We are not sure what it takes to be crowned with the official title of recruiting gurus, nor do we want to be associated with that term. However, since signing day brought the official close to the recruiting Class of 2006, we now turn our attention to the Class of 2007. With the May evaluation period arriving quickly, we figured it was time to develop an EARLY look into what Illini coaches, and those who follow recruiting closely, can expect to see out of this year's in-state crop, which looks to be even stronger than last year. Our assessment is based off of the opinions of other so-called "gurus", early scholarship offers received, and all highlight reels available to the public. So, with that said, we reveal our early choices for the top 15 football recruits in the state of Illinois for 2007:
1. Martez Wilson, Chicago Simeon, DE
Analysis: Just view one of his videos and you'll understand why he's listed first. In fact, that's all it took for Coach Zook to offer a ride after just moments of tape. This guy is a beast on the field. Very rarely do you see Defensive Lineman catch Running Backs from behind; Wilson does with ease. Has recently reported Illini coaches have pursued him harder than others. The next Freak?
Offers: Illinois, Purdue, KSU, NIU…and many more to come
2. Robert Hughes, Chicago Hubbard, RB
Analysis: Top RB in the state. Hughes, called "mini-bus" by Zook & staff, has the size to handle the beating in the Big Ten. He has good speed, and is working with trainers to improve that area. Also has great hands out of the backfield. Would look great in Orange & Blue, but Michigan will be a strong player in his recruitment.
Offers: Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ok St., Purdue, Virginia
3. Josh Brent, Bloomington Central Catholic, DT
Analysis: Has named Illinois his leader and that is great news for the Illini. An impact DT is the hardest position to find, as they are in short supply. His best football is ahead of him since he has only played a few years of organized football. Super prospect might be the first recruit to verbal to the Illini. His high school teammate Michael Hoomanawanui will be an impact Freshman this year at Illinois
Offers: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, ASU
4. Dale Martin, Bolingbrook, RB
Analysis: Martin has been heralded since his sophomore breakout season, but a look at his video and one must question if he translates well to the next level. He is smaller in size and runs mostly outside the tackles. His numbers are impressive, but his films were not. Dale will still be a top recruit. He indicates Texas is a favorite, but it is doubtful they offer. Martin will most like settle for Iowa if other major programs don't come forth with an offer.
Offers: Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, OSU, Tenn, WVU
5. Marcus "Miami" Thomas, Morgan Park, DB
Analysis: Yet another top recruit hails from Morgan Park. Often, the best skill position players, especially DB's, are found in the South, not Chicago. Best of both worlds in this case, as Marcus is originally from Miami. He possesses fantastic closing speed. Former teammate and future Illini, Chris James, has been in his ear about joining him in Champaign. Top in-state DB.
6. Aaron Nagel, Lemont, LB
Analysis: Nagel was starting to garner a great deal of recruiting attention until he earned the offer from Notre Dame he was looking for and made an early commitment. Most were surprised the Irish offered this early because Aaron will be projected to play a position (LB) that he has not played in high school. If he is successful making the transition, he will possess good speed for a LB.
Offers: Illinois, ND, BC, Indiana, ISU, MSU, Purdue, NW
7. Anthony Morris, Thornton, WR
Analysis: There have been few high schools in the country that have produced NFL talent like Thornton. Morris is another talent from the school that recently produced former Illini target Tai Streets and future Illini OL Craig Wilson. Morris is big & quick and should contend for top receiver in the state. Morris has recently attended an Illini practice, which is another sign that Zook has finally gotten Illinois to the point where getting top Thornton recruits is very possible.
Offers: Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Louisville
8. Jerrell McDaniel, East St. Louis, DB/WR
Analysis: This may be another case of a top recruit from southern Illinois that just doesn't get the press like those players from Chicago. Word on McDaniel, who may be under-rated on this list, is that he is a tremendous athlete that can play just about any skill position on the field. We'll definitely be hearing more about this player shortly.
Offers: Unknown, should have plenty to choose from
9. Jack Cornell, Quincy Notre Dame, OL
Analysis: Jack will battle for top OL honors in the state, and will be among the top OL in the Midwest. Jack already possesses the size to play at the next level. He lists Florida as a childhood favorite, but it is doubtful the Gators come this far North for a lineman. Illinois should be in good shape for Cornell.
Offers: Illinois, Kentucky, Mizzou, Vandy
10. Miles Stroter, King, OL
Analysis: Stroter rounds out the top 10. He is a mountain of a man, and his videos show he dominates inferior opponents. Still needs some work on his footwork, but the potential is there. In fact, aside from Wilson, he might have the highest upside of anyone on this list. Miles has already been listed by many services as a top recruit, even listed among the country's top 10 players by a national newspaper. Very intelligent public leaguer, grades won't be a problem.
11. Bryan Bulaga, Marian Cathloic, TE/OL
Analysis: Bulaga has received quite a few offers recently. If you watch his tape, don't view the ones as a TE, where Bryan's quickness and yards after the catch are unspectacular. However, it is quite evident where the potential lies. Bulaga has the frame to put on more weight, and his "speed" will be more than sufficient on the line, where he could be a fairly athletic OL. Has a nasty streak.
Offers: Indiana, Iowa, MSU, Minnesota, Purdue
12. Mike Garrity, Batavia, DL/OL
Analysis: 3 year starter that projects well on both sides of the line. Attends same high school as Illini OL James Ryan, and coach indicates that Mike is every bit the prospect Ryan was coming out of school. Video shows Garrity giving Michigan recruit OL Perry Dorrestein all he can handle.
13. Andre Anderson, Barrington, RB
Analysis: Short, but with plenty of speed to burn. He's the type that could end of being the best RB in class (a la Garrett Wolfe), but it's not often that small RB's have that type of impact. His high school team should be pretty good, so expect to hear more out of Andre.
14. Matt Conrath, Chicago St. Rita, OL
Analysis: Huge frame with plenty of weight to put on. Might be a few years until he's ready, but great potential here.
15. Nick Golding, Evanston, DL
Analysis: Another recruit chosen based on potential. May be a little raw, but has the tools to develop into a top defender. With a good senior season, don't be surprised to see him challenge for the top 10 on this list.
Others considered: Kevin Rouse (Joliet Catholic, LB), Marquis Singleton (Decatur, DL), Luke Hockaday (Maroa-Forsyth Senior HS, QB), Dan Dierking (Wheaton-Warrenville South, RB), Teddy Schell (Barrington, QB), Dave Molk (Lemont, OL)
Keep an eye on: Jason Ford, Alton, RB – Class of 2008 recruit already listed by some sites as a top national Running Back.
Coach Zook certainly has his work cut out for him if he hopes to close off the state borders to neighboring programs. We'll say this, though. Zook has garnered the interest of nearly all the top in-state talents, as initially indicated he would. And, Zook has extended scholarship offers to most of the state's top recruits. It's been a long time since this many top Illinois recruits has been interested in joining the Illini. Zook and his staff are showing why they will be a force to be reckoned with on the recruiting trail. Look for another top class come February 2007.
Go get ‘em Zook
See you in Pasadena,
Adam and Ryan
Early Look at Top In-Staters in 2007
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