Preps Talk

Illinois in-state recruiting class recap

Illinois in-state recruiting class recap

EDGY's Fighting Illini grade: B

The Fighting lllini Class of 2017 was a stark change from 2016 in a very positive way, especially from an in-state perspective. Illinois and head coach Lovie Smith signed 23 players to Letters of Intent on Wednesday with nine being in-state recruits. Besides the total number of in-state recruits being increased from two in 2016 to nine in 2017, this is also a much deeper and talented local class. Illinois added some very strong names, and players who have a chance to bolstering the overall roster depth in a big way.

Headliner of the in-state class?

Brother Rice four-star ranked wide receiver Ricky Smalling (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) was a consensus All-State player and Top 10 recruit in the Class of 2017. Smalling, who pledged to Illinois over offers from the likes of Missouri, Wisconsin, Purdue and Indiana, committed to the Fighting Illini very early on (April 2016). Illinois was able to hold off several other schools, while Smalling was also key in helping the Illini land several other in-state commits.

[RELATED: What we learned on Signing Day for Class of 2017 in Illinois]

The one who got away?

East St. Louis four-star ranked wide receiver Jeff Thomas (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) was a nationally ranked recruit who signed to the University of Miami on Wednesday. Thomas had Illinois in his top schools list very late in the progress and at one stage listed them as a leader. It seemed that once Thomas hit the national stage with an MVP performance at the Under Armour All-America Game, Illinois was suddenly out of the picture.

Final thoughts on the Fighting Illini's recruiting efforts:  

Overall, this was a positive first step and first in-state signing class for the Fighting Illini under Smith. Illinois landed a consensus Top 10 headliner in Smalling, along with several very solid names that have a chance to battle for early playing time. Most importantly is that Smith and his staff found in-state coaches, players and parents very open and welcoming. Illinois can certainly build off of its first in-state recruiting class success and continue to build those relationships. How can Illinois take the next step and begin to land more higher profile names? Winning and making positive progress on the field. Illinois has a lot to sell recruits but improving the product on the field is the No. 1 priority.

43 Days to Kickoff: Shepard

43 Days to Kickoff: Shepard

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Shepard

Head coach: John Rone

Assistant coaches: Vincent Holmes, Andy Schindel, Chris Lewis, Justin Harris and Mark Thomas

How they fared in 2018: 8-3 (5-1 South Suburban Red Conference). Shepard made the Class 6A IHSA state football playoff field, defeated Springfield and then lost to Normal West in second round action.

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 vs Leyden
Sept. 6 vs St Francis
Sept. 13 @ Reavis
Sept. 20 @ Evergreen Park
Sept. 27 @ Eisenhower
Oct. 4 vs Oak Lawn
Oct. 11 @ Lemont
Oct. 18 vs Richards
Oct. 25 vs Argo

Biggest storyline: Coach Rone’s first season was a success. Can the Astros make another state playoff run in 2019?

Names to watch this season: LB Matthew Hightower (Sr.), WR/DB Jalen Smith (Sr.)

Biggest holes to fill: The Astros welcome back six returning starters back on defense, but they will feature nearly an entire starting offense with very limited experience.

EDGY's Early Take: Head coach John Rone was able to get the Astros into the  playoffs in his first season in charge of the Shepard program. It was also the fourth straight playoff appearance for the school. The Astros always have plenty on hand in the skills department. But the defense may need to carry a talented —but younger— offense. If the pieces can gel, they can challenge for another IHSA state playoff appearance.

44 Days to Kickoff: Mundelein

44 Days to Kickoff: Mundelein

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Mundelein

Head coach: Vince DeFrancesco

Assistant coaches: Alex Adams, Dave Whitson, Ken Mooney, John Cowhey, Steve Nolte, Brett Wilhelm, Mike Vukovics, Craig Stocker, Stephen Douglas, Alex Miramontes, Cody Gokan, Joe Lendino and Thomas McArthur

How they fared in 2018: 2-7 (1-6 North Suburban Conference). Mundelein failed to qualify for the IHSA state football playoff field.

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 vs Maine West

Sept. 6 @ Grayslake Central

Sept. 13 vs Lake Forest

Sept. 20 vs Waukegan

Sept. 27 @ Zion-Benton

Oct. 4 @ Stevenson

Oct. 11 @ Libertyville

Oct. 18 @ Lake Zurich

Oct. 25 @ Warren Township

Biggest storyline: In addition to Coach DeFrancesco bringing his program-building acumen to the northern suburbs, can the Mustangs win on the road? Their last five regular season games of the year are all away from Mundelein.

Names to watch this season: QB Isaac Wellman (Sr.) and OLB Alex Wing (Jr.)

Biggest holes to fill: The Mustangs welcome back 10 returning starters (three offense, seven defense) but will need to replace their entire starting offensive line group from a season ago. 

EDGY's Early Take: First-year head coach Vince DeFrancesco comes over from Lincoln Park and is looking to get the Mustangs on the winning track. DeFrancesco will take on a daunting schedule; however, this program will play with a ton of energy which has been already evident at various team events and 7-on-7’s this summer.