Pre-Season Look at Top In-Staters

With the May evaluation period long past and most of the summer unofficial visits complete, we are taking another look at the top in-state football prospects and revising the rankings established in our Early Look at Top In-Staters in the Class of 2007.

With the May evaluation period long past and most of the summer unofficial visits complete, we are taking another look at the top in-state football prospects and revising the rankings established in our Early Look at Top In-Staters in the Class of 2007. Our assessment is based off of the opinions of other so-called "gurus", early scholarship offers received, games witnessed live, and all highlight reels available to the public. So, with that said, we reveal our revised look at the pre-season choices for the top 20 football recruits in the state of Illinois for 2007:

1. Martez Wilson, Chicago Simeon, DE (Previous ranking: 1)
Analysis: "Tez" ranks among the top athletes nationwide as he could play a number of positions at an elite level. That said, most coaches are recruiting him as a LB/DE hybrid that will wreak havoc on opposing offenses. When you project what type of impact Tez will have down the road and compare his ability with past players, observers' minds go straight to another dominating Rush LB/DE that wore #97 for the Fighting Illini. A no-brainer for top in-state talent.

Offers/Commit status: With 20+ offers from just about every major program, this should come down to an Illinois-Notre Dame battle. I like our chances. Has visited Champaign twice in the last 3 weeks.

2. Robert Hughes, Chicago Hubbard, RB (2)
Analysis: Top RB in the state. Referred to as "mini-bus" by the Illini staff, Robert has a terrific combination of speed and power. Robert seems to enjoy dragging countless defenders for extra yards or throwing a stiff-arm to deflect hopeless defenders. Surprisingly, for a bruising-like runner, Robert has soft hands catching passes out of the backfield. Another of the top Chicago Public League talents, Robert has expressed his desire to be a RB (not a FB) at the college of his choice.

Offers/Commit status: Has offers from Illinois, Michigan, ND, OSU, PSU, Tenn, Iowa, and Virginia. Will most likely come down to another Illinois-Notre Dame battle with Michigan still fighting for Robert's services. Another recent visitor to Champaign.

3. Josh Brent, Bloomington Central Catholic, DT (3)
Analysis: The position of DT is perhaps the most difficult to find talent at. Josh is the best in-state DT prospect, and has been identified by some as the top DT prospect in the Midwest and among the best nationally. Unlike some DTs who take up space with pure size, Josh is built like a tank and punishes offensive lineman with his strength. He is a top Track & Field performer, and has indicated that might play a role in selecting a school. High School teammate, and best friend, the "Hoo Man" will be an impact freshman for the Illini.

Offers/Commit status: The last of the "Big Three", Brent also visited Champaign recently. Has offers from nearly the entire Big Ten as well as other national powers. Look for him to choose between Illinois and Ohio State, with Michigan still making a push for his services.

4. Bryan Bulaga, Marian Cathloic, TE/OL (11)
Analysis: Bulaga has shot up the rankings since the last evaluation. While his initial films showed him mostly at TE (and were less than impressive), it is clear his frame will allow him to put on additional size and play OL with the mobility of a TE. Unlike the top 3 in-staters, Bulaga's ranking is based on position projection, but his talent complemented with a mean streak, give way to a recruit with tremendous upside. He is another recruit that could contribute on either side of the ball.

Offers/Commit status: Garnered offers from most of the Big Ten before committing to his dream school, Iowa.

5. Anthony Morris, Thornton, WR (7)
Analysis: My pick for in-state sleeper of the year. You just can't overlook top talents from Thornton, a program that has recently put several players in the NFL. Morris is a smooth athlete that can play on either side of the ball, but will be deadly as a big receiver who could create match-up problems. Coach Mosel is known for assisting his players in keeping their recruiting close to the vest, and the situation with Anthony is no different. College coaches are definitely taking notice though. For the Illini, Zook's efforts to repair the seemingly severed relationship with Thornton might pay huge dividends.

Offers/Commit status: Weighing offers from Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Notre Dame, ASU, WV, MSU, and IU. Illinois is in good position.

6. Dale Martin, Bolingbrook, RB (4)
Analysis: The first player to slip a few spots since the last evaluation, Martin has been probably the most heralded recruit in his class the last few years. That is, until others caught and surpassed him. While still putting up huge numbers, questions exist with regards to whether Martin can carry the load as an every-down back in the Big Ten. He has speed and agility, but will that translate to the next level where opposing defenses will be much quicker/stronger than the ones he currently abuses with bursts outside the tackles?

Offers/Commit status: Iowa and Wisconsin lead, because Martin won't get the Texas offer he cherishes. My guess is, after flirting a bit with Bucky Badger, Martin chooses Iowa.

7. Dave Molk, Lemont, OL (NR)
Analysis: Molk, is an undersized center, but is possibly the strongest prospect on the list pound-for-pound. A dedicated power-lifter, Molk has a strong base and a mean streak to help in manhandling defenders. Molk is a top prospect, but yet questions still remain around his lack of height and potential upside. No pun intended, but has this power-lifter maxed out?

Offers/Commit status: Recently chose Michigan over Iowa and Wisconsin. Had quite a bit of Midwest interest.

8. Aaron Nagel, Lemont, LB (6)
Analysis: Molk's teammate, Nagel, will be another prospect who hopes his skills transfer to a new position at the next level. He is quick and hits hard, but will need to bulk up to play LB at an elite level. Word is that Aaron has already added size since last season, so it will be interesting to watch Nagel's production on the field with his new look. While Nagel is sure to get the results on the High School level, it is yet to be seen whether he continues to be a thorn in the side of opposing RB's and WR's.

Offers/Commit status: Committed to Notre Dame as soon as he received his offer. Had offers from a number of Big Ten schools.

9. Sean Cattouse, Hubbard, WR/DB (NR)
Analysis: Hughes' High School teammate, Cattouse is another of the prospects that has shot up the rankings, and is also another in the long line of Hubbard prospects. A QB on offense and a DB on defense, Cattouse has proved his versatility. The third Chicago Public Leaguer in the top 10, Cattouse has expressed a desire to play with other top talents from the city. Will he get the ball rolling for the Illini?

Offers/Commit status: Weighing over 15 offers including Illinois, Uconn, NW, Minnesota, Purdue, Boston College, KSU

10. Michael Bolden, Evanston, DB (NR)
Analysis: Rounding out the in-state top 10, Bolden is another of the prospects who prove why early rankings are rarely reliable. Bolden went from a virtual unknown to the top CB in the state. Bolden seemed to pick up an offer after every camp he attended. He is quick and agile, and performed well against major WR talent at the Illini camp.

Offers/Commit status: Chose hometown Northwestern over offers from Illinois, Minn, Purdue, and NIU

11. Marcus "Miami" Thomas, Morgan Park, DB (5)
Analysis: Yet another top recruit hails from Morgan Park. Former teammate and future Illini WR, Chris James, has been in his ear about joining him in Champaign. Fighting for top in-state CB honors, Miami possesses fantastic closing speed. Miami earned his nickname because he is a native Floridian, and besides oranges, Florida is known for growing top skill-position talent.

Offers/Commit status: Chose Illinois over offers from Purdue, Wisconsin, Boston College, NIU, and Hawaii. The Illini land another top CPL product and keep the fruitful Morgan Park pipeline flowing.

12. Jack Cornell, Quincy Notre Dame, OL (9)
Analysis: A top in-state OL, Cornell possesses both good size and respectable agility. Cornell is a mauler on the line and has recently reported getting even bigger. Presumed to be an Illini lean, Cornell felt the Spartans to be a better destination.

Offers/Commit status: Illini made his final two, but Cornell committed to MSU over Kentucky and Nebraska as well

13. Nick Golding, Evanston, DL (15)
Analysis: Tremendous all-around athlete and another who could play on both sides of the ball. Golding also plays in the mold of Simeon Rice and fits well in a LB/DE role. He has limited football experience so his upside is huge, but Golding is still a bit raw.

Offers/Commit status: Golding seems to be favoring an out-of-state option, but currently holds offers from Illinois, ISU, KSU, Purdue, and WV

14. Kevin Rouse, Joliet Catholic, LB (NR)
Analysis: Rouse has accumulated a great deal of offers after good showings at camps & combines. A relatively quick LB with a nose for the football. Is he a true prospect or another of the overhyped JCA players that seem to come around often?

Offers/Commit status: Chose Iowa over offers from Northwestern, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, among others. Never much Illini interest.

15. Jerell McDaniel, East St. Louis, DB (8)
Analysis: McDaniel is a legit blue-chipper. If he had the grades to match his talent, he would have many more suitors than the ones currently after his services. One of the top downstate prospects, McDaniel is yet another who could star on either side of the ball.

Offers/Commit status: Weighing offers from Mizzou, Illinois, and Minnesota. Might favor Mizzou at this point. Would have national interest if grades were solid.

16. Mike Garrity, Batavia, DL/OL (12)
Analysis: 3 year starter that projects well on both sides of the line, but will most likely start out at OL for the Illini. Attends same high school as Illini OL James Ryan, and his coach indicates that Mike is every bit the prospect Ryan, a former 4* OL, was coming out of school. Video shows Garrity giving Michigan recruit OL Perry Dorrestein all he can handle.

Offers/Commit status: Chose Illinois over ISU, NIU, and WMU.

17. Charles Brown, Robeson, WR/DB (NR)
Analysis: In a seemingly redundant theme, Brown has the ability to play on offense or defense, but he might be best suited as a slot WR. Brown is lightning quick and brings a plethora of shifty moves after he catches the ball. Another top player from the Chicago Public League.

Offers/Commit status: Currently holds offers from BC, Illinois, NW, Purdue, Stanford, and NIU

18. Arthur Ray Jr., Mt Carmel, OL (NR)
Analysis: The top OL at powerhouse Mt. Carmel. Ray has decent size but above-average agility for an OL. Should be a solid pickup.

Offers/Commit status: Chose Boston College over offers from CSU, IU, ISU, KY, and NIU. Not much Illini interest.

19. Miles Stroter, King, OL (10)
Analysis: Stroter 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. 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. However, his stock has slipped lately. Very intelligent public leaguer, grades won't be a problem.

Offers/Commit status: Weighing offers from Illinois and several mid-majors. Rumors have the Illini staff backing off a bit.

20. Teddy Schell, Barrington, QB (NR)
Analysis: Left-handed gun slinger who plays for a very talented squad. Is the top in-state QB in a year where the picking at the position are admittedly slim. Will also be a top baseball prospect.

Offers/Commit status: Currently holds offer from Arizona, Duke, KSU, Rutgers, and NIU

Dropped out: Andre Anderson, RB, Barrington (13), Matt Conrath, St. Rita, OL (14)

Next 5: Marquis Singleton (Decatur, DL), Luke Hockaday (Maroa-Forsyth Senior HS, QB), Colin Armstrong (Benet Academy, OL), Matt Conrath (St Rita, OL), Kevin Watt (Glenbard West, DE)

Keep an eye out for: '08 LB Steve Filer. Filer is a LB from Mt. Carmel who should be ranked among the top in-state prospects for next year. Mt. Carmel coach Frank Lenti, whose son is a WR on the Illini squad, has consistently produced D1 talent, and Filer is the next in line.

Coach Zook will battle for the top prospects in the state this year. While not a deep class in terms of elite players, the state of Illinois once again will produce a great deal of prospects that will get D1 scholarships, and many will go to major conferences. However, look for Zook to battle for the elite prospects and then go out-of-state to fill in the rest of the scholarships with big-time talent. Zook knows the type of talent that is needed to compete in the Big Ten, and he will bring that talent to Illinois. 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


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