Big Ten

Dantonio highlights in-state recruiting struggle for Illini, Cats


Dantonio highlights in-state recruiting struggle for Illini, Cats

Mark Dantonio continues to dominate the state of Illinois.

Just one thing, he coaches in Michigan.

The Michigan State head coach made his latest big recruiting splash Friday, picking up a commitment from the Land of Lincoln's highest-rated player in the Class of 2016, Hinsdale South defensive end Josh King.

This after the Spartans coaxed the No. 2 ranked prospect in the Class of 2015 to head to East Lansing. That was another defensive end, DePaul College Prep's Raequan Williams.

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It's terrific work by Michigan State, but if you're a fan of Illinois or Northwestern, you're not very happy at all.

In-state kids aren't sticking around to play for the Illini or the Wildcats, at least not on a consistent basis. Yes, Northwestern had a great Class of 2014 that featured Glenbard North running back Justin Jackson, Bolingbrook defensive back Parrker Westphal and Wheaton North quarterback Clayton Thorson. Illinois had a strong Class of 2015 when it came to in-state recruiting, bringing in Jacksonville offensive lineman Gabe Megginson, DeKalb running back Dre Brown and Hales Franciscan defensive back Patrick Nelson. among others.

But those years have been anomalies when it comes to keeping Illinois kids in state.

Since 2010, Illinois and Northwestern have recruited the most top-20 recruits out of the state of Illinois, at 16 and 14, respectively. But that's to be expected. What the scary part is for those two programs is that their combined hauls made up just 23 percent of those 128 top-20 in-state recruits (many Class of 2016'ers have yet to make their college choice).

Nine other Big Ten programs — Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin — accounted for 52 of those recruits, or 40 percent of all top-20 Illinois recruits since 2010. The SEC, a much greater distance away and always stockpiling its impressive rosters with the loads of high school football talent from the South, has commanded 28 top-20 recruits from the state of Illinois in the past seven recruiting cycles, which is just barely fewer than the two biggest programs in the state combined.

Six of the top seven kids in the Class of 2016 have committed, and they've all committed to Big Ten schools. But just one, O'Fallon running back Kentrail Moran, has decided to stay in state. Moran's going to Illinois. The other five will play for Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio State. So it's not that Illinois kids necessarily want to move far away to California, Texas or the South. They just would rather play for the winners right here in the Midwest.

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Winning is a pretty attractive selling point. It's something Dantonio has done an awful lot of in recent years. Michigan State has won at least 11 games in four of the last five seasons and won four straight bowl games. The Spartans won a Big Ten title two seasons ago and have won back-to-back big-time bowl games, the 2014 Rose Bowl and the 2015 Cotton Bowl.

Illinois and Northwestern, putting it plainly, have not done that.

But while Dantonio has certainly taken advantage of that fact, he's far from the only one. Gary Pinkel has been to back-to-back SEC Championship Games at Missouri. Wisconsin, no matter the coach, has proven itself a consistent Big Ten contender. Urban Meyer just won a national championship at Ohio State. Notre Dame is Notre Dame. The SEC is the SEC.

It's no secret on how to keep kids in state. The state's biggest programs have to win on a consistent basis. Until they do, out-of-state coaches like Dantonio will keep coming in and scooping up the state's best talent.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately


Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal


Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.