The recruiting process is like a soap opera that never ends. No vacations, hardly time for a coffee break. The senior class is committed, all of the leading juniors have been offered and college recruiters already are evaluating the most promising prospects in the sophomore and freshman classes.
According to longtime recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network, the class of 2014 in the Chicago area could be as good or better than 2013. As many as six players could be ranked among the Top 100 in the nation.
"The class of 2014 has more depth than 2013. There are several running backs with potential to be very good," Lemming said. "But 2014 doesn't have as many superstars as 2013, which has the top running back (Joliet Catholic's Ty Isaac) and the top wide receiver (Crete-Monee's Laquon Treadwell) in the nation."
While Isaac and Treadwell could rank in the Top 10 in Lemming's season-ending survey, an unprecedented achievement for the Chicago area, he points out it isn't likely that any of the six leading prospects in the class of 2014 will rank in the top 50.
The six are Plainfield South linebacker Clifton Garrett, Marist tight end Nic Weishar, Bolingbrook cornerback Parrker Westphal, De La Salle offensive tackle Jamarco Jones, Crete-Monee linebacker Nyles Morgan and Glenbard North running back Justin Jackson.
But they are well known to recruiters. They have had plenty of exposure. Westphal starred on a state championship team last year. Morgan was a standout on an unbeaten state championship team this season. And Jackson was the state's most prolific ball-carrier for a state runner-up.
Jones, a 6-foot-5, 285-pound tackle who blocks for teammate Mikale Wilbon, one of the state's leading running backs, has 16 scholarship offers. Westphal and Morgan each 14, Weishar 12, Garrett 11 and Jackson 8. Kicking specialist Jesus Miranda of Brooks has 10.
Offensively, others who rank near the head of the class of 2014 are running backs Tommy Mister, who recently transferred from Richards to St. Rita, Chris James of Notre Dame, DeSean Brown of Naperville North and Matt Domer of Mount Carmel, quarterbacks Clayton Thorson of Wheaton North, Drew David of Kaneland, Jake Kolbe of Naperville Central and Bret Mooney of Jacobs, centers Brian Allen of Hinsdale Central and Nick Allegretti of Lincoln-Way East, offensive tackles Shane Evans of Prairie Ridge, Logan Plantz of Providence and Zach Novoselsky of Stevenson and wide receivers Jacquet McClendon of Evergreen Park and Brennan Barry of St. Charles East.
Defensively, the headliners are ends Chris Slayton of Crete-Monee, Nile Sykes of Oak Park, Eddie Randle of St. Rita, Vontae Diggs of Downers Grove North, Robbie Odeneal of Bishop McNamara and Dylan Thompson of Montini, tackles Enoch Smith and Steve Richardson of Mount Carmel and safety Matt Morrissey of Stevenson.
Slayton could be the biggest "surprise" in the class. He was listed as a senior in some publications. But the 6-foot-5, 240-pound junior defensive end with 4.6 speed was one of Crete-Monee's standouts in its recent drive to the Class 6A state championship.
"He is our next superstar, our most recruited player of the future," said former Crete-Monee coach Jerry Verde, who recently succeeded his retiring mentor Dave Mattio at Marian Catholic. "He is one of the fastest players on the team. He will be recruited as much as Laquon Treadwell and Nyles Morgan. He will be a two-way starter (defensive end, tight end) as a senior."
But college recruiters already are evaluating the classes of 2015 and 2016, this year's sophomores and freshmen. It is never too early to discover a blue chipper and they are well aware that high school players always remember the first school that contacted them.
Based on their sophomore performances, the top prospects in the class of 2015 are Benet quarterback Jack Beneventi, Downers Grove North quarterback David Edwards, Providence wide receiver Miles Boykin, Stevenson quarterback Will Bourbon and Cary-Grove offensive linemen Michael Gomez and Trevor Ruhland.
Beneventi, a 6-foot-6, 190-pounder, guided Benet from a 1-8 record in 2011 to 11-2 and the Class 7A semifinals in 2012. He completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,318 yards and 20 touchdowns. He has attracted interest from Notre Dame, USC, Stanford, Northwestern, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan and Michigan State.
The No. 1 prospect in the class of 2016? That's a no-brainer. He is Erik Swenson, a 6-foot-6, 285-pound offensive tackle at Downers Grove South. He is the first freshman in coach John Belskis' 33-year career to start on the varsity. He recently received a scholarship offer from Illinois.
"On his first play, he drove the defensive lineman back and pancaked him," Belskis said. "He has size and great skill level and towers over everyone. He still is developing strength and footwork. He will be a two-way tackle as a sophomore."
Swenson, whose father is 6-foot-8 and weighs 320 pounds, was a highly touted player as a seventh and eighth grader. He participated in all-star games in Arizona and attended the Michigan came as a seventh grader. He models himself after All-NFL standout Jake Long.
CLASS OF 2014 -- Top 30
No. Player, School, Position
1. Clifton Garrett, Plainfield South, LB
2. Nic Weishar, Marist, TE
3. Parrker Westphal, Bolingbrook, DB
4. Jamarco Jones, De La Salle, OT
5. Nyles Morgan, Crete-Monee, LB
6. Justin Jackson, Glenbard North, RB
7. Tommy Mister, Richards, RB
8. Enoch Smith, Mount Carmel, DL
9. Clayton Thorson, Wheaton North, QB
10. Chris Slayton, Crete-Monee, DE
11. Brian Allen, Hinsdale Central, C
12. Nile Sykes, Oak Park, DE
13. Matt Morrissey, Stevenson, DB
14. Dylan Thompson, Montini, DE
15. J.B. Butler, Joliet Catholic, OT
16. Robbie Odeneal, Bishop McNamara, DELB
17. Chris James, Notre Dame, RB
18. Matt Domer, Mount Carmel, RB
19. Drew David, Kaneland, QB
20. Nick Allegretti, Lincoln-Way East, C
21. Jake Kolbe, Naperville Central, QB
22. Mikale Wilbon, De La Salle, RB
23. Steve Richardson, Mount Carmel, DL
24. Bret Mooney, Jacobs, QB
25. Ben Niemann, Sycamore, WR
26. Eddie Randle, St. Rita, DE
27. Brennan Barry, St. Charles East, WR
28. Zach Novoselsky, Stevenson, OT
29. Shane Evans, Prairie Ridge, OT
30. Jacquet McClendon, Evergreen Park, WR
Others to watch: DeSean Brown, Naperville North, RB; Vontae Diggs, Downers Grove North, DE; Hayden Carlson, Glenbard West, DB; Matt Biegalski, Wheaton North, WR; Mikey Dudek, Neuqua Valley, WR; Ian Bunting, Hinsdale Central, TE; Ephraim Lee, Marian Central, RB; Devin Pitts, Homewood-Flossmoor, OT; Raphael Canty, Thornton Fractional South, TE; Trent Williams, Lake Forest, LB; Theo Hopkins, Leo, DB; Logan Plantz, Providence, OT; Micah Coffey, Batavia, QB; Chris Covington, Raby, QB; Jack Spillane, Fenwick, RB; Jesus Miranda, Brooks, K.
CLASS OF 2015 -- Top 10
1. Jack Beneventi, Benet, QB
2. David Edwards, Downers Grove North, QB
3. Miles Boykin, Providence, WR
4. Will Bourbon, Stevenson, QB
5. Michael Gomez, Cary-Grove, OL
6. Trevor Ruhland, Cary-Grove, OL
7. Lloyd Yates, Oak Park, QB
8. DeAndre Mahaffey, Thornton, LB
9. Will Colmery, Nazareth, WRDL
10. Dyrrah Christon, Kankakee, RB
CLASS OF 2016 -- Top 5
1. Erik Swenson, Downers Grove South, OT
2. Tuf Borland, Bolingbrook, LB
3. Josh King, Hinsdale South, DL
4. Jack Shutack, Nazareth, OLDL
5. Justin Berry, Wheaton St. Francis, QB