Preps Talk

EDGY Tim gives his thoughts on Lovie Smith and Illinois' 2018 In-State Recruiting Class

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USA TODAY

EDGY Tim gives his thoughts on Lovie Smith and Illinois' 2018 In-State Recruiting Class

EDGY's Fighting Illini grade: C-

Illinois and head coach Lovie Smith wound up signing 23 names to the Fighting Illini's Class of 2018 and that included just four in-state names (including Chicago resident and IMG Academy grad Verdis Brown).  According to the Rivals.com team recruiting rankings, the Illinois recruiting class is ranked by Rivals.com as the 50th best class in the nation and is also ranked 12 out of 14 teams in the Big Ten conference. While the Fighting Illini fell short on overall numbers of in-state names, they made strides in power states in such as Florida (10 names) along with California (four names) and Texas (four names). 

Headliner of the in-state class?

IMG Academy four star ranked offensive guard Verdis Brown (6-foot-4, 290 pounds) played his first three years at Chicago Mount Carmel before transferring to IMG Academy in Florida. Brown, who originally committed to Florida State, decommitted from the Seminoles after head coach Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M. Once Brown reopened his recruiting process, Illinois became Brown's leader and he really never wavered minus a late official visit to Missouri. Brown is physically a ready made player who will be given every opportunity to start as soon as this fall for the Fighting Illini. 

Illinois also was able to sign Peoria three star ranked QB Coran Taylor (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) along with three star ranked Althoff three-star ranked offensive tackle Jordyn Slaughter (6-foot-5, 290 pounds) plus Danville two-star ranked Julian Pearl (6-foot-7, 245 pounds). Danville K Caleb Griffin was also added along with Naperville North QB Drake Davis and WR Nick Calcagno plus Maine South WR Cam Stacy. 

The one who got away?

Illinois was an early leader for the state's top ranked recruit in Carterville four-star ranked tight end Lucas Ford (6-foot-7, 247 pounds) until Power 5 teams from across the nation found Ford and Carterville High School. Carter committed early to Arkansas but decommitted and reopened his recruiting in the fall. Illinois was named in Ford's final top schools list but decided to sign early in December with Georgia. 

Final thoughts on the Fighting Illini recruiting efforts:

This is the second recruiting class for head coach Lovie Smith and staff and at least from an in-state perspective, the draw and initial appeal of having a former Chicago Bears head coach has yet to truly pay off on the recruiting trail, in my opinion. The players that the Fighting Illini have added the past two recruiting classes have been solid including some potential difference makers in this 2018 class. Yet the higher ranked/high profile in-state names have for the most part have looked past Illinois the past two recruiting seasons. 

While the staff has continued to talk about the importance of starting its recruiting efforts first in Illinois and the greater St. Louis area, the overall results have shown that more work/effort and/or a new approach needs to be developed in the Fighting Illini's own backyard. Adding just one name North of I-80 for Illinois in the Class of 2018 must change. 

Credit the Illinois staff for already getting out early and extending scholarship offers in January to several top in-state Class of 2019 names. Hopefully this will be the beginning of stronger in-state efforts for the Fighting Illinois that will see better overall results on the home state recruiting trail. 

Top five under the radar teams to watch in 2020

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NBC Sports Chicago

Top five under the radar teams to watch in 2020

There are several teams that finished with losing records this past season; they will undoubtedly be flying under the radar come August.  Who are the top 5 teams who could surprise IHSA football fans next fall?

St. Charles North (4-5): It was a tough 2019 season for the North Stars both on and off the field. The school administration and head coach Ron Pomazak had to deal with the serious brain injury to sophomore RB Aidan Carlson-- an issue which impacted the entire community. St. Charles North still has talent in the program including several starters on the offensive line, namely junior OL/DL Carmine Bastone and junior OT Ian Erickson. They are on the rise along with junior ATH Jordan Nubi, the younger brother of former North Star and current Minnesota Gopher safety Tyler Nubin. 

Naperville Central (4-5): The Redhawks had a ton of hype in the preseason, then the reality of a brutal schedule set in. Naperville Central ended up losing three games to eventual state champions (Lincoln-Way East, Ohio’s Pickerington Central and East St. Louis). They lost another two games to teams with a combined record of 17-4. The 2020 Redhawks will still have one of the state's most dangerous athletes in QB Sam Jackson (Minnesota) along with a deep group of talented young receivers led by junior Keon Green and sophomore Reggie Fluerima.

Stevenson (4-5): The Patriots missed the IHSA state football playoff field for the first time since 1988. Can postseason football come back to Lincolnshire? Stevenson head coach Brent Becker will need to replace a very big senior class; however, this remains one of the top programs year in and year out in Illinois. Don't look for Stevenson to be down for very long.

Lockport (4-5): Easily one of the better stories of 2019. Former longtime Porter assistant coach George Czart was given the reins of this program in the offseason. Czart was also the head coach at Lincoln-Way North and led the Phoenix to a 54-29 record in eight seasons before the district closed the school. The Porters have numbers in the program; Czart’s staff did an outstanding job of getting everyone to buy in and the program became competitive as a result. The overall talent level is still a work in progress but the ingredients are in the building. They have the potential of becoming an eventual monster to watch in the Southwest suburbs.

Oak Park-River Forest (4-5): The Huskies, under head coach John Hoerster, wound up posting a losing record—a rarity for this Western Suburban Silver program. But outside of a 42-0 Week 9 loss to Glenbard West, OPRK was in every game last season. Several of the Huskies top players in 2019 will be back in 2020, led by QB/S Jaden McGill, LB Naahlyee Bryant and junior OL/DL Amarion Jones.

VOTE: Wintrust Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

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NBC Sports Chicago

VOTE: Wintrust Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Who wants it more?              

NBC Sports Chicago and Wintrust present our “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week.” We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland’s top prep sports show, in the hands of passionate high school basketball followers. Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @NBCSPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights and postgame reaction of that game will appear on that night’s “High School Lites” broadcast at 11:00 p.m. The show also live streams at www.nbcsportschicago.com/watchlive and appears in the MyTeams app.  High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. the following Saturday on NBC Sports Chicago. 

This week, we're going to get a taste of the Chicago Public League/White division. Which game should we attend for High School Lites?

Mather at Foreman, 5:00 p.m.

Jones at Wells, 5:00 p.m.

Perspectives-MSA at Raby, 6:30 p.m.

To participate, our fans are encouraged to do the following:

**Follow our NBC Sports Chicago preps Twitter page: @NBCSPreps.

**Note the pinned tweet that is atop the feed.

**Vote for the game you want NBC Sports Chicago to cover Friday night.

**Spread the word!

The poll will start promptly at 12:00 p.m. Monday. We will make an announcement with the official results on @NBCSPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @NBCSPreps for updates on the “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week,” along with other high school sports news, scores and highlights, all season long.