Preps Talk

FBS level signings for Illinois prep football players has declining numbers in recent years

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USA TODAY

FBS level signings for Illinois prep football players has declining numbers in recent years

Back during the early December Signing Day, my early projections for the Class of 2020 wasn't promising when it came to the State of Illinois and total number of FBS level signings compared to past recruiting classes. Now that the February Signing Day period has begun, the final numbers seem to indicate that this could be one of the smallest overall FBS level signing classes in recent history. 

 

Total number of FBS level names from the State of Illinois who have signed Letters of Intent? (Source Rivals.com database)

2020: 61*** February signing period remains open until April 1st

2019: 64

2018: 67

2017: 73

2016: 68

2015: 70

2014: 73

 

So why the declining numbers you ask?

I would look towards several different factors such as lower overall participation numbers for football, continued dwindling in-state population growth along with just a not very deep talent base in the 2020 class overall. The overall demand from FBS schools who traditionally recruit the State of Illinois on a regular basis was very low in this class. In short, the overall lack of depth at several positions in this class is clearly evident by the limited amount of FBS level signings.

Any Signing Day drama in Illinois?

Naperville Central four-star ranked WR Jadon Thompson (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) had been verbally committed to Illinois since last April, but signed his letter of intent Wednesday with the University of Cincinnati. Thompson's sudden change of heart also put a major dent in the University of Illinois Class of 2020 leaving the Fighting Illini and head coach Lovie Smith without one of it's highest ranked players along with leaving the Fighting Illini without any in-state names in it's 2020 class. 

Simeon three-star ranked defensive back Chau Smith (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) was heading towards making a Signing Day college decision but decided to pull the trigger a few days earlier. On Wednesday, he signed his Letter of Intent with Washington State. Smith, who originally was verbally committed to Wyoming also added late offers from Colorado State and Purdue. 

Morgan Park three-star ranked defensive tackle Shontrail Key (6-foot-7, 250 pounds) signed his letter of intent Wednesday with the University of Arizona. Key, who had never played high school football until this fall for head coach Chris James, played basketball for the Mustangs over the previous three seasons before James and basketball head coach Nick Irvin convinced Key to give football a try. 

My Final Look at Each In-State Recruiting Efforts: 

 

University of Illinois

In-State Headliner: Failed to sign any in state recruits

In-State Name to Watch: Yorkville QB Josh Beetham. Beetham (6-foot-5, 218 pounds) will be a preferred walk on for the Fighting Illini. Beetham is a big, strong kid with a very strong and accurate arm and wrapped up a very impressive high school career for the Foxes. Beetham, who is more of a pocket passer, is already college ready physically, and is also a player who could be moved and utilized at say tight end if needed.

Northwestern 

In-State Headliner: OL Peter Skoronski Maine South. Skoronski (6-foot-4, 275 pounds) is a four-star ranked offensive tackle and a Rivals.com Top 250 ranked recruit in the nation. Skoronski, who played on both sides of the football for the Hawks and head coach Dave Inserra, is a throwback type of player who will have a chance at earning early playing time immediately in Evanston. 

In-State Name to Watch: OLB Greyson Metz Glenbard West. West, (6-foot-3, 190 pounds) who will be a preferred walk on for the Wildcats, has the physical tools, speed and overall game to make an impact on the Wildcats' defense and become a scholarship-level player. Metz, a high academic level student, passed on several FBS and FCS level scholarship offers due to wanting to play for the Wildcats and earn a degree from Northwestern. 

Northern Illinois University 

 In-State Headliner: DE Jack Hugunin Oswego. Hugunin (6-foot-3, 275 pounds) is a two-star ranked defensive tackle who lives for the weight room. While Hugunin might not be a major headline grabbing name, he has a real chance to develop into a longer term starter on the Huskies interior defensive line. 

In-State Name to Watch: DE Matt Johnson West Aurora. Johnson (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) was one of the first names in the NIU class to verbally commit. Johnson has impressive speed and physical tools, yet also has the frame and length to add more size and weight in DeKalb. Johnson could no question become a late bloomer physically and a potential steal for NIU down the line. 

Illinois State University 

In-State Headliner: LB Darius Walker East St. Louis. Walker (6-foot-2,, 220 pounds) was a big key in the East St. Louis Flyers Class 6A state title winning defense in 2019. Walker also showed well this past spring and summer at various camps and is a name who will continue to add a bit more size and strength physically while at ISU. 

In-State Name to Watch: DB Lavoise-Deontae McCoy Homewood Flossmoor. McCoy (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) will attempt to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Dontae McCoy, who was a three year starter and captain (2011-2014) for the Redbirds and Brock Spack. McCoy committed to ISU early and passed on several other offers. McCoy has the overall game and potential to push for early playing time for Illinois State starting this fall. 

Southern Illinois University 

In-State Headliner: DB Jalion Welsh Nazareth Academy. The Salukis found themselves needing to replace several graduated defensive backs with this class. Jailon Welsh (5-foot-9, 170 pounds) is already college ready physically and will be asked to step up and contribute this fall. Welsh was a terrific cover corner and is a speedy all around player for Nazareth Academy head coach and former SIU player Tim Racki.

In-State Name to Watch: WR Sean Larkin Neuqua Valley. Larkin (6-foot-0, 185 pounds) was a highly productive receiver for Neuqua Valley over his high school career. Larkin is a terrific route runner with exceptional hands who also plays with some toughness. While the SIU depth chart is stacked at receiver, don't overlook Sean Larkin who has the ability to make a push up to that depth chart starting this summer.  

Eastern Illinois University 

In-State Headliner: QB Steven Frank Oswego/Butler CC. The Panthers and head coach Adam Cushing are in search of a quarterback this coming fall and Steven Frank (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) could be the answer. Frank, who signed with Florida Atlantic out of high school, transferred to Butler Community College for two seasons where he was highly productive. Frank is a big, strong pocket passer who will be asked to compete for the starting quarterback job immediately in Charleston. 

In-State Name to Watch: LB Colin Bohanek Marist. Bohanek (6-foot-0, 210 pounds) was simply one of the best linebackers I saw live in 2019. Bohanek has a great nose for the football, has sideline to sideline speed and finishes exceptionally well. Bohanek has the potential to challenge for playing time this fall.

Western Illinois University 

In-State Headliner: LB Juan Delacruz Warren Township. Delacruz (6-foot-2, 220 pounds)  was a three year varsity starter and impact performer for the Blue Devils and head coach Bryan Wells. Delacruz also found his way on the field as well on offense and special teams and has terrific speed, size and range. In my opionion, I feel he has a chance at developing into an early contributor for the Leathernecks and could wind up being one of the bigger steals at the FCS level.

In-State Name to Watch: DL Matt Muetterties Burlington Central. Mutterties, (6-foot-4, 275 pounds) who is listed as a defensive linemen for WIU, is a big and and very athletic man for the Leathernecks. Muetterties could also play on the offensive line if needed and possesses a great mix of length, speed and power. Muetterties will add more strength over the next handful of years in Macomb. 

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."