The Class of 2016 will begin to ink letters of intent tomorrow nationwide. Here is EDGYTIM's breakdown for the state of Illinois:
Overall Grade for the Class of 2016: C-
Simply put, in the amount of years I’ve been tracking football recruiting in this state (over 20 years), this could be one of the lowest amount of statewide D-1 level names for one class. As of Tuesday morning, I show 61 kids committed to BCS level schools and 29 kids committed to FCS schools (I count only FCS schools who offer athletic scholarship monies).
Below are the past five signing classes, which reflect the downturn in high college level talent in Class of 2016.
2015: 79 BCS level names, 21 FCS level names
2014: 74 BCS level names, 23 FCS level names
2013: 77 BCS level names, 22 FCS level names
2012: 68 BCS level names, 17 FCS level names
2011: 72 BCS level names, 21 FCS level names
For your consideration, the Class of 2016 was part of a considerably large drop off nationally according to the National Federation of State High School Associations regarding overall participation numbers in football. The numbers are traced back to when this class became freshmen back in the fall of 2012. Several traditional football power high schools in Illinois in 2012 reported sizable freshman number drop-offs. Coincidence?
Reservation for One
Recruiting these days seems to be more about making an early "verbal" reservation than anything else. In Illinois as well as across the nation, the Class of 2016 has never seen as many kids verbally commit early only to wind up decommiting before National Signing Day. Several factors come into play for the rash of decommitments including verbally committing too early to a school and most notably college coaching changes. Solutions? Several have been thrown out there including adding an early signing period or two (I say mid-August and then again in mid-December) as well as allowing schools to offer a prospect to sign a binding letter of intent at anytime. In most proposals, only a head coach firing would void the legally binding letter of intent for schools and prospects.
Position of strength
Just take a look at my Top 50 Class of 2016 final recruit rankings. Three out of my top four are defensive linemen including two defensive tackles in Lake Park Mike Panasiuk and Evanston's Naquan Jones. Also impressive is the fact that that 12 out of the Top 50 names play on the defensive line. I can't remember when this state has had as strong of a defensive linemen class to be honest. I also expect the large majority of this defensive linemen class to have the chance to become early impact types at the college level.
Positions that didn't fare well
This class no question definitely has a lack of quality offensive tackle body types. That's never a good sign. The overall offensive tackle group fell just short over having the usual abundance of big tackle bodies that Illinois has become known for over the years. Sure, kids like Downers Grove South's Erik Swenson (who I still feel is more of a guard), Carmel's Sean Foster, Nashville's Royce Newman, Lincoln-Way West’s Justin Witt and Maine South's Liam O'Sullivan are all ranked in my Top 50. Yet more than a few of those names are to be considered more "developmental" guys from a physical standpoint for now. You also won't find a ton of offensive tackle body types that got scooped up by, say, the 1-AA or D2 and below levels, either.
[RECRUITING: Swenson picks Oklahoma]
The Rivals database has 31 quarterbacks listed in the Class of 2016 with only four known names inking D1/1AA level Letters of Intent. That's not good. The position itself remains one of the hardest spots to gain an offer for several good reasons. First you have a limited amount of spots available. Throw in an evaluation process that gets earlier and earlier in a day and age where 8th graders are already drawing serious interest. I have no doubt that the quarterbacks in Illinois have never had it any harder in recruiting circles than they do in this era of college football recruiting.
The Spartans had this one wrapped up by mid summer to be honest. Head coach Mark Dantonio was in need of defensive linemen in particular and discovered a bonanza here in Illinois. Michigan State always works this state hard and give the Spartans credit for securing early verbal commitments and for also not letting those recruits slip away from them.
[RELATED: Spears Jr. decommits from Illinois]
It's been a while since the Hawkeyes were able to come away with a sizable haul from Chicagoland, yet Iowa's recruiting efforts in Illinois for this class were just very steady and solid. Naperville Central wide receiver Manny Rugamba leads a group of five 3-star ranked Land of Lincoln commits. All five have the potentiual to become longer term answers in several spot for Iowa.
The Broncos have added a few top ranked MAC classes back-to-back, and at least from an Illinois perspective, former Kaneland and NBIU standout player and current WMU head coach PJ Fleck and staff added a handful of names to watch. Evanston three-star ranked QB Matt Little (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) was locked up very early by the Broncos and many feel that Little has Big 10 level physical tools and potential. Neuqua Valley tight end Brett Borske (6-foot-6, 230 pounds) is a huge target, and Borske physically has the look of a Power 5 conference level prospect.
So how did the in-state BCS and FCS level schools fare? Stay tuned more breakdowns to follow.
Just missed the Class of 2016 Top 50 rankings
ATH Rhashaun Epting, Proviso West - Committed to New Mexico after decommitting from Western Michigan, Epting has the look (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) and feel of a name that can head down to Lobo country and return as an NFL looking name. He could wind up playing defensive line/linebacker at the college level.
DE Allen Stallings, Oak Park-River Forest - Stallings (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) committed to Indiana after decommiting from Central Michigan. He was a tweener from a positional standpoint and didn't add his offer from the Hoosiers until last week. Stallings was simply one of the hardest hitters I saw all season and has a chance to become a disruptive hybrid pass rusher/linebacker for the Hoosiers.
LB Corey Lersch, McHenry - Lersch (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) camped with NIU this past summer, landed an offer and committed before his recruiting really took off. Lersch has great size and speed and just has the look of a player who still has a ton of upside.
DB Andrew Gregory, Normal Community - Gregory (6-foot-1, 196 pounds) has the potential to be yet another steal for the Huskies. He has the physical tools to grow into a safety/outside linebacker and has real potential.