St. Viator

Top 5: Hottest Recruits in Illinois Class of 2021 this spring

NBC Sports Chicago

Top 5: Hottest Recruits in Illinois Class of 2021 this spring

The Top 5 takes a look this week at who are the hottest recruits so far this spring in the State of Illinois Class of 2021.

East St. Louis four star-ranked wide receiver Dominic Lovett (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) - Lovett, who is now holding nearly 20 scholarship offers, has also become a highly sought after name from several Southeastern Conference (SEC) schools this spring. Lovett has now added SEC offers from the likes of Auburn, LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi State and Missouri. It's pretty rare for any kid from the Land of Lincoln to be heavily recruited from the powerful SEC conference schools.

Willowbrook three star-ranked offensive tackle Enrique Cruz Jr. (6-foot-6, 260 pounds) - Cruz Jr. added his first FBS offer back in early April and since then has seen his recruiting stock soar. Cruz Jr. added three new offers over the past two days from Wake Forest, Temple and Kansas and also recently added offers from Indiana and Toledo. Several new schools are beginning to line up for Cruz Jr.'s attention this spring, including Michigan. Cruz Jr.'s appeal is his impressive junior season video along with possessing balance, quick feet, length and the potential to add additional weight and strength at the college level. 

Glenbrook North offensive guard Jackson Carsello (6-foot-4, 270 pounds) - Carsello has just steadily added new offers after new offers this spring and is approaching 25 scholarship offers so far this spring. Carsello has also seen his offers grow from adding FCS level scholarships to his latest offers from the likes of Illinois, Syracuse and Central Florida. Carsello has continued to make big strides in the weight room and at the training table, having gone from around 200 pounds a year ago to now checking in at nearly 270 pounds.

Prairie Ridge three star-ranked athlete Carter Evans (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) - Evans, who played fullback and defensive end last season for the Wolves, is holding an impressive 31 scholarship offers so far this spring. Evans has been drawing recruiting interest and offers at either defensive end or at tight end. Evans has also remained on the short list for several Big Ten schools this spring including Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. Evans' size, athletic skills and football IQ have been a big draw for multiple college programs this spring. 

St. Viator three star-ranked defensive end Jeremiah Pittman (6-foot-2, 260 pounds) - Pittman is now approaching 20 scholarship offers this spring and his latest offer comes from the University of Illinois. Pittman is now holding Big Ten offers from Illinois, Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Northwestern. Pittman has tentatively set up an official visit to Iowa on June 19 as long as the NCAA decides to allow on-campus activities during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Which names from Illinois high schools to watch out for during NFL Draft

USA Today

Which names from Illinois high schools to watch out for during NFL Draft

The Land of Lincoln features several names to watch for in the upcoming NFL Draft, which begins next Thursday. Here is a list of NFL hopefuls who hail from Illinois:

DE A.J. Epenesa, Edwardsville/Iowa

Epenesa, a rare five-star ranked recruit from the Metro East area, was also ranked as the 30th best player in the nation in the Class of 2017. Epenesa, the son of former Iowa defensive linemen Eppy Epenesa, was verbally committed to the Iowa Hawkeyes over a year before making his official visit in Iowa City. Epenesa chose Iowa over drawing scholarship offers from the likes of Alabama, Michigan, Florida State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, UCLA and USC, along with nearly the entire Big Ten conference. 

TE Cole Kmet, St. Viator/Notre Dame

Kmet, a four-star ranked tight end according to, gave Notre Dame his verbal commitment on October 2, 2015 as part of the Fighting Irish Class of 2017. Kmet, who was also a standout baseball player who played both football and baseball in his first two seasons at Notre Dame, narrowed down his list of favorites to Notre Dame and Ohio State. Kmet drew scholarship offers from the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and North Carolina, among others. Kmet, who's father Frank played in the NFL for six seasons, played in the 2017 US Army All American Game. 

TE Albert Okwuegbunam, Sacred Heart-Griffin/Missouri

Known simply as “Albert O” in his days at Sacred Heart-Griffin playing for Hall of Fame head coach Ken Leonard, Okwuegbunam was a three star ranked tight end according to He committed to Missouri on Sept. 20, 2015 after taking part in a game day visit to Columbia. Okwuegbunam, who also considered offers from Syracuse, Nebraska, West Virginia, Indiana and Michigan State drew considerable pressure from multiple schools to reconsider his choice after giving the Tigers his verbal commitment. However, he made his only official visit to Missouri in January. Owkuegbunam also was part of the Cyclones’ back to back Class 5A state title championship teams in 2013 and 2014.

DL Raequan Williams, DePaul Prep/Michigan State

Williams, who began his high school career as a Gordon Tech Ram and finished his high school career as a DePaul Prep Ram, (the school changed names in the summer of 2014) was a four-star ranked defensive linemen according to in the Class of 2015. Williams committed to Michigan State on December 20, 2014 in front a a packed gym before his basketball game that night. Williams, who was a two-way four year varsity starter at DePaul Prep, also considered Iowa and made official visits to both Iowa and Michigan State before making his final college choice. Williams drew scholarship offers from the likes of Arizona, Arizona State, Boston College, Oregon, Penn State and Tennessee.

RB James Robinson, Rockford Lutheran/Illinois State

Robinson, who was a two-star ranked running back according to during the Class of 2016, committed to Illinois State on Feb. 25 of that year. Robinson, who still holds IHSA two rushing records for most career rushing yards (9,045 yards) and career rushing touchdowns (158) was offered by Illinois State and head coach Brock Spack after an impressive summer camp performance had just one additional scholarship offer from Eastern Illinois along with steady recruiting interest from Iowa. 

WR Jeff Thomas, East St. Louis/Miami

Thomas, who was a four-star ranked wide receiver recruit according to in the Class of 2017, was simply one of the state's fastest and most electric play makers during his high school career at East St. Louis. Thomas, who drew nationwide recruiting attention since his freshman year at East St. Louis had narrowed down his final list of favorite schools to Illinois, Miami, Oregon and Tennessee decided to commit to the Miami Hurricanes on national Letter of Intent day Feb. 1, 2017 after making an official visit to Miami on Jan. 21. 

DL Mike Panasiuk, Lake Park/Michigan State

Panasiuk, who was a four-star ranked defensive tackle according to in the Class of 2017 committed to Michigan State on June 8th, 2015 just days after making an on campus unofficial visit and adding his Spartans offer. Panasiuk also considered Wisconsin, Penn State, Missouri and Minnesota along with Michigan State as his top schools list. Panasiuk was a four year varsity starter at Lake Park for head coach Chris Roll and was named as an All State player in 2014 and 2015 by EDGYTIM/ 

DT Amir Watts, Chicago Phillips/Pitt

Watts, who was a four-star ranked defensive tackle according to in the Class of 2016, committed to Pitt on January 25th, 2016 just a few days after making an official visit to Pitt. Watts, who held 25 FBS level scholarship offers also took official visits to Minnesota and Indiana. Watts who was named as an All State player in the 2015 season by multiple media outlets, was also a key on the Philips Wildcats 2015 Class 4A state title team. Chicago Phillips in 2014 was the first ever Chicago Public League football program to win an IHSA state title. 


Others NFL Draft hopefuls to watch:

QB Broc Ruter, Neuqua Valley/ North Central College

OL Luke Juriga, Marmion Academy/ WMU

LB Jordan Glasgow, Marmion Academy/ Michigan

RB Jonathon Ward, Bishop McNamara/ Central Michigan

WR Matt Cole, Chicago Curie/ McKendree

K Tucker McCann, O’Fallon/ Missouri

OL Tre’Vour Wallace Simms, East St. Louis/ Missouri

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

NBC Sports Chicago

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Who wants it more?              

NBC Sports Chicago and Wintrust present our “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week.” We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland’s top prep sports show, in the hands of passionate high school basketball followers. Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @NBCSPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights and postgame reaction of that game will appear on that night’s “High School Lites” broadcast at 11:00 p.m. The show also live streams at and appears in the MyTeams app.  High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. the following Saturday on NBC Sports Chicago. 

This week's schedule features several games with teams battling for first place in their respective conferences. We're going to spotlight a few of them:

Niles North at Highland Park, 7:00 p.m.

St. Viator at Notre Dame, 7:00 p.m.

St. Ignatius vs. Loyola, 7:00 p.m. (at Loyola University)

To participate, our fans are encouraged to do the following:

**Follow our NBC Sports Chicago preps Twitter page: @NBCSPreps.

**Note the pinned tweet that is atop the feed.

**Vote for the game you want NBC Sports Chicago to cover Friday night.

**Spread the word!

The poll will start promptly at 12:00 p.m. Monday. We will make an announcement with the official results on @NBCSPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @NBCSPreps for updates on the “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week,” along with other high school sports news, scores and highlights, all season long.