Preps Talk

74 Days to Kickoff: Chicago Hope Academy

74 Days to Kickoff: Chicago Hope Academy

NBCSportsChicago.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 July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Hope Academy

Head coach: Matt Kelly

Assistant coaches: Kevin Davis, Donnell Brown, Brian Noller, Damon Gladney, Sam Cote, Jason Pankau and Abi Burgos

How they fared in 2017: 8-3 (3-0 Chicago Catholic League Red Conference). Hope Academy made the Class 2A state playoff field. The Eagles defeated Orr and then lost to Sterling Newman Central Catholic in second round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 25 vs Mount Carmel at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb

Aud. 31 @ DePaul Prep

Sept. 7 vs St. Edward

Sept. 14 vs St. Ignatius

Sept. 22 @ St. Laurence

Sept. 28 @ Providence Catholic

Oct. 6 vs Leo

Oct. 12 vs St. Joseph @ Elmhurst College

Oct. 20 @ Guerin Prep

[MORE: 92 Days to Kickoff: St. Edward]

Biggest storyline: The Eagles have 41 wins over the last five seasons (all IHSA playoff berths). Can they continue to soar and return to the playoffs?

Names to watch this season: OL/DL Patrick Ross, RB/LB Derrick Williams and QB Trevor Land

Biggest holes to fill: The Eagles have 18 returning starters back from a season ago; however, will they have enough depth and overall numbers to continue to win in the CCL?

EDGY's Early Take: Hope Academy needed to deal with plenty of distractions last season, including a nearby neighborhood shooting when hosting Providence Catholic. The issue eventually led to two forfeit wins due to opponents’ safety concerns. As for this season, head coach Matt Kelly and company welcome back an experienced team with several potential college recruits on the roster. If Hope Academy can stay somewhat healthy against a schedule that includes CCL crossovers against the likes of Mount Carmel, Providence and St. Laurence, they have a very good chance of making a postseason run again in 2018. 

December surge: Recruits getting a jump by signing early

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USA TODAY

December surge: Recruits getting a jump by signing early

It looks like the early bird will get the worm again...at least from the NCAA early signing day perspective.

Wednesday is the second early signing period for NCAA football and if the first such session is any indication, I fully expect even more recruits to secure their college choices. Last year, according to Rivals.com, nearly 75 percent of all FBS recruits used the December early signing period to finalize their college decisions, which caught several observers and experts somewhat by surprise.

So what impact could the second December early signing day have on the Class of 2019?

"I can see even more FBS level recruits signing early," according to Rivals.com Midwest Recruiting Expert Josh Helmholdt. "I wouldn't be shocked to see nearly 80 percent or even as high as 85 percent sign on Wednesday. The trend is now to sign early and while it was higher in the North and East last year, now it looks like it will also increase this year across the country."

So why the surge in early signings? Several reasons come to mind, including players and families growing tired of the constant calls and texts along with the nonstop distractions in school. Yet ask various high school recruits and coaches and they will tell you a few specific reasons for the early rush to sign a Letter of Intent.

"I would have loved to go out and make a few more visits," one in-demand Power 5 recruit told me late last week. "I had 3-4 schools that I really liked but all of the schools recruiting me said that I needed to commit and sign in December otherwise they would move on. I only made two official visits and I would have liked to take a few more. Everyone is afraid to lose offers so everyone is making quicker decisions. I'm happy with my decision but I also didn't get to see too many other schools."

"I still don't like it," Bolingbrook head coach John Ivlow said.

Ivlow, who is planning to have four recruits sign Letters of Intent on Wednesday saw firsthand the impact of the new early signing period.

"We talked last year about the early signing period and everything we talked about as negatives came true," Ivlow said. "The early signing day forces kids to make a quicker decision. The college coaches want a quick decision otherwise the schools take that as not being loyal. I had a player last year (I'Shawn Stewart) who waited and saw a lot of offers go away. He eventually ended up fine (Oregon State) but more and more kids are losing offers and being rushed into a decision. It's also a bigger and bigger gamble to wait until February to sign."

While a large majority of the FBS-level names are expected to sign Letters of Intent on Wednesday, FCS-level schools, including in-state programs such as Illinois State, Western Illinois, Southern Illinois and Eastern Illinois are expected to sign roughly 50-60 percent of its signing class on Wednesday. The D-2 level (and below) schools will continue their recruiting efforts until the traditional February 6th 2019 Letter of Intent signing period.

Edgy Tim: Pros and cons of IHSA district football

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NBC Sports Chicago

Edgy Tim: Pros and cons of IHSA district football

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) approved 11 separate amendment proposals Tuesday in its annual bylaw referendum. Included in the approved proposals was Proposal 23 (passed 324-307-69), which involves implementing a statewide district regular season schedule system for football, thus eliminating the current regular season conference scheduling system. The changes will take place beginning with the 2021 IHSA football season.  

So what are some of the potential pros and cons of the passing of Proposal 23?

"I can see the pros and the cons of this proposal," according to Joliet Catholic athletic director Dan Sharp. "I just had a feeling that this would pass since the issue really has impacted everyone across the state."

The potential positives of Proposal 23? 

"It's a definite positive when it comes to conference stability," Sharp said. "Football, no question, has been the main factor that has driven conferences splitting apart over the last several years. The conference system has been unfair especially when it comes to other sports and this will hopefully eliminate conferences in the other sports from breaking apart."

"I also love the fact that the first two games don't count towards the playoffs. I can see us going out and getting to play some huge opening season games and getting to play against some schools who we've played in the past like a Mount Carmel for example. I also like the fact that we will know our class before the start of the season and play against schools in the same class now. Conferences started to become more enrollment-based several years ago and that trend has continued. So playing against same sized programs under this proposal makes sense."

Sharp also relayed some of the negatives regarding Proposal 23.

"Some schools will need to travel more. I'm thinking of this area and schools like Minooka and the Plainfield schools will be impacted. In our case, our travel could get cut considerably compared to playing in the East Suburban Catholic Conference. Also you will no longer be able to play against bigger enrollment schools in district games and we've played against bigger schools for years. Will a district schedule be as challenging as the current conference scheduling? In a lot of cases I can see schools not being happy not getting to play up to challenge themselves."

Several longtime traditional conference will also be lost under this proposal.

"Long time traditional conferences like the Chicago Catholic Blue and the West Suburban schools are now non existent and you hate losing those traditional rivalries. I'm sure those schools will use some of the two non district games to keep some of those rivalry games going." 

Yet the biggest negative of all with the passing of Proposal 23? Who will you be playing in your district starting in 2021?

"The biggest issue a lot of coaches and ADs had was the unknown factor. Who will be in your district and how will the IHSA divide up those districts? Will we be heading towards the Rich Township schools or maybe out West? Maybe we will need to travel down south?"