Preps Talk

EDGY: Start the NCAA football recruiting clock

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USA TODAY

EDGY: Start the NCAA football recruiting clock

Moving the clock an hour ahead is an annual right of passage in the Central time zone every spring. Similarly, moving the clock ahead seems to also include the NCAA football recruiting clock.
 
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Northwestern already has six Class of 2018 verbal commitments, launching the Wildcats to one of their best early in-state recruiting efforts in recent memory. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald has locked in a verbal from one of the top defensive ends in the Midwest: Rivals.com's four star-ranked Devin O'Rourke (6-foot-6, 240 pounds) from Lincoln-Way East. He also has commitments from three in-state names in Libertyville offensive linemen Charlie Schmidt, New Trier's three star-ranked tight end Brian Kaiser (6-foot-7, 220 pounds) and Dunlap's three star-ranked tight end Charlie Mangieri (6-foot-4, 230 pounds). 

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The Wildcats are not the only in-state school making early progress on the recruiting front. Northern Illinois and head coach Rod Carey's staff has made a major philosophy change in recruiting approach. No longer are the Huskies playing the wait-and-see game when it comes to extending early scholarship offers. Northern Illinois already has three in-state verbal commitments so far: Danville offensive linemen Julian Pearl (6-foot-7, 245 pounds), Andrew defensive end Mike DeHaan (6-foot-6, 230 pounds) and Plainfield East defensive tackle Jack Sullivan (6-foot-5, 245 pounds). The Huskies have also have extended more in-state scholarship offers for 2018 than any others in recent memory.
 
While several of the in-state FCS schools have yet to lock up any known verbal commitments, the recruiting calendar has indeed moved up for the likes of Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Western Illinois. Both Illinois State and Southern Illinois have already hosted several in-state recruits this winter for various Junior Day events and have extended early offers to a few athletes. And on Monday, Western Illinois extended several early in-state offers as well.
 
So why offer a scholarship this early in the process? The reasons vary. Colleges want to be the first school to offer prospects after making earlier college visits and camps. Also, with the NCAA expected to add at least one additional early football signing period starting with the Class of 2019, I fully expect more and more early offers and verbal commitments to follow from here on out.

Preps Basketball Power Rankings: No. 3 Simeon

Preps Basketball Power Rankings: No. 3 Simeon

School: Simeon

2016-17 record: 30-4, 8-2 Public League Red-South

Postseason results: Lost to Whitney Young in Class 4A Title Game

Players to watch: Senior Talen Horton-Tucker (Iowa State) is one of the area's premier two-way players. Senior forward Messiah Jones (Drake) is an elite leaper and rebounder. Talented junior guard KeJuan Clements is also back. The Wolverines also added some intriguing transfers in Xavier Pinson (St. Pat's) and Northwest Indiana native Zion Young. Both Pinson and Young have Division I interest and add even more perimeter firepower. 

Why they're in the power rankings: On paper, you could argue that Simeon is the most talented team in the state this season. The Wolverines have proven veterans who have won city titles and Division I transfers at multiple positions. But how will all of the pieces fit together? This is a fascinating group with a high ceiling.

Did you know? Making it back to Peoria last season, Simeon has now made 13 state finals appearances.

Preps Basketball Power Rankings: No. 4 Orr

Preps Basketball Power Rankings: No. 4 Orr

2016-17 record: 23-5, 8-2 Public League Red-West

Postseason results: Won Class 2A State Championship.

Players to watch: Seniors Dannie Smith and Raekwon Drake are both major All-Area threats after strong junior seasons. Another senior, Ty Mosley, might actually be the best long-term college prospect of the group as he's pledged to Milwaukee for next season. Sharpshooter Brian Hernandez is another seasoned veteran who has a knack for making big plays.

Why they're in the power rankings: The Spartans return most of last season's Class 2A title team and they also added some key transfers in former Marian Catholic point guard Chase Adams and former Clark wing Demarius Splunge. While the Spartans should be the heavy favorites to repeat in Class 2A, they haven't made as much noise in the Public League Playoffs, which is why they're still behind some of the other schools in the preseason Power Rankings.

Did you know? Orr was absolutely dominant during its Class 2A title run last March as the Spartans won by an average of 21 points. Only one team, Uplift, even played Orr to within single digits and that was still a nine-point margin of victory.