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Seven Illinois products in nation's top 100

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Seven Illinois products in nation's top 100

The class of 2013 is being touted as perhaps the most talented group of football players produced in Illinois since 1986, according to longtime recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network.

Seven Illinois products are ranked among the top 100 senior prospects in the nation with two or three other players capable of earning a spot by the end of the 2012 season. And Joliet Catholic's Ty Isaac is the top-rated running back of all.

In fact, it's the most Illinois players to earn top 100 recognition in more than a decade. And Isaac is only one of three Illinois products to be ranked among the top 100 since St. Rita linebacker John Foley was No. 1 in 1985. Isaac joins Niles West's Rashard Mendenhall and Proviso West's Kyle Prater on the elite list.

"It looks like a better year than last year," Lemming said. "Most positions are solid. Last year was weak at linebacker and tight end, average at defensive back. But all positions are stocked this year. You can find talent if you are looking for it."

Specifically, Lemming said talent in the Midwest is average except for the Chicago area and Ohio. "It's a very good year in Illinois, not only in the Chicago area but also the East St. Louis and Peoria areas. And there are as many good offensive linemen as anywhere in the country."

Robert Nkemdiche, a defensive end from Loganville, Georgia, is universally regarded as the No. 1 player in the nation. He has 15 scholarship offers and is expected to choose Alabama over USC, LSU, Florida, Georgia and Auburn.

Interestingly, four of the top six prospects are already committed.

Quarterback Max Browne of Sammamish, Wash., is headed for USC, linebacker Rueben Foster of La Grange, Georgia, has chosen Alabama, quarterback Tyrone Swoopes of Whitewright, Texas, is committed to Texas and wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones of Sealy, Texas, will also attend Texas.

Linebacker Su'a Cravens of Vista Murrieta, California, has 30 offers, including Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas, Stanford, UCLA and USC.

Offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil of Lake City, Florida, has 20 offers, including Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Miami, USC, LSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas, Illinois and Michigan.

In fact, 14 of the top 20 players in the nation have made oral commitments, altering a past trend in which the most elite prospects usually waited until a week or two prior to the national signing day in February before announcing a decision.

What it says is the rich continue to get richer, the elite programs continue to dominate the recruiting sweepstakes and the most talented high school players want to play for winners or traditional powers rather than opt for a program that is rebuilding or struggling.

"As in basketball, the best football players want to play for the best programs, the most successful programs, the ones that will give them a chance to play for a national championship and best prepare them for a career in the NFL," Lemming said.

Texas got Browne, Swoopes, Seals-Jones and offensive lineman Darius James of Harker Heights, Texas. Florida got wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood of Jacksonville, Fla., and running back Kelvin Taylor of Belle Glade, Fla. Alabama got Foster and wide receiver O.J. Howard of Prattville, Ala.

USC got defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow of Elkton, Maryland. Oregon got running back Thomas Tyner of Beaverton, Oregon. Georgia got running back Derrick Henry of Yulee, Fla. Auburn got defensive tackle Dee Liner of Muscle Shoals, Ala. Penn State got tight end Adam Breneman of Camp Hill, Pa. And South Carolina got offensive lineman D.J. Park of Dillon, S.C.

Isaac, who is ranked No. 8 in the nation, has 21 offers, including Ohio State, USC, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Auburn, Clemson, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Northwestern.

Other Illinois products on Lemming's elite list are wide receiver LaQuon Treadwell (30) of Crete-Monee, offensive tackle Ethan Pocic (48) of Lemont, offensive tackle Logan Tuley-Tillman (50) of Peoria Manual, quarterback Aaron Bailey (72) of Bolingbrook, offensive tackle Colin McGovern (75) of Lincoln-Way West and offensive tackle Kyle Bosch (89) of Wheaton St. Francis.

Treadwell has 18 offers, including Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma, USC, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska.

Pocic, whose brother plays at Illinois, has 10 offers, including Ohio State, Michigan, USC, Florida, Auburn, Illinois and Michigan.

Tuley-Tillman and Bosch have committed to Michigan while McGovern has committed to Notre Dame.

Bailey, who led Bolingbrook to the Class 8A championship last year, has 13 offers, including Illinois, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Wisconsin.

Three players who could crash the top 100 are Northwestern-bound quarterback Matt Alviti of Maine South, defensive end Josh Augusta of Peoria Central and Illinois-bound running back Kendrick Foster of Peoria Richwoods.

TOM LEMMING'S TOP 100 FOR 2012

No. Player, Hometown Pos. Ht. Wt.
1. Robert Nkemdiche, Loganville, Ga. DE 6-4 270
2. Max Browne, Sammamish, Wash. QB 6-5 205
3. Reuben Foster, La Grange, Ga. LB 6-2 242
4. Tyrone Swoopes, Whitewright, Texas QB 6-5 220
5. Su'a Cravens, Vista Murrieta, Calif. LB 6-1 205
6. Ricky Seals-Jones, Sealy, Texas WR 6-6 215
7. Laremy Tunsil, Lake City, Fla. OL 6-6 278
8. Ty Isaac, Joliet (Catholic), Ill. RB 6-2 220
9. Ahmad Fulwood,, Jacksonville, Fla. WR 6-4 200
10. Thomas Tyner, Beaverton, Oregon RB 6-0 205
11. Derrick Henry, Yulee, Fla. RB 6-3 240
12. O.J. Howard, Prattville, Ala. WR 6-5 225
13. Adam Breneman, Camp Hill, Pa. TE 6-5 225
14. Kelvin Taylor, Belle Glade, Fla. RB 5-11 210
15. Robert Foster, Monaca, Pa. WR 6-2 180
16. D.J. Park, Dillon, S.C. OL 6-6 315
17. Kenny Bigelow, Elkton, Maryland DL 6-3 275
18. Marquez North, Charlotte, N.C. WR 6-3 210
19. Dee Liner, Muscle Shoals, Ala. DT 6-4 258
20. Darius James, Harker Heights, Texas OL 6-6 320
21. Tim Williams, Baton Rouge, La. LB 6-4 228
22. E.J. Levenberry, Woodbridge, Va. LB 6-3 220
23. Shane Morris, Warren, Mich. QB 6-3 190
24. Antonio Conner, Batesville, Miss. DB 6-0 190
25. Henry Poggi, Baltimore, Maryland DL 6-4 255
26. Tray Matthews, Newnan, Ga. DB 6-2 200
27. Tramel Terry, Goose Creek, S.C. WR 6-0 190
28. Leon McQuay, Seffner, Fla. DB 6-1 180
29. Vernon Hargreaves, Tampa, Fla. DB 5-11 186
30. LaQuon Treadwell, Crete-Monee, Ill. WR 6-3 190
31. Greg Bryant, Del Ray Beach, Fla. RB 5-10 200
32. Cody Thomas, Colleyville, Texas QB 6-5 215
33. Pegter Kalambayi, Matthews, N.C. LB 6-3 230
34. Jalin Marshall, Middletown, Ohio QB 6-0 198
35. Jaylon Smith, Fort Wayne, Ind. LB 6-3 217
36. Jonathan Allen, Ashburn, Va. DL 6-3 230
37. Kevin Olsen, Wayne Hills, N.J. QB 6-3 200
38. Montravius Adams, Vienna, Ga. DT 6-4 285
39. James Hearns, Tallahassee, Fla. LB 6-3 235
40. Cam Burrows, Trotwood, Ohio DB 6-1 196
41. Matt Thomas, Miami, Fla. LB 6-4 197
42. Kendall Fuller, Olney, Maryland DB 6-0 175
43. Derrick Green, Richmond, Va. RB 6-0 215
44. James Quick, Louisville, Ky. WR 6-0 180
45. Marcell Harris, Orlando, Fla. DB 6-2 200
46. Altee Tenpenny, North Little Rock, Ark. RB 5-11 200
47. Trey Johnson, Lawrenceville, Ga. LB 6-1 218
48. Ethan Pocic, Lemont, Ill. OL 6-6 295
49. Larenz Bryant, Charlotte, N.C. LB 6-1 213
50. Logan Tuley-Tillman, Peoria (Manual), Ill. OL 6-7 304
51. Chans Cox, Pinetop, Arizona LB 6-3 225
52. Hunter Henry, Little Rock, Ark. TE 6-6 235
53. D.J. Ward, Lawton, Okla. DE 6-4 238
54. Jake Raulerson, Celina, Texas OL 6-5 250
55. Bryce Ramsey, Kingsland, Ga. QB 6-4 205
56. Jon McCrary, Ellenwood, Ga. QB 6-4 195
57. Elijah Daniels, Avon, Ind. DL 6-3 253
58. Antwuan Davis, Bastrop, Texas CB 6-3 180
59. ArDarius Stewart, Fultondale, Ala. RB 6-3 190
60. Demarcus Robinson, Fort Valley, Ga. WR 6-2 200
61. Isaac Rochell, McDonough, Ga. DE 6-5 255
62. Torrodney Prevot, Alief, Texas LB 6-4 217
63. Michael McCray, Trotwood, Ohio LB 6-3 235
64. Christian Hackenberg, Fork Union, Va. QB 6-4 215
65. Isaac Savaiineaea, Honolulu, Hawaii LB 6-3 235
66. Ryan Burns, Ashburn, Va. QB 6-5 225
67. Joey Bosa, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. DE 6-4 255
68. Desean Smith, Lake Charles, La. TE 6-5 230
69. Priest Willis, Tempe, Arizona DB 6-2 208
70. A'Shawn Robinson, Arlington Heights, Texas DL 6-5 285
71. Joe Fennell, South Fort Myers, Fla. OL 6-4 312
72. Aaron Bailey, Bolingbrook, Ill. QB 6-2 215
73. Bucky Hodges, Virginia Beach, Va. QB 6-6 235
74. Steve Elmer, Midland, Mich. OL 6-5 300
75. Colin McGovern, New Lenox, Ill. OL 6-7 285
76. Derrick Griffin, Rosenberg, Texas WR 6-6 210
77. Kent Perkins, Dallas, Texas OL 6-6 287
78. David Dawson, Detroit, Mich. OL 6-5 290
79. Tyren Jones Marietta, Ga. RB 5-9 195
80. Carlis Parker, Statesville, N.C. QB 6-4 185
81. Ezekiel Elliott, St. Louis, Mo. DB 6-0 205
82. Taj Williams, Tallahassee, Fla. DB 6-4 187
83. Rod Crayton, Dadeville, Ala. DL 6-1 295
84. Grant Hill, Huntsville, Ala. OL 6-5 315
85. Cooper Bateman, Salt Lake City, Utah QB 6-3 195
86. J.T. Barnett, Wichita Falls, Texas QB 6-2 205
87. Chris Fox, Parker, Colorado OL 6-5 295
88. Ryan Green, St. Petersburg, Fla. RB 5-10 190
89. Kyle Bosch, Wheaton (St. Francis), Ill. OL 6-4 275
90. Greg Gilmore, Hope Mills, N.C. DT 6-4 272
91. Marcus Farria, Peoria, Arizona DL 6-5 245
92. Rashad Kinlaw, Galloway, N.J. DB 6-0 175
93. Taquan Mizzell, Virginia Beach, Va. RB 5-10 180
94. Reeve Koehler, Honolulu, Hawaii OL 6-3 300
95. Uriah LeMay, Matthews, N.C. WR 6-2 195
96. Courtney Love, Youngstown, Ohio LB 6-2 228
97. Cord Sandberg, Bradenton, Fla. QB 6-2 205
98. Keenon Johnson, Kannapolis, N.C. WR 6-3 200
99. Troy Williams, Harbor City, Calif. QB 6-1 185
100. Kenneth Santa Marina, New Orleans, La. OL 6-6 328

Six thoughts on Blackhawks-Penguins trade involving Olli Maatta and what's next

Six thoughts on Blackhawks-Penguins trade involving Olli Maatta and what's next

Here are six thoughts on Saturday's trade that centered around the Blackhawks acquiring defenseman Olli Maatta from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for forward Dominik Kahun and a 2019 fifth-round pick:

1. What Maatta brings to the table

It's no secret that the Blackhawks' biggest weakness in 2018-19 was the defensive inefficiencies. They allowed the second-most goals per game (3.55) and and most high-danger chances per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 (13.7), and the blue line group was a big reason for that.

So Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman tried getting out in front of the trade market by acquiring Maatta, who's a defensive-minded defenseman and logged more than 120 minutes on the penalty kill last season, which would've ranked third among Blackhawks defensemen. And he played in only 60 games. Expect Maatta to play a large role in that department for the Blackhawks, who finished tied for the worst penalty kill percentage in 30 years.

Maatta doesn't provide much on offense and skating is considered to be a real concern, but his defensive metrics are strong. According to The Point, Maatta ranked ninth among NHL defensemen in blocked shots per game (2.05), 26th in defensive zone puck battles won (2.45), 40th in blocked defense zone passes (3.77) and 47th in outlet passes (8.95). 

"There's a lot of things to like about Olli Maatta," Bowman said on a Sunday morning conference call. "Certainly his strength in the last few seasons has been his ability to be a good, reliable defender. He's got good size, he's not necessarily a bruising defenseman, but I like the fact he's got an active stick. He's good at using his body to shield the front of the net. And I think he's shown the ability to be used in several different situations over the past few years for Pittsburgh. They have some high-end offensive players there, so he didn't really get the power-play minutes. He was probably more used as a penalty killer and that's something that we certainly want to improve next year.

"There's a variety of ways to go about that, and certainly bringing in some players that have shown the ability to do that is one way to accomplish our goal. I just like his all-round game. Good instincts with the puck. He finds the open man. Can move it quick, move it up to the forwards. The biggest thing is just his ability to play a sound, defensive game and I think that's important. That's one aspect that we weren't strong in last year and I think he's going to give us that ability to match up against players. With his pedigree — he's a young guy, but to have already played over 300 games and almost 70 playoff games and a couple Stanley Cups — there's an experience level that he has at a young age and I think he's going to fit in real nicely with our group."

2. Injury history

The one other area of concern on Maatta is his inability to stay healthy. He just finished his sixth season in the NHL, but he's played a full 82 games in only one of them. His injury history includes concussion, hand, hip and most recently shoulder. He also had a health scare in 2014 when he underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his thyroid.

Whether or not the accumulation of those injuries has played a role in his overall progression is unclear, but the Blackhawks aren't worried about it. 

"I would say that’s part of being a hockey player, is it’s not that uncommon for guys to get hurt," Bowman said. "It’s a contact sport. And he’s missed some time, but I don’t think he’s had an unusual number of injuries. Pittsburgh was very forthright in everything, we certainly were able to check out all those things. There’s no long-term implications of the injuries. They healed up, he’s fine. From that perspective, it wasn’t a big issue. If it was the same injury year after year, I guess you might have a concern. But it wasn’t necessarily the case. As a result, that wasn’t a big stumbling block in the trade."

3. What went wrong last season?

One year after tying a career-high with 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 82 games, Maatta had a difficult time matching that production this past season. He scored only one goal and had 13 assists in 60 games. Obviously, a shoulder injury sidelined him for six weeks in February and March, but he struggled to find his groove upon returning.

Maatta played in Game 1 of the first round against the New York Islanders, but admitted he "had a bad Game 1" after having a minus-2 rating and found himself watching from the press box in the final three games as the Penguins were swept. Maatta took ownership of his play and hopes a fresh start in Chicago will benefit him.

"Obviously I wasn't happy," Maatta said. "I'm not going to say it was a terrible season, but I knew I can be way better than I played last season. I don't think I was able to do defensively as much as I wanted this year. I don't think it was a terrible season defensively or anything like that, but I expect way more from myself offensively than I had last season.

"I think [Chicago is] a new opportunity, that's how you have to look at it, and I'm just trying to better myself through that way."

4. Trading from a position of strength

Every team looking for a top-four defenseman has to explore the trade market to acquire one because there just aren't many available via free agency. And the ones that are unrestricted on July 1 will cost a lot, both in term and dollar value, which is fine, but there's no guarantee because bidding wars ensue on the open market and it's all about the players' preference.

With Dominik Kubalik and Swedish forward Anton Wedin signing entry-level contracts and expected to battle for an Opening Day roster spot, the Blackhawks knew they had a surplus of secondary forwards and used Dominik Kahun to fill a need elsewhere. And it was important for the Blackhawks not to subtract too much from the current roster or pipeline to do it.

"The strength of our team now is we got a lot of depth on the wing," Bowman said. "Looking at some of our young players that are getting ready to take on a bigger role, you can look at guys like Dylan Sikura. He didn't have the offensive success at the NHL level but I liked the way he played when he was with us last year in Chicago. It felt like his game was real effective other than the production part. Then when he was in Rockford I really liked the way he was able to score down there. So I think he's not far from being a guy and he's got sort of a similar skill set that Dominik (Kahun) has.

"We have a couple new players coming in from Europe in Anton Wedin and Dominik Kubalik. There's three young players that didn't play on our team last year very much and I think they're all ready to take a spot. So I feel like we had the ability to make a move there without damaging our team. ... We were sort of dealing from a position of strength which made it a very comfortable deal from our perspective. It's hard to acquire young defensemen. You look around the league and there's not a lot of them available and then when they are you usually got to pay a premium for somebody who's under contract or there's a manageable number. We like the way this played out for us."

5. Contract situation

Maatta agreed to a six-year, $24.5 million extension with the Penguins in 2016. He has three years left on that contract, which carries a $4.083 million cap hit. He's now the third-highest paid defenseman on the Blackhawks, surpassing Connor Murphy ($3.85 million cap hit) but staying under Duncan Keith ($5.538 million) and Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million).

When Maatta signed his contract, it included a modified no-trade clause in the final two years, according to Cap Friendly. Because he was traded prior to the NTC taking effect, the Blackhawks will have the option to either honor that clause or nullify it.

We saw a similiar situation play out when P.K. Subban was traded from Montreal to Nashville in 2016. Subban's eight-year deal with the Canadiens began during the 2014-15 season. He had a no-movement clause that was supposed to kick in on July 1 ahead of the 2016-17 season, but the Canadiens traded Subban on June 29 — two days before the start of the new calendar year. The Predators did not honor his NMC, respectfully.

6. What's next?

Before making the trade on Saturday, it was reported that the Blackhawks were interested in landing a top-four defenseman. Maatta has played top-four minutes in the past and did so, most notably, during the Penguins' back-to-back Stanley Cup runs in 2016 and 2017, but he's probably better suited as the No. 4 or in a third-pairing role.

The question for the Blackhawks now is whether the Maatta acquisition is just the beginning of more moves to come or whether they're satisified that they've filled their big need on the back end. Bowman has been widely known to be a GM that constantly works the phones, so he certainly isn't done looking.

"We're going to keep looking for ways to improve our team, not just the defense but I'm not setting that aside either," Bowman said. "Right now we're focused more on the trade market just because the free-agent market doesn't open up for another week until you can start talking to agents. But I think we want to find some new players for our team — whether that's through trades or free agency, it doesn't matter too much. It's really important to look at both. But right now the trade chatter has been pretty active throughout the league.

"I've had a number of conversations and I expect that to continue over the next week. This is the time of year where there's a lot of player movement with the draft and July 1st on the horizon. We're going to continue to look into other ways to improve our team through trades, and if none of that comes to be, then we'll look at the free-agent market. We expect to be active. That's our job. My job is to make a lot of calls and find out what options we have to bring in some new players. So this is a great start. We're a week out from the draft here and we've already improved our defense in a big way. We're going to keep looking at other ways to improve our defense and the rest of our team. So from that perspective, I expect it to be active over the next couple weeks."

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75 Days to Kickoff: St. Ignatius

75 Days to Kickoff: St. Ignatius

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: St. Ignatius College Prep

Head coach: Matt Miller

Assistant coaches: Charlie Dowdl, Alex Carric, Dan Bunne, Mike Mille, David Hidalg, Michael Whela, Doug Bartlet, Bill Stritzel and Ben Wade

How they fared in 2018: 6-5 (3-1 CCL Red Conference). St. Ignatius made the Class 6A state playoff field and lost to Notre Dame in opening round action.

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 vs Lindblom
Sept. 6 @ Ridgewood
Sept. 13 @ Benet Academy
Sept. 20 @ Marmion Academy
Sept. 27 vs Loyola
Oct. 4 vs Joliet Catholic
Oct. 11 vs Marian Central Catholic
Oct. 18 @ Marian Catholic
Oct. 25 vs Fenwick

[MORE: 84 Days to Kickoff - Marmion Academy]

Biggest storyline: The schedule. Can the Wolfpack get back to the state playoffs? The upgraded/combined ESCC-CCL regular season schedule should be intriguing.

Names to watch this season: LB Declan Callahan (Sr.), OL/DL Mofolarin Walter-Johnson (Sr.), LB/DE Elijah Williams (Sr.)  

Biggest holes to fill: The Wolfpack graduated nine starters this past spring on the offensive side of the football. 

EDGY's Early Take: St. Ignatius has had a strong run of late, having made the IHSA state playoffs in the past four seasons. They won seven games in 2018, five via the shutout and they gave Loyola all they could handle. But the combination of the ESCC/CCL conferences has undoubtedly ramped up the Wolfpacks' schedule this fall. It features games with the likes of Benet, JCA, Loyola and Marian Central Catholic. If St. Ignatius can reload a bit (on offense in particular), they will have a good chance to compete for a fifth straight IHSA state playoff appearance.