The biggest buzz at the Illinois 7 on 7 camp was the play of C.J. Fiedorowicz, the 6'-7", 245 pound All-American tight end from Johnsburg. He is simply one of the best players ever to compete in this tourney. He was a man among boys. He has broad shoulders, is heavily muscled, and has outstanding quickness and pass receiving ability.
Illini coaches were most pleased that C.J. decided to come down yesterday to look around campus and get acquainted with the coaches and players. He didn't think he wanted to come, but his mother insisted. When he had completed his day, he thanked his mom for having him come down early.
Illinois has been way behind in his recruitment, but it appears they have made up considerable ground. Coaches and players were never far from C.J. throughout the day Saturday, and his parents were treated with special care. He also seemed to get along well with Illini players and commitments in attendance.
Downers Grove South decided not to play in the tournament due to a lack of team practice time. But that didn't stop their star quarterback and Illini commitment Chandler Whitmer from coming in for the weekend. He and his parents spent the whole day observing the games and visiting with Fiedorowicz and other top prospects in attendance. Chandler also spent a great deal of time with freshman quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase.
Kyle Prater and his Proviso West team arrived late because their minibus was stolen. They were understandably sluggish in their first game, but they rose up and defeated East St. Louis later in the day. Surprisingly, Prater was often used as a decoy on pass routes, but he made some great catches when the ball came his way.
Prater also spent time at quarterback. While he lacks technique, it was obvious his natural athletic skills can translate to multiple positions. His coach, former Illini Famous Hulbert, said that if Prater had been a quarterback all along, he would be an All-American quarterback.
Prater, Whitmer and Proviso East safety/receiver Corey Cooper are extremely close friends, and Cooper is more or less a commitment to Illinois. Cooper also caught some good passes on the day, and he specifically pointed to Prater when he scored. If these three buddies all attend the UI, they will make many fans and coaches proud.
For that matter, Whitmer and Scheelhaase were drooling at the prospect of throwing to the 6'-7" Fiedorowicz and the 6'-5" Prater. Throw in 6'-5" Matt Milton from Mascoutah, and the young quarterbacks would have no problem finding open targets.
Of course, Illinois is behind Iowa, Ohio State and perhaps some other schools for Fiedorowicz, and Prater has a strong interest in Oklahoma among many other scholarship offers. They both are national recruits, so Illini fans can't get their hopes too high just yet.
But Fiedorowicz' mother seems to like Illinois, and his father appeared to enjoy himself as well. And supposedly Prater's father doesn't like to fly, making long trips to see his son play problematic. There is a long time until signing day, and anything can happen. But Illini coaches are no doubt day dreaming about the possibilities.
East St. Louis is loaded with speed and skill again, but they didn't make it to the championship game. Coach Darren Sunkett said his secondary is young and was burned repeatedly. Junior receiver Keante Minor performed brilliantly on both sides of the ball. He will be one of the state's top players next year.
And senior quarterback Detchauz Wray continues to impress with his arm strength and technique. He holds the ball high and has a quick release. He is a shade under 6'-0" tall, but he is no shorter than Chris Leake, who helped Florida to a national championship. Illinois is recruiting him as a quarterback/athlete. At the lineman camp, junior defensive tackle Chris Tucker looked impressive.
Illini signees Terry Hawthorne and Tommie Hopkins followed their former team closely. They had a number of teammates supporting them, including Steve Hull, Justin Green, Jeff Allen, Tavon Wilson, and Hubie Graham.
The lineman camp was solid in numbers but not necessarily in talent. There were a few good prospects, although most were underclassmen. One who may have traveled farthest was Trey Pettis, an offensive lineman from Deland, Florida. He is an upcoming junior with promise. All the linemen knew they had been through a workout after four hours in helmets and shoulder pads.