Justin Hall

Edgy Tim: Who are the leading candidates for Offensive Player of the Year?

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Edgy Tim: Who are the leading candidates for Offensive Player of the Year?

With four weeks of IHSA football in the books, let's take a look at some of my early candidates for Offensive Player of the Year honors in the Chicagoland area (in no particular order):

Homewood-Flossmoor RB Justin Hall (Sr.): The NIU verbal commit was able to showcase his ability last Friday to a live TV audience in the Vikings' 48-20 win over Bolingbrook (3-1). Hall, who is averaging 9.5 yards per carry so far for the 4-0 Vikings, is able to break tackles, has exceptional speed and remains one of the most versatile (RB/WR/DB/KR/PR) athletes in the state. 

Prairie Ridge QB Samson Evans (Sr.): Evans, who is verbally committed to Iowa, runs the option offense for the 4-0 Wolves. He remains the focal point of every opposing defense this season. Evans is averaging nearly nine yards per carry, an almost unheard-of number for an option-running quarterback. 

Lake Zurich RB/LB Joey Stutzman (Sr.): Stutzman (5-foot-7, 170 pounds) is, pound for pound, one of the toughest players you'll find in Chicagoland this season. Stutzman gives the Bears' offense a big play threat on every carry. He is also a key cog on a nasty defensive unit that has allowed just 16 points in four games.

Loyola Academy QB Quinn Boyle (Sr.): Boyle has quickly developed into the Ramblers' main weapon so far this season and has been very strong leading Loyola's shotgun read-option offense. Boyle's running ability along with his accurate arm has allowed a banged-up Ramblers running attack time to heal up early this season. 

[MORE: Week Five Power Rankings]

Maine South RB Fotis Kokosioulis (Sr.): Kokosioulis has been one of the most productive players in Illinois over the past two-plus seasons for the defending 8A state champion Hawks. Lincoln-Way East head coach Rob Zvonar, whose team was able to limit Kokosioulis' yards in the Griffins' 28-26 win in Week 2 admitted, "We definitely had to find a way of slowing down number 41 (Kokosioulis) because he's a tremendous high school player."

Lincoln-Way East QB Brendan Morrissey (Sr.): The Griffins are undoubtedly one of Chicagoland's deepest teams. A number of players from their roster could be considered for Player of the Year. But Morrissey, a concerted running back from a season ago, has run the LW-East offense with a mix of poise, confidence and accuracy in the play-action passing game. 

Crete-Monee QB Isaiah Rucker (Sr.): Rucker is the old, savvy veteran of the Warriors offense this season. He's a rare four-year varsity contributor and three-year starter. Rucker has thrown for nearly 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns with a 64 percent completion percentage so far in 2017. He remains Crete's unquestioned leader.

Naperville North QB Drake Davis (Sr.): Davis, who transferred in last spring from 1A Bureau Valley, has been electric since midway through the Huskies' stunning come from behind opening week 53-49 win over Edwardsville. Davis has thrown for 1,212 yards and 14 touchdowns so far this season.

Naperville Central QB Payton Thorne (Jr.): Thorne, who transferred into Naperville Central from Metea Valley this summer, has added a big boost to an already strong Redhawks team. Thorne, who is the son of North Central College head coach Jeff Thorne, has a combined 1,061 yards of total offense and 15 touchdowns through four games.

Phillips RB/LB Craig Elmore (Sr.): The Wildcats' defensive unit has been just as solid as their offensive counterparts so far this fall. Elmore, who plays both running back and linebacker, has played huge roles in big games on both sides of the football. He is gaining the tough yards as well as breaking big runs when needed. 

CSN Preps Preseason Power Rankings: No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor

CSN Preps Preseason Power Rankings: No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O'Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we'll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: Homewood-Flossmoor

Head coach: Craig Buzea

How they fared in 2016: 10-1 (7-0 Southwest Suburban Conference), made the Class 8A state playoff field, defeated Evanston then lost to Glenbard West in second-round action.

[MORE: CSN Preps Preseason Power Rankings - No. 10 Palatine]

2017 regular season schedule:

Aug. 25 vs. Michigan City, Indiana

Sept. 1 @ South Durham, North Carolina

Sept. 8 @ Stagg

Sept. 15 vs. Bolingbrook

Sept. 22 @ Lincoln-Way West

Sept. 28 vs. Lincoln-Way East

Oct. 6 vs. Bradley

Oct. 13 @ Andrew

Oct. 20 @ Sandburg

Biggest storyline: Can the Vikings get deep into the Class 8A state playoffs in 2017?

Names to watch this season: senior RB/DB Justin Hall (NIU), senior DL Jeff Griffin (NIU), senior LB Mario Wright II (Western Kentucky)

Biggest holes to fill: The Vikings will need to fill some important spots including the quarterback position this fall.

EDGY's early take: If any program can reload each year it's the Vikings under Buzea. The Vikings will look towards Hall, who can see action at any number of positions including returner. Griffin moved over from the offensive line, while Wright II is another name to watch along with junior defensive back Wynston Russell, a top Class of 2019 player who transferred in from De La Salle. Homewood-Flossmoor has the overall numbers, talent and depth to once again be a real threat in Class 8A this season.

Recruiting News and Notes: Justin Hall commits to NIU

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Recruiting News and Notes: Justin Hall commits to NIU

Justin Hall (ATH), Homewood-Flossmoor

Northern Illinois University landed its ninth in-state verbal commitment when Homewood-Flossmoor senior athlete Justin Hall (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) decided to stay closer to home and commit to the Huskies.

"I just really interacted well with the coaches as well as the players at NIU," Hall said. "It's really a family feeling in the football program at NIU and I just always have felt comfortable there. I was looking to also stay closer to home and it all just came together for me at NIU. I can stay closer to home and play for a team that has had a lot of success. NIU also offers a good education and it just feels like the best fit for me so I committed."

Hall, who was recruited by NIU head coach Rod Carey as a defensive back, can also return kicks and punts and plans to contribute to the Huskies return teams. Hall joins his Homewood-Flossmoor teammate in defensive linemen Jeff Griffin, Andrew defensive end Mike DeHaan, Decatur MacArthur wide receiver Amir Brummett, Phillips defensive tackle Queneil Morrison, Palatine outside linebacker Cortez Hogans, Simeon wide receiver Leon Payne, Rich Central athlete Jyran Mitchell and Maine South running back Fotis Kokosioulis in the NIU in-state Class of 2018. 

Brett Groves (OT), Cary-Grove

Cary-Grove senior offensive tackle Brett Groves (6-foot-5, 305 pounds) decided last week to end his recruiting process and give Southern Illinois head coach Nick Hill his verbal commitment.

"It was ready to make my decision so I called up coach Hill and gave SIU my verbal commitment," Groves aid. "I never had any set date to make my decision but with the start of practices I wanted to make my decision so I can focus on my team and my season."

Groves, who also was drawing recruiting looks from FBS schools such as Iowa State and NIU, decided he didn't want to pass up his opportunity at Southern Illinois.

"SIU just has a lot to offer. I really get a long great with the coach. Both coach Hill and coach (Trevor) Olson are good people and also very good coaches. I like the direction that the football program is headed. SIU also has a great looking campus and I just really like the surrounding area. SIU is a bit of a smaller school but still has that bigger school feel. I was also impressed with the facilities at SIU along with the academic support for athletes. I know that I'll get a good education at SIU. It's just the best for me."

Josh Shodipo (DB), Oswego

Oswego senior defensive back Josh Shodipo (5-foot-11, 165 pounds) also decided to make his college decision before the opening of team practice and give Western Illinois University his verbal commitment.

"My recent visit was a big reason why I decided to commit to WIU," Shodipo said. "WIU is a good school and I already know some people going to school there. I really like the coaches at WIU along with the players. I'm also a good fit into the WIU defense. They recruited me as a corner back but the coaches also feel I could also play some safety for them. The visit to WIU just made me feel really comfortable with the school along with the coaches and the team. WIU feels like home to me."

Jayleen Fitzpatrick (LB), Glenbard North

No one was as happy to see the official start of IHSA football practices last Monday than Glenbard North senior linebacker Jayleen Fitzpatrick (6-foot-0, 205 pounds). Fitzpatrick, who suffered an 2016 early season-ending injury, is back and 100 percent ready to go.

"I am so ready to go," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm like overly excited for the season. It's been a lot of work and rehab to get back but now I'm back."

Fitzpatrick, who will be one of the leaders for the Panthers defense this fall, will draw several college coaches attention and serious looks at his early senior year game video.

"This month I've been in touch with a lot of different schools and they all want to know when I was cleared and back with the team. I've been talking to some DII schools like Grand Valley State and the University of Indianapolis, plus some smaller schools like UW Whitewater. They all want to see some of my senior tape."