Wednesday is National Signing Day as high school football players from the Class of 2017 sign letters of intent. Here is an early preview of what to expect in Illinois and nationwide:
How will the Class of 2017 shape up compared to previous in-state recruiting classes?
It will be considered a very strong overall class based off recent history. Heading into the week, I identified 76 players who are expected to sign FBS letters of intent. This would be the highest amount since the Class of 2005 (80 FBS scholarships). There are also 30-40 players expected to sign FCS letters of intent. It will place the class with over 100 DI scholarships, well above the 10 year average.
Top 5 local recruits for the Class of 2017?
1. AJ Epenesa (DE) Edwardsville
Epenesa (6-foot-5, 270 pounds) has been verbally committed to Iowa since Jan. 2016 and is also the son of former Hawkeye lineman Eppy Epenesa. Obviously, Iowa had a relatively easy time recruiting and landing him.
2. Jeff Thomas (WR), East St. Louis
Thomas (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) has been a major impact player for head coach Darren Sunkett's 7A state champion Flyers since his freshman season.
3. Isaiah Robertson (S), Neuqua Valley
Robertson (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) is committed to Notre Dame and already enrolled in classes in South Bend.
4. Kevin Jarvis (OG), Maine South
Jarvis (6-foot-5, 315 pounds) is committed to Michigan State. Jarvis showed his overall talent and versatility in 2017 by helping lead Maine South to the Class 8A state title. Jarvis was an impact player for the Hawks on both sides of the line, a rarity at the 8A level.
5. Cole Kmet (TE), St. Viator
Kmet (6-foot-6, 240 pounds) rounds out the list. He is another Notre Dame commit who has all the tools that colleges look for in an elite tight end.
Are there any top ranked recruits that will wait until National Signing Day to reveal their college choice?
All eyes will be on East St. Louis Wednesday morning. Thomas will make his college choice known via a national TV audience. The announcement is tentatively set for 9:00 a.m. Last week, Thomas narrowed down his Top 3 schools to Miami (FL), Oregon and Louisville. My best guess? Thomas will commit to the Hurricanes.
When it comes to statewide talent, which positions are considered a strength?
Defensive linemen. Not too long ago, Illinois was known as a stronghold for big offensive tackles. However, over the past few years defensive linemen have taken center stage. Out of the soon-to-be-released EdgyTim.com Top 100 rankings for the Class of 2017, 22 defensive linemen made the cut. It is the largest amount of any position in the class. Offensive linemen, wide receivers and linebackers all feature at least 15 or more recruits in my Top 100.
Which position is considered a weakness in Illinois?
Quarterbacks. In the aforementioned Top 100 rankings, only four quarterbacks made the cut. No quarterbacks made the Top 20. A handful of quarterbacks will ink FCS letters of intent and the rest will fill up several NAIA/DIII rosters in 2017. It's been awhile since we've had a surplus of recruits receive FBS scholarships. However, the Class of 2018 seems to show more promise than this current group at this same stage a year ago.
Which schools will have a good National Signing Day in regards to landing students from Illinois?
I feel that Illinois did pretty well with in-state recruiting. They've landed some impact players who have a solid chance to make an immediate contribution. I also feel that Northern Illinois did well and might have landed one of their better overall in-state classes in years. I was also impressed with Iowa, Wyoming, the service academies (Army/Navy/Air Force) and also Yale. Seriously ...Yale? Yes, the Bulldogs pulled standout Marist linebacker Micah Awodiran away from several Power 5 schools. Yale also added former Iowa State commit in offensive lineman Tyler Jost.
Work to do
While hundreds of recruits will sign letters of intent on Wednesday, several still have to get going in the classroom. I know of at least 5-7 players from my Illinois Top 25 who are — at best — borderline academic qualifiers and/or need post very strong spring semesters to clear various college admissions departments.
*I will have more in-depth looks and breakdowns of all in-state FBS and FCS college recruiting classes later this week.*