Preps Talk

Edgy: Selecting the team of the decade is no easy task

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Edgy: Selecting the team of the decade is no easy task

Here we are, nearing the end of a decade. In that span, which IHSA football team stands above all the rest. Can it even be narrowed down to a top five? I tried. It's not an easy task. However, everyone seems to have fun with topics like these, so why not? 

First, a ground rule or two. I decided to look strictly at the IHSA state championship winning teams from 2010 through the 2018 season. My approach? I basically just went back and looked into each year's top teams (eight classes) and then looked into which teams truly stood out about the others. Another rule: they all needed to have unblemished 14-0 season records.

Making a list of this nature is a challenge. That said, you need to somehow have a criteria that will at least allow you to make a distinction to separate teams from a very crowded pack. In many cases, there are multiple teams from the same season that deserve the honor. 

So with all of this in mind...here are my Top 5 state championship 'Teams of the Decade' for IHSA football--

1. 2015 Loyola Academy: The 2015 team was the first such Ramblers group to go undefeated en route to a state championship. The Ramblers had a very balanced offensive attack led by QB Emmett Clifford, RB Dara Laja and an offensive line anchored by the Badovinac brothers (Sam and Jack). On defense, they allowed just 123 points all season long. The unit was anchored by DL Ben Leroy (NIU). This team was tough, hungry and physical on both sides of the football. 

2. 2010 Warrenville Wheaton South Tigers: The Red Grange Tigers, coached by Ron Muhitch, had one of the state's most explosive offensive attacks that year. The offense was led by QB Reilly O'Toole (Illinois), Titus Davis (Central Michigan) along with RB Matt Rodgers. Their huge offensive line anchored by Luke Luhrsen (Kansas). 

3. 2016 East St Louis Flyers: This offense was also highly explosive. East St. Louis was led by QB Rey Estes (Minnesota) along with a Player of the Year in WR/S Jeff Thomas (Miami Fla.). Interestingly, a handful of players from the 2016 roster are on the current Flyers' team, which plays in the state semifinals on Saturday. Current WR Lewaun Powell and OL Javonyez Spraggins both were freshmen starters on that title team that defeated Plainfield North in the championship.

4. 2010 Rochester Rockets: Head coach Derek Leonard has had several outstanding state championship teams, but the 2010 team was Rochester's first state title group. They set the tone for a tremendous run for the program. This Rockets group could have completed at the higher classes quite well. They were led by QB Wes Lunt (Oklahoma State/Illinois), DE/TE Riley McMinn (Iowa), WR Zach Grant (Illinois) and LB Garrett Dooley (Wisconsin). 

5. 2017 Prairie Ridge Wolves: Prairie Ridge has had some great teams over the past decade. But for my money, the 2017 6A state title team was something special. No one was able to find a way to win better than QB Samson Evans (Iowa). The remaining roster was strong and included OL/DL Jeff Jenkins (Iowa) along with several other key names including RB Zach Gulbransen, FB Jackson Willis, S Drew Fryer and MLB Jacob Ommen. 

Others who I gave serious consideration? 

2011: Bolingbrook 13-1, Montini Catholic 12-2
2012: Crete-Monee 14-0
2013: Mount Carmel 13-1, Sacred Heart Griffin 14-0 
2014: Stevenson 14-0, Providence Catholic 13-1, Nazareth Academy 14-0, Sacred Heart Griffin 14-0
2015: Glenbard West 14-0
2016: Prairie Ridge 14-0, Maine South 11-3
2017: Lincoln Way East 14-0, IC Catholic Prep 14-0
2018: Loyola Academy 11-3, Nazareth Academy 13-1 

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."