Preps Talk

CCL/ESCC football programs stacked with FBS level talent this year

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USA TODAY

CCL/ESCC football programs stacked with FBS level talent this year

It's no secret that year in and year out that the former Chicago Catholic League along with the former East Suburban Catholic Conference (now known as the not so creatively named CCL/ESCC conference) traditionally generates some of the top teams in the State of Illinois.

Several 2020 CCL/ESCC conference powerhouse football programs are stacked with FBS level talent, and could provide multiple highly ranked preseason teams and multiple state title contenders. Here are some of the schools and names to consider as we inch ever closer to the 2020 IHSA Football season (which is just a mere 191 shopping days away).

Mount Carmel- The Caravan posted a perfect 14-0 season in 2019 and won the 7A state title including posting an impressive 37-13 title win over Nazareth Academy. Mount Carmel and head coach Jordan Lynch welcomes back 13 returning starters back (8 offense 5 defense) for the 2020 season. Junior QB Justin Lynch is already committed to Temple while the remaining offensive skills are back with RB/LB Kenenna Odeluga along with WR Jaali Parker, WR Jack Butcher plus three starter back on the Caravan offensive line. Junior S Benjamin Perry is already drawing several Power 5 scholarship offers, and while the Caravan will need to replace some key names from the 2019 season, the underclassmen classes are impressive and stocked with talent.

Loyola Academy- The Ramblers (8-4) and head coach John Holecek posted a rare "down" season in 2019 as Loyola saw its season end in the Class 8A quarterfinal round to Marist. While the Ramblers would never make any excuses, many failed to realize just how young the 2019 Ramblers were on both sides of the football. Loyola welcomes back an impressive 16 returning starters (7 offense 9 defense) and the Ramblers could very well have it's largest amount of D1 names on the 2020 squad than any Loyola team in recent history. Loyola Academy sophomore TE James Kyle (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) added his first offer recently from Nebraska and look for Kyle to be a major Power 5 level recruit. Loyola junior OC Josh Kreutz also has a handful of FBS offers and several other Ramblers have been drawing recruiting attention and offers this winter including junior S/ATH Perrion McClinton, junior LB Liam Conaghan, junior RB/LB Vaughn Pemberton plus junior DB Artise Benjamin, sophomore WR Owen Boos and WR Aiden Brownlee.

Marist- The Redhawks and head coach Ron Dawczak also had an up and down season in 2019, but Marist found its way and made a deep run in the Class 8A state playoff field. The Redhawks also brings back several key playmakers from last season. Sophomore QB Dontrell Jackson Jr. started much of the regular season and Jackson Jr. is already on several recruiting radar screens this winter. Junior RB/WR Jovan Marsh is drawing a ton of recruiting attention this winter while freshman WR Ryan Sims (6-foot-3, 180 pounds) and freshman WR/DB Carnell Tate (6-foot-1, 165 pounds) have all the tools to become eventual FBS level recruits. The Redhawks also welcome back three starting offensive linemen, and two who are already holding FBS level offers in junior OT Pat Coogan along with sophomore OL Deuce McGuire. Coogan is one of the most sought after linemen in the Midwest in the Class of 2021. While the Redhawks will need to reload a bit on defense this winter, the overall talent level is impressive for Marist.

St. Rita- The Mustangs also made a terrific run in 2019, from starting the season with a less than spectacular 1-3 record then firing off 9 straight wins before losing to Rochester in the 2019 Class 5A state title game. While St. Rita was a bit more senior heavy last fall compared to others listed here, they still welcome back a strong core for 2020. Sophomore RB Kaleb Brown for the second straight season had a standout season and was no question one of the state's most dangerous playmakers in 2019. Brown is already drawing multiple Power 5 offers this winter and even more big time programs are calling each day. The Mustangs and head coach Todd Kuska also has even more firepower back on offense including three-star ranked junior WR Henry Wilson Jr., junior WR Isaiah Bragg plus speedy junior RB/DB Kyle James. Last year the quarterback duties were shared between sophomore Tommy Ulatowski and junior Brian Johnson and both will play a major role on the field in 2020. I also really liked junior LB Michael Galghan's play last season. He will also be a recruit name to watch for at St. Rita.

Nazareth Academy- The Roadrunner and head coach Tim Racki came up a bit short in 2019, losing in the 7A state title game to Mount Carmel. However, despite some key graduation losses (especially on the defensive side of the football) no one will be having any tag days for the Road Runners anytime soon.

The Nazareth Academy offense will again be loaded in 2020 with 8 returning starters in the fold led by junior four-star ranked QB JJ McCarthy. McCarthy, who will be a three-year starter in 2020, will also have several key names back including sophomore WR Tyler Morris, junior WR Tanner Koziol plus junior WR/TE Landon Morris. The Road Runners will also welcome back standout three-star ranked OL/DL Ryan Keeler, along with two additional starters back on the offensive line in junior Sean O'Hara and junior Domenic Virelli. The Road Runners defense will need to reload a bit but keep an eye on Ryan Keeler along with freshman DB Kaleb Miller and junior DE Daine Hansen (6-foot-7, 240 pounds). Hansen has already added 6 FBS level scholarship offers and is in line for an even bigger spring evaluation period. 

Joliet Catholic Academy- The Hilltoppers ended up dropping out of the 2019 Class 5A playoffs in a stunning 21-14 quarter final loss to Mascoutah. While JCA will need to reload in a handful of key spots for 2020 yet lots of talent remains on the Hill.

The 2020 Joliet Catholic Academy Hilltoppers are stocked with some impressive athletes including sophomore RB Jordan Anderson, junior S Ja'Aire Mack along with junior DB Jabrill Williams plus a big and experience group upfront on the offensive line. Junior S/RB Devean Washington, who suffered an off season injury is in recovery mode and hopefully will be back for his senior season and Washington is yet another high level athlete to watch here. The Hilltoppers will also bring back it's two top quarterbacks from a season ago in sophomore Aidan Voss and junior Anthony Napolitano. JCA also will look towards a strong freshman class from 2019 that had both good overall numbers and talent to boost the varsity level depth in 2020.

Former coach at LaSalle-Peru, Joliet West takes head coaching job at UIC

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USA Today

Former coach at LaSalle-Peru, Joliet West takes head coaching job at UIC

UIC hired its next head coach this week as Luke Yaklich returns home to Illinois to take over the Flames.

There's a lot to like about the 43-year-old Yaklich when it comes to this hire for UIC. A native of Illinois who spent time here as a high school coach at LaSalle-Peru and Joliet West, Yaklich's basketball journey makes him the perfect candidate for UIC at this particular point in time.

Being familiar with the area as a former high school coach and assistant coach at Illinois State will certainly help with recruiting and other facets of the job. But it's Yaklich's ability to take UIC to the next level defensively that makes him the perfect hire.

Yaklich turned into a star assistant coach over the past four seasons. He was often utilized as a defensive coordinator at his various stops. Going from Illinois State, to Michigan, to Texas over the past four seasons, Yaklich was responsible for four consecutive top-25 defenses, according to KenPom.

Although Steve McClain won at least 16 games in each of the past four seasons, the Flames could never reach their ultimate goal of the NCAA tournament. UIC hasn't reached March Madness since 2004. The past four seasons, UIC's best defensive team was only No. 107 in the country. 

McClain's teams had plenty of scoring pop and talent. Getting crucial stops could be difficult for the Flames.

While it may take some time for UIC to jump into the nation's top 50 in defensive efficiency, Yaklich has a successful defensive track record at the mid- and high-major levels.

Illinois State's dominant defense in 2016-17 was No. 19 in the country as the Redbirds just missed the NCAA tournament. Yaklich was then hired away to Michigan. In Ann Arbor, Yaklich helped an offensive-minded program under John Beilein become elite defensively.

The Wolverines advanced to the national title game and Sweet 16 in Yaklich's two seasons. Michigan had the No. 3 defense and No. 2 defense, respectively. 

At Texas, the Longhorns maintained the No. 24 defense in the country this season despite a talent drain that saw freshman center Jaxson Hayes leave for the NBA Draft to be picked in the top ten by the New Orleans Pelicans. 

UIC will need to figure out some other areas if they are to make it back to the NCAA tournament. Yaklich will need to hire a staff familiar with the local recruiting landscape. A sound offensive mind or two wouldn't hurt either.

But the defensive pedigree and player development track record has been there for Yaklich at multiple stops over the past four seasons. Now with a chance to run his own program, Yaklich is an exciting hire for UIC during an offseason in which college basketball's coach carousel isn't seeing a lot of movement. 

Edgy Tim's Recruiting News and Notes

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USA Today

Edgy Tim's Recruiting News and Notes

Oak Park-River Forest junior three star-ranked ATH Jaden McGill (6-foot-0. 185 pounds) added an offer last week from one of his team schools when Michigan State extended him a scholarship offer. 

"The offer from them (Michigan State) means a lot," McGill said. "When I was younger they were a school that me and my friends would always dream about playing for."

McGill was set to make a spring  visit to Michigan State before the Coronavirus pandemic struck and is hoping to make up that planned visit later this spring or early this summer. 

McGill is now holding scholarship offers from Michigan State, Kansas State, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Ball State, Buffalo, Toledo and Kent State.

Oswego junior three star-ranked offensive tackle Otto Hess (6-foot-7, 285 pounds) was able to add his latest offer earlier this week from Arizona. 

"The offer from Arizona is great," Hess said. "It was pretty much unexpected but great since I've always wanted to play and go to school out West."

Hess, who also added an offer from the University of Illinois on Tuesday night, discussed his thoughts from adding an offer from the Arizona Wildcats. 

"I know that Arizona has a great business school. Coach (Kevin) Sumlin has accomplished some great things in his career. I had some limited contact with Arizona but it hasn't been a crazy amount of attention that made me feel like an offer was coming right away."

Marist sophomore offensive tackle recruit Danny "Deuce" McGuire (6-foot-5, 285 pounds) was able to add an offer on Tuesday from Michigan State. 

"I was surprised to get an offer from Michigan State," McGuire said. "I have had a few Michigan State coaches following me on Twitter for a week or so but it wasn't anything out of the ordinary."

McGuire, who is now holding early scholarship offers from Michigan State along with Illinois and Western Michigan is well aware of the Spartans program. 

"Michigan State is one of the top programs in the Big 10 conference. They also send a lot of offensive linemen to the NFL and they have a lot of new coaches from Colorado."

McGuire is now waiting and hoping to make college visits later this spring or early this summer, depending upon when the Corona virus pandemic comes to an end. 

"I'm just hoping that this all gets resolved soon and we can get back to school and hopefully I'll get a chance to visit some colleges in person again soon."

Ottawa Marquette junior tight end recruit Victor Mullen (6-foot-6, 235 pounds) is a name on the rise this early spring. Mullen, who is holding early scholarship offers from Iowa State, Central Florida, Louisville, Appalachian State and Central Michigan has been trying to stay busy during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. 

"It's been boring so far,"Mullen said. "I have a workout program I got from my trainer and I'm working out along with just watching TV. We started online classes and it's been going well so far."

Mullen has also remained in contact with several college coaches during the NCAA mandated dead period.

"I've stayed in touch with all of the schools who have offered me like Iowa State, Louisville, Appalachian State, Central Michigan and Central Florida. I was planning to make spring visits to Miami of Ohio, Illinois, Toledo and Bowling Green but those have all been canceled. I'm hoping to get back to visit those schools later this spring but for now who knows. I've made visits already to Iowa State, Louisville, Appalachian State, Central Michigan plus Toledo and Iowa."