Michigan and Toledo pointed towards a few key reasons he gave Miami of Ohio his commitment.

"I was able to see everything that Miami has to offer," Brown said. "They offer a great education and very strong overall academics. The football program is heading in the right direction plus they already have a younger team. I'm hoping to help bring in even more kids in my class and I've already started to work on a few guys from here about Miami."

West Aurora sophomore defensive tackle Denver Warren (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) has been one of the top recruit names to watch in the Class of 202 in Illinois. Warren, who has scholarship offers from the likes of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State and Iowa State made a recent visit to Illinois.

"I had a good visit to Illinois," according to Warren. "They have a great overall energy and I just liked it. Illinois also has a strong brotherhood between the players and the coaches. The coaching staff at Illinois is pretty amazing. It was my first time ever at Illinois and I liked the facilities and the stadium. Illinois is also pretty close to home. I just came away impressed with the bond between the players and the coaches at Illinois."

Warren is also planning to transfer at the end of the spring semester to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. 

"It's a great opportunity and I want to go and get better and take my game to the highest level. My Mom and I have looked really hard at everything and I made my final decision and talked to my coaches about it. I'm going to visit IMG Academy on May 10th and 11th and I'll go back to register for school on July 14th."

St. Charles North junior three-star ranked defensive back Tyler Nubin (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) made a verbal commitment to Minnesota Thursday morning.

"I had a really good visit to Minnesota," Nubin said. "I spent the day with Coach (PJ) Fleck and the defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae. Their coaching staff is just unbelievable and the facilities are top notch."

Nubin held 16 scholarship offers this spring, including six offers from the Big Ten conference.  

Momence junior three-star ranked athlete Jason Bargy (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) has drawn nine Power 5 scholarship offers so far this spring and made a recent visit to Illinois.

"I wanted to see the tempo and how the coaches get after the players," Bargy told Orange and's Doug Buschon. "How the guys interact with each other. "

Bargy, who doesn't plan to announce any Top schools list is planning to make a college decision "over the next few months."