EDGY Tim: Four top Illinois recruits announce where they'll play in 2021

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AP

EDGY Tim: Four top Illinois recruits announce where they'll play in 2021

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, college football recruiting has been on fire over the past few weeks.

So far this weekend, four ranked names in Chicagoland’s Class of 2021 gave verbal commitments. 

University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh added another local name to the Wolverines’ upcoming ‘21 recruiting class. Bolingbrook’s three-star ranked OLB, Tyler McLaurin (6-foot-3, 215 pounds), gave the Wolverines his verbal commitment on Saturday. McLaurin, who narrowed down his final list of schools to Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa State, Texas Tech and Nebraska, pointed to Michigan’s strong academics in his field of study (computer sciences), along with playing for a consistent Top 25 nationally-ranked football program. McLaurin is the 13th known verbal commitment for Michigan in the Class of 2021 and joins Nazareth Academy's four-star ranked QB, J.J. McCarthy, in heading to Ann Arbor from the State of Illinois. According to Rivals.com's Team Recruiting Rankings, Michigan currently has the sixth best recruiting class in the nation. 

On Saturday afternoon, Hillcrest's three-star ranked running back, Markiese Irving (5-foot-11, 175 pounds), gave Minnesota his verbal commitment. Irving, a multi-sport athlete for the Hawks, kept his recruiting process close to the vest but selected the Gophers after landing several offers from the likes of Illinois, Iowa and Michigan State. Irving is the 16th verbal commitment in the Gophers' Class of 2021, which is currently ranked by Rivals.com as the seventh best recruiting class in the nation. Irving is one of several Illinois natives already committed to head coach PJ Fleck. He joins Antioch QB Athan Kaliakmanis, his brother WR Dino Kaliakmanis, Providence Catholic TE Jameson Geers and Naperville Central's Sam Jackson as Gopher recruits from the Land of Lincoln.

On Sunday, Chicago Mount Carmel's three-star ranked safety, Ben Perry (6-foot-3, 190 pounds), gave Louisville his verbal commitment in a live announcement on Instagram. Perry, whose list of top schools included Cincinnati, Illinois, Iowa State, Louisville, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern, reportedly narrowed down his list to either Louisville or Minnesota. 

Also on Sunday, Brother Rice's three-star ranked running back, Willie Shaw III (5-foot-11, 186 pounds), gave the University of Toledo his verbal commitment. Shaw III’s decision came down to three schools: the Rockets, Illinois and Nebraska. Shaw cited a strong bond and connection with Toledo staff as the main factor in his selection.

Jameson Geers commit to Minnesota

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Jameson Geers commit to Minnesota

Providence Catholic’s three-star ranked tight end Jameson Geers (6-foot-5, 225 pounds) decided to give Minnesota a verbal commitment on Thursday—another local name headed to play for coach P.J. Fleck.

"I love their culture (at Minnesota) and I feel like it's an amazing fit for me,"  Geers said. "I'm just very excited about my decision."

Geers also discussed why he decided to make his college decision this early in his recruiting process, as he won't be able to sign a Letter of Intent until December. 

"I just really felt the time was right for me. I didn't need to wait any longer since I feel that Minnesota is the best fit for me."

Geers chose Minnesota after receiving 18 FBS-level verbal scholarship offers which included offers from Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Purdue, and West Virginia. 

Geers is now the fifth known verbal commitment in the Gophers’ Class of 2021 and the third committee from Illinois to play for the Golden Gophers. Geers joins Antioch junior QB Athan Kaliakmanis and his brother junior WR Dino Kaliakmanis as recruits from the Land of Lincoln who are verbally committed so far to Minnesota in the Class of 2021. 

Illini play freshman quarterback Cam Thomas for first time, but still fall at Minnesota

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USA TODAY

Illini play freshman quarterback Cam Thomas for first time, but still fall at Minnesota

While Saturday's trip to the Twin Cities featured some more of the same for the Fighting Illini, it marked important step in Lovie Smith's rebuilding project.

Freshman quarterback Cam Thomas, a Marian Catholic product, saw action for the first time in his collegiate career, Smith busting out a new option at the game's most important position. Thomas threw a nasty pick six, but he did lead Illinois in rushing in a 24-17 loss at Minnesota.

Thomas only made four throws, completing two of them and landing a third in the hands of a Minnesota defender, but his play injected a bit of excitement into what's looking like another dreadful season of Illinois football, with Smith's team falling to 2-5 through the first seven games of his second season at the helm of the program. Thomas mostly starred with his feet Saturday, rushing for a team-high 79 yards in the defeat.

His first appearance came following the first of the Illinois' defense's three takeaways. Thomas ran for a nine-yard gain on his first carry, and the Illini tied the game with a touchdown on the next play. Thomas was interchanged with starting quarterback Jeff George Jr. from there on out.

While the Illini defense kept the Gophers at bay for much of the day thanks to those three takeaways, P.J. Fleck's team had no trouble racking up rushing yardage, finishing with a whopping 292 rushing yards. Minnesota engineered a 12-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter exclusively running the ball to break a 10-all tie and go up 17-10.

Thomas threw a pick six on the very next play from scrimmage, sending the Gophers up 24-10 to effectively seal the deal. George led an Illinois touchdown drive on the next possession, but the Illini couldn't make up the suddenly big gap in the limited amount of time.

Illinois finished with only 282 yards of offense. George was 18-for-23 for 128 yards and a touchdown. Ra'Von Bonner carried the ball 18 times for 57 yards and a touchdown.

The defeat dropped the Illini to 2-5 on the season and 0-4 in conference play. One of just two teams without a Big Ten win (Indiana is the other), Illinois faces off against a top-10 Wisconsin team next weekend.