Deolitsis sparks Hinsdale South revival

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Deolitsis sparks Hinsdale South revival

Hinsdale South is 6-3, its best finish since 2005, but second-year coach Mike Barry isn't surprised. Neither is quarterback D.J. Deolitsis, who directs the Hornets' unique short pistol offense with the precision of a watchmaker and the firepower of a battleship.

In fact, after starting 4-0, they think they should be better going into this week's game against Oak Forest in the Class 6A playoff. After losing to Leyden 17-14 in Week 5, Hinsdale Central 34-27 in Week 6 and Downers Grove South 36-33 in Week 8, they had to beat Willowbrook 41-22 last Friday to secure a playoff berth.

Deolitsis, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound senior, has amassed more than 1,700 yards in total offense as Hinsdale South has averaged 36.2 points per game. He has passed for more than 700 yards and rushed for more than 1,000 yards and accounted for 23 touchdowns. He has averaged over eight yards per carry.

In last Friday's must-win game against Willowbrook in Villa Park, Arian Toney carried 19 times for 194 yards and three touchdowns in the first half and finished with a career high of 289 yards in 37 attempts to punch Hinsdale South's ticket to the state playoff for the first time since 2005.

Under Barry's guidance, Hinsdale South has made progress. After five losing seasons in a row, the Hornets went 5-4 in his first season. But they didn't accumulate enough points to qualify for the state playoff for the first time since 2005.

"Last year, it was disappointing not to make the playoff. But we were excited to be winning games again," Deolitsis said. "There was a lot of optimism, a lot of guys coming back, a new offense, a lot of positive signs. Everybody was looking forward to this year.

"Coach Barry brought a new energy to the program. Everyone got excited about football again. Our school has rallied around us. No one was excited about football in the last few years. Now nobody looks at us as the old Hinsdale South. Sure, no one thought we'd be this good. They doubted us until we started winning games."

Barry, a Downers Grove North graduate of 1993, played outside linebacker on Pete Ventrelli's state runnerup in 1991. He landed a scholarship to play football at Kent State, spent 10 years as a football coach and teacher in Naples, Florida, then was head coach at Evergreen Park for three years before moving to Hinsdale South.

Why Hinsdale South? "It is a great school district and community. I asked myself: 'Where would I want my kids to go to school?' This is the type of district I want to be in. The framework was there...the talent level, the facilities," he said.

"Even though Hinsdale South is the smallest school in the West Suburban Gold Conference, I'm one who believes my program can be successful. I came from the same situation at Evergreen Park. I want to develop young men of character and I want them to be competitive. We were 5-4 last year, our first winning season in six years. That was a good start."

Barry brought the short pistol offense with him all the way from Florida. He was a defensive player and a defensive coordinator. But he made a switch to offense.

"As a defensive coach, you look at offenses that are hard to stop," he said. "Our triple option is a melding of different styles, spread and short pistol. The quarterback lines up in a short shotgun with a running back behind him. The veer is our base play. You have to have a dual threat quarterback to run it effectively."

With nine starters returning on offense and six on defense, Barry knew he had the makings of a team that could contend for the conference championship and a berth in the Class 6A playoff. Of course, he didn't expect to be averaging xx points per game. But he knew he had a quarterback who could make things happen.

"Deolitsis runs the show," Barry said. "He is a cool customer. He never gets rattled. He makes the right decisions. He can run and pass. He is the complete package."

It took a while for Deolitsis to get into the swing of things and adjust to the new offense. A year ago, he rushed for 500 yards and 12 touchdowns and passes for nearly 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. He improved over the course of the season but he was pleased that he had another year to polish his skills and get more comfortable in the system.

"Last year, I was shaky at reading defense as a whole," he said. "I had to get more comfortable in the pocket. This year, I have more pocket presence and I really feel comfortable. I'm more confident, too. I look at defenses and know what I have to do."

Major contributors to Hinsdale South's success are Deolitsis, 5-foot-10, 190-pound senior linebacker Stephen O'Neill, 6-foot-3, 290-pound senior guard Zach Guritz, 6-foot-2, 180-pound senior wide receiver Justin Ward, 5-foot-9, 200-pound junior running back Arien Toney and 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior defensive end Matt Dangles.

Toney and Ward have emerged as Hinsdale South's other offensive threats. Toney has carried 169 times for 1,104 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averages more than six yards per attempt. Ward averages 20 yards per reception.

"People don't care what you did but what you have done lately," Barry said. "They are waking up to the program's success. Our defense has done a great job of giving the offense the ball in good position. We're playing well as a team, not individuals. But the key is to play consistent and stay healthy."

Dean Joseph Deolitsis has been called D.J. since the day he was born because his mother wanted to call him by his initials. Baseball was his first love. His dream was to be the next Ron Santo. He also played basketball. But he grew to love football from the day he began playing for the junior high school team in sixth grade.

"I played running back and receiver in junior high school but they made me a quarterback as a freshman. They were running a spread offense and put me back there as an athlete. I was pretty happy about it," Deolitsis said.

Then Barry arrived and installed the short pistol. It features more motion and more options than the spread. The snap from center to the quarterback is shorter.

"The main thing is it gets the play going faster because of the shorter snap and I get to look at reads faster and get to the triple option faster," Deolitsis said. "It's a lot of fun because there are so many different things you can do with it.

"We knew going into the season that we would be more explosive on offense than last year but we didn't expect to average xx points per game. We have so many guys making big plays and linemen making blocks and running backs hitting the holes hard and wide receivers making blocks and catching the ball. Everything seems to be clicking."

It hasn't been that way for a while at the Darien school. Hinsdale South hasn't qualified for the state playoff since 2005. Deolitsis remembers that season. Matt Mayberry was playing then. He was one of the best players ever produced at Hinsdale South. He went on to play at Indiana.

"It was exciting when Mayberry was playing and they were winning in 2005," Deolitsis said. "Then it went downhill. We're excited to be winning again. We were 8-1 as freshmen and 6-3 as sophomores. As a team, we have improved so much. We aren't surprised to be where we're at."

If only they can go a little further.

NFL Draft shows improvements in Notre Dame's player development

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NFL Draft shows improvements in Notre Dame's player development

You can bet Brian Kelly is going to hammer home the number 51,251,888 in the coming weeks and months. 

That’s the estimated total contract dollar value Notre Dame’s seven draftees will earn, second among college football programs only to Ohio State (which, according to Spotrac.com, is a gargantuan $117,499,008). It’s a sexy number that’ll be used to entice recruits across the nation, as well as players within the program who face the decision to stay at Notre Dame or turn pro after a junior season. 

Notre Dame’s draft-week success is a strong indicator that the program’s player development — especially on the offensive side of the ball — is in a good place. 

Ronnie Stanley was Notre Dame’s first top-10 pick in 22 years, and Will Fuller’s decision to leave South Bend after three seasons paid off when the Houston Texans selected him 21st overall. Nick Martin was a second-round pick, while C.J. Prosise went in the third round. While it was a minor surprise to see Chris Brown go undrafted, those four players represent major player development successes. 

Kelly and a cavalcade of Irish personnel successfully pitched Stanley on returning to Notre Dame for his senior season, and he improved his stock from mid-first-round status to being the first offensive lineman taken off the board (Laremy Tunsil’s bizarre Thursday certainly helped push Stanley up, too). Like Stanley, Martin was a Harry Hiestand success story, having steadily developed his game to the point where the Texans traded up two picks to nab him with the 50th selection. 

Hiestand is one of Notre Dame’s more respected position coaches in recent memory. It’s not just from within the program, too — Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh gave a shout-out to Hiestand, who coached the Chicago Bears offensive line from 2005-2009, in introducing Stanley last week. Having an NFL coach praise a college position coach is an awfully strong endorsement to pitch to recruits. 

But the emergences of Fuller and Prosise as Day 1 and Day 2 picks were almost more impressive. 

Fuller was overlooked coming out of high school in Philadelphia, and even after a breakout 2014 season, one early NFL mock draft had Corey Robinson, not Fuller, projected as a first-round pick. But under Mike Denbrock’s watch, Fuller developed from a raw speed burner into a refined, NFL-ready receiver. 

A year ago, it would’ve been difficult to see Prosise as a third-round pick only a few months into his move to running back. Prosise himself admitted it in December that the idea of passing on a fifth year to enter the draft hadn’t really entered his mind until after last season — he figured he’d play a graduate year at Notre Dame and then see where his career would take him.

Instead, Prosise was an immediate success from Autry Denson’s position group, becoming Notre Dame’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2011. His explosive playmaking ability and versatility from the two years he spent at wide receiver made him an intriguing pick for the Seattle Seahawks. 

Notre Dame also had three defensive players drafted, one from each unit. Jaylon Smith would’ve joined Stanley and Fuller as first-round picks had it not been for the concerns over nerve damage in his surgically-repaired knee; even despite those, though, the Dallas Cowboys used an early second-round pick on him. 

Sheldon Day (Jacksonville Jaguars) and KeiVarae Russell (Kansas City Chiefs) were fourth-round picks, both landing in spots where they’ll have good opportunities to succeed right away. 

It’s true that Notre Dame only had one player drafted in 2015 (tight end Ben Koyack, who went in the seventh round to Jacksonville). But had Stanley and Day declared, it would’ve been more, and both those guys are success stories in the sense of getting a degree from the prestigious Mendoza College of Business (and, in Stanley’s case, improving his draft stock). 

Plenty of college football’s elite programs can trot out gaudy signing bonus numbers and Pro Bowl appearances for former players, though. Those are a good hook for plenty of blue-chip recruits. 

But for some recruits — and plenty of parents — Notre Dame has another pitch to offer. Robinson and Steve Elmer are excellent examples of what can be done outside of football at Notre Dame, be it being elected student body president and starting a charity or leaving football to take a job in Washington D.C. after graduating in three and a half years. 

And whatever the message may be, it’s working. Notre Dame ranks fourth in Rivals.com’s team recruiting rankings for the class of 2017. 

Timberwolves' Tom Thibodeau appreciative of time with Bulls

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Timberwolves' Tom Thibodeau appreciative of time with Bulls

There's likely a lot Tom Thibodeau would love to get off his chest.

But the newest head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves continued to take the high road on his tumultous ending with the Bulls when he spoke to David Kaplan Monday morning on ESPN 1000.

Thibodeau, who was hired by the Timberwolves in April as head coach and president of basketball operations, said he was appreciative of his five seasons with the Bulls.

"I felt I had a great job here and I had great guys to coach," he told Kaplan. "That part, you're disappointed that it's going to end, but you know if you're in pro sports. These things happen. I was disappointed that we weren't able to win the championship, not only for our players, but for the fans here and for Jerry (Reinsdorf). Jerry took a chance on me and I'll always appreciate that he did that. I enjoyed my time here.

"Obviously I loved living here and appreciate all the support we received for our team over the five years I was here," he added. "I know what the Bulls mean to this city and I know how the organization feels about the support that they receive from the fans. This is a great, great sports city and I certainly appreciate all they did for me as well."

Thibodeau's departure coincided with Fred Hoiberg's arrival at the helm. The Bulls struggled in their first year post-Thibodeau, missing the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.

Thibodeau alluded to myriad injuries the team faced, including the season-ending shoulder injury to emotional leader Joakim Noah.

"Jo (Noah) is a big hit. You can't underestimate that, but along with Jo going down I felt that the East had gotten a lot better," Thibodeau said. "When you combine those things, and sometimes that happens. They're still a really good team. I think Fred is an excellent coach. They have to be healthy. That's a big thing for the organization, and unfortunately that hasn't been the case for the last few years."

The Bulls and Timberwolves will play twice next season.

Road Ahead: White Sox return home after seven-game road trip

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Road Ahead: White Sox return home after seven-game road trip

CSN's Chuck Garfien and Bill Melton talk about what's next for the White Sox, which host the Red Sox and Twins, in this week's Honda Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana Honda dealers.

After playing 19 games in 19 days the White Sox finally had an off day on Monday. The busy stretch ended in a seven-game road trip, which the Sox went 5-2 in.

Garfien and Melton talked about the success the White Sox have had on the road as the team returns home to face the Red Sox and Twins in a pair of three-game series this week. The Red Sox lead the AL East with a 15-10 record while the Twins have the worst record in the American League.

The White Sox entered Monday with more wins than any other team in the majors.