Crete-Monee coach Jerry Verde can be excused if he is tempted to shout "I told you so" to the many naysayers who said he was "full of baloney" when he opted to convert Marcus Terrell from wide receiver to quarterback two years ago.
As a junior, Terrell passed for 2,800 yards while leading Crete-Monee to a 10-1 record. As a 6-foot-2, 175-pound senior, he is even more prolific. Going into Saturday night's Class 6A semifinal at Lemont, he has completed 192 of 282 passes for 2,818 yards and 36 touchdowns for the 12-0 Warriors.
Crete-Monee has so many weapons that it is easy to overlook Terrell. The Warriors are averaging 40 points per game while allowing only 8.4. They haven't scored fewer than 30 points in any game and only two opponents have scored more than one touchdown.
Treadwell, touted as the best uncommitted senior in the nation, has caught 68 passes for 1,219 yards and 14 touchdowns. He plays to take his allotted five official visits--Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Florida and Ohio State are on his list--but he has put recruiting on the backburner until the season is over.
"One of the great things he has done in the playoff is put recruiting on the side," Verde said. "His whole focus is on the team and the playoff. He is just a great football player. We had him at outside linebacker in the second round. He was pivotal in beating Peoria Richwoods. He made a big interception to change the game when things started to go wrong. He made huge stops on defense from the end spot. He also has made 16 of 17 extra points. And he kicks off, too."
But Crete-Monee has other college prospects on its roster. Nyles Morgan, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker, is one of the leading players in the class of 2015. He has offers from Illinois, Northwestern, Ohio State, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, UCLA, Purdue and Vanderbilt.
"Without a doubt, he is a fantastic linebacker," Verde said. "He has all the tools. Physically, he can do what no one can do at the inside linebacker position that I have seen...speed, physical, cover, understanding the game. He is an honor student. He does a lot of things right. As a junior, his game is ready for college, physically and mentally. He could be as big a prospect as Treadwell when it is all said and done."
Verde also singles out 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior wide receiver Lance Lenoir, who has caught 50 passes for 918 yards and 14 touchdowns. A three-year starter, Lenoir made the mistake of attending a combine, where he was timed in 4.7 seconds for 40 yards and turned off some recruiters.
What about Treadwell?
"I don't know why he isn't a bigger recruit," Verde said. "He is hearing only from state schools. He scored 30 on his ACT and could be an Ivy Leaguer. But he still is hoping some things will shake loose. I feel he can play in the MAC. I don't know if he is a Big Ten quarterback. But I don't know why he doesn't get more attention."
As freshmen, Terrell played wide receiver with Treadwell at quarterback. But Verde switched them as sophomores, figuring Treadwell "could do more damage at wide receiver and also play on defense."
Terrell didn't have a good summer going into his junior year and Verde crossed his fingers as the youngster opened the season against Thornton Fractional South.
"I was hoping he would be a Kyle Orton and manage the game," Verde said. "But he took it over. He executed the offense at a high level, so good that after the first four games we knew we had something special.
"He is a very cerebral player. He has speed and size to get it done. I try to point college coaches in his direction. Maybe they don't take him seriously because he has such great receivers to throw to."
Terrell isn't disappointed or frustrated by the recruiting process. He is just focusing on this season. "If we do what we are supposed to do, it will come when it comes. I feel I am good enough to play at the Division I level. I want to play at the highest level I can," he said.
He is motivated by last year's 51-36 loss to Peoria Richwoods in the second round of the state playoff.
"This is a harder working team than last year," Terrell said. "Last year, we didn't focus on making ourselves better every week. This year, we are focused on getting better every week and preparing to play later in the season. We have great players everywhere on the field and I feel confident I can get the ball in their hands.
"Another thing, this team sticks together, even when things go bad. Last year, we weren't as much of a team as this year. This year, I understand the game more, how to attack defenses, be more consistent than last year. I try to play at a top level every time I am on the field, not as many down games or long stretches where I play badly."
He still can't get last year's loss to Peoria Richwoods out of his mind. "It took away our season. We started slow. We came out and didn't execute plays in the first half. We were down by 30 points. Plays that should have been made, simple plays, I didn't execute. It has motivated me to do better this season," he said.
Terrell, who spent all summer working out with his receiving corps of Treadwell, Lenoir, Darius Thomas, Kyle Tilley, Deshaun Smith and Deshaun Duncan, realized in Week 2 against Marian Catholic that this team was different than a year ago.
"Everything was going bad but we didn't fall apart," he said. "We battled back and came out on top (30-7). I realized this team has a different attitude."
But is Crete-Monee big enough and strong enough and physical enough to match muscles with Lemont and its powerful offensive line headed by LSU-bound Ethan Pocic and Bowling Green-bound Tim McAuliffe?
"Our offense is always dangerous," Verde said. "The difference between this year and the past is our defense is physical and has a lot of speed. In the past, we worried about teams running us over. If opponents are not road-grading us off the line, dominating us on the line, with our speed on defense we can give you some problems.
"Sure, Lemont has a huge offensive line. Physically, I hope we can compete against them. Their strength is the offensive line and one of our strengths has been our front four (led by 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior end Trevelle Smith) and Morgan."