Preps Talk

Rounding out the Illinois schools' recruiting classes


Rounding out the Illinois schools' recruiting classes

With signing day in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to reflect on which schools made the biggest splash. I chronicled Northwestern, Illinois and Northern Illinois last week. Here is a roundup of some of the other schools in the Land of Lincoln:

Southern Illinois University Class of 2018 Grade: B-

Headliners: Take your pick between two very impressive Fox Valley Conference offensive linemen-- Jacobs guard Jimmy Wormsley or Cary-Grove tackle Brett Groves. Champaign Centennial’s big receiver Jaden Roberts-Thomas (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) could also become a potential difference maker in the Salukis’ passing game. 

Takeaways: SIU inked 27 players to its Class of 2018 ledger, including six D-1 transfers and 20 high school recruits, with 10 out of the 20 high school signees from within Illinois. Head coach Nick Hill continues to make recruiting waves within the state, particularly in the southern part of Illinois.

Illinois State University Class of 2018 Grade: B-

Headliners: St. Charles East’s Clayton Isbell (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) played quarterback for the Saints but will play on the defensive side of the football for the Redbirds. Isbell has great size, length and athleticism and could wind up playing as a safety/outside linebacker or even at defensive end. Also, Guilford defensive back Julian Hainie (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) and Lemont wide receiver Austin Nagel (6-foot-1, 170 pounds) were highly productive players at the high school level and are names to watch here as well. 

Takeaways: Illinois State added 30 names this signing period, combining scholarship and preferred walk-ons. The Redbirds also remained focused on in-state names, adding 12 new players from within Illinois. ISU fared well here despite having to add several new assistant coaches in the middle of the recruiting process. The overall depth of this class is impressive. 

Western Illinois University Class of 2018 Grade: C+

Headliners: WIU was able to add a very strong group here. I really like Providence Catholic defensive back DeShon Gavin (6-foot-0, 180 pounds). Gavin, who played running back for the Celtics in 2017 has all the physical tools to challenge for early playing time. He could thrive in Macomb. Marian Catholic wide receiver Vick Akinyemi (6-foot-2, 210 pounds), physically, already looks like a college-ready player with big time athletic potential. 

Takeaways: First year head coach Jared Elliott took over the football program late in the recruiting cycles after former head coach Charlie Fisher left for an assistant coaching job at Arizona State. Elliott was able to keep his the majority of his coaching staff in place along with his 2018 signing class. WIU also focused on in-state names (nine). The overall talent level with this group is pretty strong. 

Eastern Illinois University Class of 2018 Grade: D

Headliners: Well...with just one in-state signee, Blue Island Eisenhower’s offensive tackle Rashawn Schandon (6-foot-7, 330 pounds), this is a pretty easy choice. Schandon will be a bit of a work in progress but has great size and better-than-you-think mobility for such a big kid. 

Takeaways: EIU and head coach Kim Dameron have been able to win games despite growing financial concerns in Charleston. The same holds true for all in-state football programs. EIU wound up signing 16 names to the 2018 class-- a smaller than usual group. However, to have EIU sign just one in-state name? Undoubtedly, this is a concern and I'm sure it will be to addressed leading up to the next recruiting class. 

NBC Sports Chicago kicks off its extensive coverage of the 2018-19 IHSA season

NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago kicks off its extensive coverage of the 2018-19 IHSA season

Season premiere edition of “High School Lites presented by Wintrust” (hosted by Luke Stuckmeyer) debuts this Friday, August 24 at 11:00 PM CT!

NBC Sports Chicago live stream available on NBCSportsChicago/WatchLive or via the NBC Sports app

Batavia Bulldogs, the defending IHSA Class 7A state champion, to be the featured team this year on the network’s exclusive, behind-the-scenes team spotlight segment “DRIVE”

Fans are urged to follow the @NBCSDrive Twitter handle for the latest Batavia scores, analysis and photos, along with 24/7 state-wide IHSA updates via @NBCSPreps

“Edgy” Tim O’Halloran and Scott Phillips return for their sixth seasons as NBC Sports Chicago’s local preps sports experts

Chicago, IL (August 20, 2018) – NBC Sports Chicago – THE home of the #AuthenticFan and the home of Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Football & Basketball State Championships – is ready to bring its viewers another action-packed season of expert local preps sports coverage, featuring many of the very best student-athletes in the nation. Note the following highlights/details for the upcoming 2018-19 IHSA preps season on NBC Sports Chicago:

HIGH SCHOOL LITES presented by Wintrust (Season premiere – Friday, August 24 at 11:00 PM CT)

Hosted by Luke Stuckmeyer (@LukeStuckmeyer), High School Lites presented by Wintrust continues to be THE weekly destination for all the thrilling highlights from the area’s biggest preps match-ups, along with post-game interviews featuring the area’s top coaches and players. In addition to in-depth video highlights, High School Lites will profile exemplary student-athletes who are excelling on and off the playing surface in High School Lites’ “Wintrust Athlete of The Week” segment, while distinguished teams will be profiled in the show’s “Team of the Week” segment, presented by St. Xavier University.

Continuing this season, High School Lites will offer fans the chance to get interactive with the show by participating in the “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week.” The wildly popular week-long poll will pit three Chicagoland matchups against one another. Fans are encouraged to vote via the network’s year-round dedicated IHSA Twitter handle @NBCSPreps for the game they want NBC Sports Chicago to cover on Friday night. The winning matchup will be profiled in a special segment in the show. In addition, fans will also be given the opportunity to request the game that “Edgy” Tim O’Halloran (football) and Scott Phillips (basketball) cover each Friday night by utilizing the hashtag #SendEdgy and #FollowPhilips, respectively.

NOTES: Every airing of High School Lites will also be live streamed on or via the NBC Sports app…the show shifts to Saturday nights in November to accommodate IHSA Football playoff match-ups…beginning Friday, November 30, High School Lites shifts its key focus to preps basketball.


In every weekly airing of High School Lites this season, preps fans can look forward to a brand new season of its acclaimed, behind-the-scenes, unprecedented all-access feature series entitled, “DRIVE.” This fall’s featured team will be the Batavia Bulldogs, who are coming off an exciting 7A state championship last season. The Bulldogs, who will play in the brand-new, competitive DuKane conference, feature two standout linebackers who have given their college commitments -- Michael Jansey (Northwestern) and Luke Weerts (North Dakota State). The Bulldogs’ season is a special one, as they will be taking on their longtime rival, the Geneva Vikings, in the 100th rendition of the series. Batavia will be seeking their third state championship in the last six years. Every episode of “DRIVE” will be made available for viewing on immediately following its High School Lites on-air debut.


Veteran Illinois high school football sports writer/recruiting authority “Edgy” Tim O’Halloran (@EDGYTIM) returns for his sixth season as a contributing reporter for High School Lites. O’Halloran’s NBC Sports Chicago Preps Power Rankings (@NBCSPreps), players & coaches profiles, and recruiting updates can be found at  In addition, O’Halloran’s content is also featured on’s partner site, Scott Phillips (@phillipshoops) also returns for his sixth season as a contributing reporter for High School Lites and will take center stage this upcoming basketball season. Phillips is also a key contributor to’s “CollegeBasketballTalk.”


Fans are encouraged to get interactive with our NBC Sports Chicago prep sports experts each Wednesday at 12 NOON CT during football and basketball season. For this upcoming football season, “Edgy” Tim O’Halloran and host Joe Collins break down the important topics on the gridiron and set the table on Friday’s games. In basketball season, Scott Phillips and Collins will chronicle the important news on the basketball court. Each segment will be featured live on either NBC Sports Chicago’s “Facebook” page ( or via Periscope @NBCSPreps.


For the seventh-straight year, NBC Sports Chicago and the IHSA will present the IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show LIVE on Saturday, October 20 at 8:00 PM. Brackets will be unveiled as 256 Illinois teams, from 1A to 8A, will find out their first round opponent. This two-hour show will also be streamed live on and the NBC Sports app.


Fans are urged to visit’s dedicated Preps section ( for the latest Preps Power Rankings, Illinois AP rankings, special segment video features, the latest IHSA news, game highlights and recaps, special mid-week segments previewing the upcoming week’s action featuring detailed analytical breakdowns from “Edgy Tim” O’Halloran and Scott Phillips, and much more.


A reminder, social media fans can follow the network’s @NBCSDrive Twitter handle for the latest Batavia scores, highlights, players & coaches interviews, and analysis. Fans can follow the school’s Twitter handle (@BataviaHS), along with the school’s dedicated football Twitter handle (@BataviaFootball) and utilize the hashtag #DriveBatavia. In addition, @NBCSPreps will provide fans with the latest statewide updates throughout the scholastic year, which will include Power Rankings, scores, analysis, and viewer/reader Twitter photos from game day.

NOTE: NBC Sports Chicago will carry the 2018 IHSA Football State Championships on Thanksgiving weekend featuring live coverage of the 1A-4A title games on Friday, November 23, along with the 5A-8A championship battles on Saturday, November 24.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago will also carry the IHSA Boys & Girls State Basketball Championships beginning in February of 2019.  Full details will be announced in the coming weeks.

Power Rankings: #3 - Phillips

Power Rankings: #3 - Phillips 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 July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Phillips

Head coach: Troy McAllister

How they fared in 2017: 14-0 (5-0 CPL Illini Land of Lincoln Conference). Phillips made the 5A state playoff field, defeated Morgan Park, Solorio, Lemont and Sterling. They went on to defeat Dunlap in the state championship game.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 26 @ Pickerington Central (Ohio)

Sept. 1 vs Chaminade (St. Louis) at East St. Louis

Sept. 8 vs Simeon at Gately

Sept. 14 vs Lincoln Park at Mandrake

Sept. 21 vs Morgan Park at Mandrake

Sept. 28 vs Curie at Rockne Stadium

Oct. 6 at Lane Tech

Oct. 12 vs Westinghouse at Mandrake

Oct. 19 vs Raby at Lane Tech

[MORE: 62 Days to Kickoff - Lincoln Park]

Biggest storyline: With the Wildcats moving up to Class 6A, can they claim another state title this November?

Names to watch this season: TE Jahleel Billingsley (Alabama) and WR/S Fabian McCray (Illinois)

Biggest holes to fill: The Wildcats will need to replace quite a bit of offensive production, due to the graduation losses of QB J'Bore Gibbs (South Dakota State) and RB Craig Elmore (Kent State).

EDGY's Early Take: No one can ever accuse Phillips and/or head coach Troy McAllister of avoiding any challenges.  The Wildcats will again play "up" in competition, going from Class 5A to 6A this season. They also will play some national powers in Pickerington Central (Ohio) right out of the gate on live TB. The following week, they take on St. Louis-area power Chaminade. That game will be in East St. Louis at the annual Scholar Classic Showdown. As far as the roster is concerned, Phillips is stacked once again with FBS-level talent. If they feel that they have found answers over the summer at a few key spots, they have all the potential to play with --and beat-- any team in Illinois on any given day, regardless of class.