What we learned on Signing Day for Class of 2017 in Illinois

What we learned on Signing Day for Class of 2017 in Illinois

The Class of 2017 in the State of Illinois was a good, blue collar roster builder group. While the Class of 2017 had just a handful of highly ranked names this in-state class overall was also a very good and deep class overall. The defensive linemen, offensive linemen and wide receivers remained the deepest positions in this class. 

East St. Louis standout wide receiver is heading to the U. East St. Louis four-star ranked wide receiver Jeff Thomas (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) made his college choice known on live national television, pledging to the University of Miami. Thomas seems to lock in on the Hurricanes after his late January official visit and remained the consensus team to beat.

Illinois and head coach Lovie Smith had a good day. The Fighting Illini had a strong Class of 2017 especially from an in-state perspective. The Illinois class included eight players from the home state led by Brother Rice four-star ranked wide receiver Ricky Smalling. The Fighting Illini added much needed depth in a handful of key spots and the group as a whole is at a much higher talent level compared to the past few classes.

Northern Illinois also fared well. The Huskies also added some nice talent in state in this Class of 2017 group. Homewood-Flossmoor senior wide receiver Ty Richie (6-foot-2, 19-0 pounds) is a potential game breaker while St. Charles North offensive tackle Isaac Hawn (6-foot-6, 280 pounds) could contribute early. Immaculate Conception three-star ranked running back Jordan Rowell (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) decommitted from the Huskies earlier this summer but eventually found his way back to DeKalb.

Northwestern? The Wildcats Class of 2017 was limited to two in-state scholarship players and three preferred walk-ons out of Northwestern's 26 name recruiting class. A concern? No. The Wildcats in-state scope was very limited due to the very low amount of high profiles names who could pass Northwestern admissions, and the Wildcats staff knew this at this same time last year. Several names who signed letters of intent today across the State of Illinois Class of 2017 are by no means a lock to wind up clearing admissions. 

Grades do matter. While several names have struggled with academic issues, a handful of names in-state Class of 2017 passed up "bigger" level scholarship offers instead "settling" on schools that fit better academically. Marist three-star ranked linebacker Micah Awodiran will attend Yale in the fall and turning away 29 combined FBS and FCS offers. Montini Catholic defensive tackle Joe Spivak accepted a preferred walk-on spot from Northwestern, his dream school. Spivak, who had 19 combined FBS and FCS level offers, also received a last minute full scholarship offer from Michigan State. Spivak, whose father Joe was also a walk-up at Illinois State and a two-time All American for the Redbirds decided to keep his commitment to Northwestern. And Libertyville two-star ranked offensive tackle Tyler Jost, who drew nearly 20 offers before deciding to commit to Yale. 

Best name ever? Illinois State drew national attention today as the Redbirds inked Lawrence, Kansas offensive tackle Koby Buffalomeat (6-foot-7, 285 pounds). Buffalomeat was one of seven total Illinois State offensive linemen recruits signed Wednesday.

The newest Illini: Lovie Smith announces impressive 2017 recruiting class

The newest Illini: Lovie Smith announces impressive 2017 recruiting class

The Lovie Effect? Well, it seems to be working for Illinois.

Smith announced his first recruiting class since taking over as the Fighting Illini head coach last spring, and it's nothing to shake a stick at, ranked 11th in the Big Ten and 47th in the country by Rivals.

No it's not the caliber of Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State — or Maryland's surprisingly fantastic haul — but for a program that's wallowed at the bottom of the Big Ten for years, Smith's first showing on the recruiting trail should have Illinois fans and observers handing out praise.

The headliners are a trio of four-star recruits: Brother Rice wide receiver Ricky Smalling and two Miami natives and high school teammates in wide receiver Carmoni Green and defensive end Owen Carney. Those four-star ratings per Rivals.

Smalling was ranked as a top-50 wideout in this year's class and the No. 6 player in the state of Illinois, while Green was the No. 53 wide receiver in the country and Carney was the 15th-ranked player at his position.

Three other players in Smith's class received four-star ratings from other services: Peoria defensive lineman Kendrick Green, St. Louis offensive lineman Larry Boyd and graduate transfer linebacker Del'Shawn Phillips.

One of the highest-profile names of this class, quarterback Dwayne Lawson, didn't sign on National Signing Day, causing some consternation on social media. Lawson, a former Virginia Tech Hokie and graduate transfer who announced his commitment to Smith and Illinois in early December, is "working through academic issues," according to a report from the Tribune's Shannon Ryan.

Lawson has a three-star rating from Rivals now, but he was a four-star recruit when he picked Virginia Tech back in 2015. His commitment was cause for celebration among Illinois faithful, not only because of his talent but because of the huge question mark at the quarterback position heading into the 2017 season. The graduation of Wes Lunt leaves Chayce Crouch and Jeff George Jr. as the holdover options, making Lawson a prime candidate for the starting job.

Including Smalling and Kendrick Green, Smith recruited 10 players from Illinois: St. Rita linebacker Mark Mondesir, Belleville defensive back Tony Adams, Rockford offensive lineman Vederian Lowe, Huntley defensive lineman Lere Oladipo, East St. Louis quarterback James Knight, Marion Catholic quarterback Cameron Thomas, Bolingbrook wide receiver Kendall Smith and Mount Prospect offensive lineman Alex Palczewski.

In the end, five of the top-20 players in the state and seven of the top 30 chose the Illini.

Michigan State recruit didn't sign on National Signing Day because he's in jail


Michigan State recruit didn't sign on National Signing Day because he's in jail

One of the biggest pieces of Mark Dantonio's 2017 recruiting class isn't a part of it quite yet.

Donovan Winter, a three-star defensive lineman from Orlando, didn't sign on National Signing Day after he was arrested and charged with burglary and larceny of a firearm.

Per the Orlando Sentinel, Winter is still in Seminole County jail. The paper also reported that Winter is no longer a student at his high school.

Winter is the No. 50 player at his position, per Rivals and one of the higher-ranked players in Michigan State's class, which the site ranked sixth in the Big Ten and 32nd in the country.

None of this means Winter won't end up with Michigan State, as National Letters of Intent aren't due till April 1.

But this is an all too familiar situation for Dantonio and the Spartans, who have been through plenty of National Signing Day drama in recent years.

Last year, four-star defensive lineman Auston Robertson didn't sign on National Signing Day because of a misdemeanor charge. And you might remember the chaos created when Malik McDowell's parents wouldn't let him submit his National Letter of Intent to play for the Spartans.

So just add this latest hold up to what is unfortunately becoming a National Signing Day tradition for Dantonio's program.