Willowbrook

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

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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. 

Edgy Tim's recruiting news and notes

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USA Today

Edgy Tim's recruiting news and notes

Lake Forest’s Mac Uihlein, a four-star junior inside linebacker (6-foot-1, 210 pounds), gave Northwestern his verbal commitment this past weekend. 

“Northwestern is like family,” Uihlein told WildcatReport's Lou Vaccher. “It’s the relationships you build at Northwestern that make it more than a four-year decision. It’s a lifetime decision.

"The academic opportunities they provide are amazing, and it’s definitely something I want to take advantage of,” said Uihlein, who carries a 5.01 GPA (on a 5.0 scale) at Lake Forest and scored a 26 on his ACT. “Coach Fitzgerald, and Coach McGarigle and all the guys they recruit are just great people I want to be around. Plus, Northwestern is close to home, so my family can get to games easily.”

Uihlein said that it was during a phone conversation with McGarigle that he realized “Northwestern was the place I wanted to be. My values line up with Northwestern’s, so I decided there was no reason to wait. I wanted to make my decision now."

Uihlein is now the fourth known verbal commitment for the Northwestern Class of 2021 and the first known in-state commitment.

Richmond-Burton junior offensive tackle Luke Eckardt (6-foot-7, 265 pounds) gave the NIU Huskies and head coach Thomas Hammock his verbal commitment late last week.

"We went back and forth for a bit with NIU, but once they offered me, it's just too good of a fit and opportunity for me to pass up. So I committed," Eckardt said. "I had been thinking more and more about making an early college decision, and I feel great about committing to NIU."

Eckardt, who was starting to see his overall recruiting stock rise this early spring, discussed why he committed to the nearby NIU Huskies.

"I just really like the coaches at NIU. We've been talking a lot, and I've gotten to build a strong relationship with them. I've also been able to make visits to NIU, and I really like the campus and the facilities. NIU is also close to home, and that also played a factor in my decision. I'll be able to go to school, get a good education, and also have my family and friends see me play in college. Everything about NIU feels right to me, and my family is also behind me and is excited about my decision. NIU is building something special, and I wanted to be a part of it."

Eckardt also admitted that the timing of his decision during the COVID-19 pandemic no question played a role in his choice.

"It (COVID-19) definitely played a role in making my decision this early. With the NCAA basically pushing back recruiting (the NCAA recently extended the dead period from April 15 to May 31), I really won't have a chance to get out to visit any other schools. I also didn't want to extend or drag out the recruiting process for a long time. I'm extremely comfortable with NIU. The school and the football program is a great fit for me, and I felt ready to make my decision. So I committed."

Luke Eckardt is the sixth known verbal commitment in the NIU Class of 2021 and the fourth known in-state commitment. Eckardt joins Aurora Christian quarterback Ethan Hampton, Solorio safety Brian Whitsey and Batavia Wide Receiver Trey Urwiler in the Huskies Class of 2021.

Willowbrook junior offensive tackle Enrique Cruz Jr. (6-foot-6, 250 pounds) has seen his recruiting stock take off over the past week or so, adding his first offer last week from Syracuse.

"Syracuse Coach (Mike) Lynch found me on Twitter a week or two ago," Cruz said. "We've been in contact quite a bit ever since then, and we FaceTime called on Saturday. That's when Syracuse offered me a scholarship ."

Cruz discussed his initial impressions of adding his first scholarship offer from Syracuse.

"I know that Syracuse is a really nice school, and I've been online and able to do a little bit of research on them. They offer a strong education, and it's just a great offer from a great school. The offer from Syracuse was a big surprise for sure. The coaches from Syracuse said that they want me to come and visit them as soon as we are allowed to make college visits."

Cruz Jr., who added new offers from Louisville and Western Illinois on Monday, has also been in touch with Iowa, NIU and Rutgers. He made a Junior Day visit earlier this winter to Iowa.

Nazareth Academy junior defensive tackle Drew Hughes (6-foot-3, 270 pounds) saw his recruiting stock take off early this spring despite an NCAA-forced football recruiting dead period in response to COVID-19.

"It's been really exciting getting these offers all of a sudden," Hughes said. "I have offers now from Miami of Ohio, Kent State and also North Dakota. I didn't expect to be playing Xbox one day and then getting on the phone with college coaches who want to offer me scholarships the next. It's been pretty wild."

Hughes filled us in on his latest recruiting news and new suitors so far this spring.

"I have offers from Miami of Ohio, Kent State and North Dakota. I've been in contact quite a bit with the coaches from South Dakota, South Dakota State, plus Akron. I've made visits so far to Miami of Ohio, NIU, Tennessee, South Carolina and Auburn, and also Iowa. I had visits planned to Western Michigan and Ball State, but those visits got canceled. I'm hoping that we can eventually be allowed to make college visits again, and I'm also looking at visiting Miami of Ohio again, along with North Dakota."

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game Of The Week

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NBC Sports Chicago

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game Of The Week

Who wants it more? 

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland's top prep sports show, in the hands of area basketball fans in our "Viewers' Choice Game of the Week." Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @NBCSPreps crew will cover on Friday. 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 p.m. The show also live streams at www.nbcsportschicago.com/watchlive. High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. the following Saturday. For our first basketball poll of the season, we are spotlighting the West Suburban Gold conference. Who wants it more? 

Morton at Hinsdale South, 7:30 p.m.

Proviso East at Downers Grove South, 7:30 p.m.

Willowbrook at Addison Trail, 7:30 p.m.

— Follow @NBCSPreps on Twitter.
— Note the "pinned Tweet" atop the @NBCSPreps feed. Vote for the game you want us to cover.
— Spread the word! 

We will make an announcement on @NBCSPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday with the official results of which game will be covered. 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 this season.