Treadwell begins his recruiting odyssey


Treadwell begins his recruiting odyssey

It's time for spring break at Crete-Monee and a young man's fancy turns to...well, if your name is LaQuon Treadwell and you are one of the most highly sought wide receivers in the country, you are making recruiting trips to Michigan, Oklahoma and Ohio State.

But this is only the beginning for Treadwell, who also has received scholarship offers from the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Nebraska, Illinois, Oklahoma State and USC. He also has heard from Florida and hopes to hear from Texas.

"When I was growing up, I liked Texas and USC. They were my dream schools," he said. "All of their players were usually in the Heisman Trophy race and playing in the Rose Bowl, guys like Vince Young and Reggie Bush. I hope to visit USC. I hope Texas will call."

Treadwell admits the recruiting process "blew my mind" after he received scholarship offers from Michigan, then Notre Dame, then 16 other major Division I schools. "I didn't think I'd get an offer from Oklahoma or Alabama or Oklahoma State or USC," he said.

"It said to me: 'I must have something they want.' I know I can get better. My speed can increase. I can be more aggressive going for the ball. I don't want to be an average player. They are saying I must be one of the best players in the country. This is motivation to work harder."

In recent weeks, with the help of Crete-Monee coach Jerry Verde and offensive coordinator John Konecki, Treadwell and his mother have put together a game plan designed to be sure that he explores all of his options, asks the right questions, doesn't make any mistakes and doesn't have any regrets when he makes his final decision.

"My mom is the boss. Whatever she says goes," Treadwell said. "She wants to know about academics the most. That's the first thing she asks on our campus visits. She wants to see the academic center."

Grades have always been important to Treadwell. He is an academic qualifier. Since he was a freshman, his mother and coaches emphasized the importance of good grades.

"They told me that I had to get serious about my grades," he said. "My coaches told me to keep my grades up, that I would see why it was important when I was older. As a freshman, I didn't know what to think. But now I know why it was important to take my academics seriously."

Being an academic qualifier means he has lots of options. He can choose any school he wishes, any school that offers a scholarship, from Alabama to USC, from Michigan to Oklahoma. He isn't in a hurry to make a decision. After the 2012 season is over, he said he will choose the allotted five schools to make fully paid, official visits.

"What I have learned is recruiting is a business. You have to do what is best for yourself. You don't want to go to a school where the coach is leaving," Treadwell said.

"I ask a lot of questions that can help me (make an intelligent decision). A lot of coaches say the same things. I ask what I want to know. Where will I play? How many other receivers are on your depth chart? Who is leaving? What kind of offense are you running? What kind of quarterback will be there when I'm there?"

LaQuon and his mother want to know.

What do the college coaches see in Treadwell? The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder is a game-breaker, a difference-maker. Last season, he caught 75 passes for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns. This season, with quarterback Marcus Terrell, linebacker Nyles Morgan and several other Division I recruits returning, Crete-Monee could be one of the best teams in the state.

Treadwell said he has 4.5 speed for 40 yards but coach Jerry Verde isn't so sure. "I don't know. Coaches don't seem to care. He has good speed. He doesn't look that fast when he is running but once he turns it on he has long strides and pulls away," Verde said.

"What separates him from others is his toughness. He does all the things that you hope a No. 1 outside receiver can do. What separates him is what happens after he catches the ball. It isn't just one move or one duke and he takes off. He runs through people.

"He also takes pride in his blocking. He picked up cornerbacks and threw them last season. He also played defensive end for us. He can run stop and pass rush. He made an impact for us on defense. He could be recruited for his defense. He reminds me of Supo Sanni (former Homewood-Flossmoor star now at Illinois). There is a toughness and meanness about him that I haven't seen with a kid with that kind of athletic ability."

Verde, who was rated among the top 100 prospects in Illinois when he came out of Marian Catholic in Chicago Heights in 1995, marvels at how well Treadwell has handled the hoopla and pressure of the recruiting process.

"Today, with the Internet and blogs and twitter and texting, kid are really caught up in what they think is being famous. They are treated like rock stars on the Internet. Some kids lose their self-esteem if they don't get a lot of recognition," Verde said.

But Treadwell's mother keeps her son grounded. He listens to her. When he chooses a school, it will be his decision and his mother's, no one else. Verde, Konecki and the coaching staff provide input based on their experience with the recruiting process. But, in the end, they understand that the final decision will be made in the home.

"We are making sure that he makes the final decision the first time. That's what we have preached to him," Verde said. "We had a poor experience with another kid. We don't want LaQuon to to make a decision that he isn't 100 percent prepared to make.

"To his credit, he isn't being pressured to commit early. His mind is open now. Every time he makes a visit, he likes something about the school. He is in a unique situation. Wherever he wants to go, he can go. He doesn't have to have any regrets."

To improve his skills, his speed and his lateral movement, Treadwell works out with former Bears cornerback Mike Richardson. He also works out regularly with some of the leading prospects in the Chicago area, including running back Ty Isaac of Joliet Catholic, offensive linemen Ethan Pocic of Lemont and Kyle Bosch of Wheaton St. Francis and Oklahoma-bound running back David Smith of Bremen, at the Core 6 training facility in Westmont.

Treadwell has come a long way since he played running back and quarterback as an eighth grader, then quarterback as a freshman. At one point, he thought he would play quarterback or cornerback on the varsity. But he always wanted to be a wide receiver and was pleased when coaches determined he wasn't cut out for cornerback and moved him to his favorite position.

"I like wide receiver because I'm able to run free and be in the open and make moves," he said. "I like to make someone miss, to embarrass someone out in the open."

But he thinks he must get a step closer to 4.4 to play as a freshman in college. So he has more work to do. This is no time to look at his press clippings and scholarship offers. So what if he has talked personally with coaches Brian Kelly of Notre Dame and Bob Stoops of Oklahoma? So what if he just missed a call from Alabama coach Nick Saban?

"I've got to get stronger and faster," he said. "People in college are as big as me so I have to get bigger and stronger and faster.

"I have to do what is best for me. I'm looking for a college that plays a pro-style or spread offense, a school that has a passing offense. And I'm looking for coaches who put players in the NFL, coaches who prepare their kids for the pros."

Because LaQuon and his mother want to know.

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

As Cubs players and generations of fans celebrated Christmas in October, Jon Lester had to be The Grinch for a moment. Sure, the Cubs would party from Saturday night into Sunday morning, probably get “a little bit” drunk and enjoy the franchise’s first National League pennant in 71 years. But the reality of the Cleveland Indians would set in once the Cubs got rid of this hangover.

“We ain’t done anything yet,” Lester said during the Wrigley Field celebration after the Cubs eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Nobody likes second place.”

There are enough Boston Red Sox connections in this World Series that Lester already knows what to expect, starting with Indians manager Terry Francona, who became a father figure as he dealt with a cancer scare as a rookie.

There are ex-teammates from those championship teams in 2007 (Coco Crisp) and 2013 (Mike Napoli, Andrew Miller) at Fenway Park. There is the accumulated experience from throwing 119 postseason innings (2.50 ERA) and becoming one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation.

“I don’t want to sound like a smart-ass, but we got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “I know that manager on their side’s going to be prepared. I know their coaching staff’s going to be ready. I know their players are going to be ready, just based on one player alone, and that’s Mike Napoli. I know what he brings to the table. He helped transform our 2013 team.

“Come Tuesday, we got to put the gloves back on. We got to get ready to fight and grind and do what we’ve done well all year. We got four more games to win.”

After limiting the Dodgers to two runs in 13 innings, and being named the NL Championship Series’ co-MVP along with Javier Baez, Lester should be a worthy Game 1 starter opposite Corey Kluber, the 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner.

This is why Lester took a leap of faith with Cubs bosses/ex-Red Sox executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and chairman Tom Ricketts’ family and what had been a last-place team in 2014.

Two seasons into the $155 million contract that signaled the Cubs would be serious about contending – and not just in the Baseball America/Baseball Prospectus prospect rankings – the franchise has won 200 games and four playoff rounds and remained in position to dominate for years to come.

“Theo and Jed and the front office and Tom and all these guys had a belief,” Lester said. “I believed in that belief. The talent here speaks for itself. I didn’t do anything – I came here because I wanted to win in Chicago. I’m just happy to be here and be a part of this and get to this point.

“(But) we’re four hard wins away from doing what we set out to do in spring training.”

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As bright as the future looks on the North Side, Lester will be 33 next season and his left arm has already accounted for more than 2,000 innings during his decorated career. John Lackey turned 38 on Sunday. Jake Arrieta only has one more season before becoming a free agent.

The Cubs built their franchise around young hitters, with the idea that they can figure out the pitching later with free agents, change-of-scenery trades and bounce-back guys. Easier said than done. They have a true No. 1 starter now in Lester, who as a free agent watched a recruiting video that imagined what it would be like when the Cubs win the World Series.

“This isn’t it,” Lester said. “It’s been a tough playoffs for us to this point and it’s only going to get tougher. We’re going to enjoy it. We’re going to show up Tuesday in Cleveland ready to play. We’ll see what happens.”

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Three quick fixes for some Bears woes while searching for a turnaround

Positives were difficult to find in last Thursday’s 26-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers. So maybe the place to look for improvement lies in just getting rid of a few negatives.

As far as positives, Leonard Floyd would be the obvious one, with two sacks, one a strip and fumble recovery for a TD. Ka’Deem Carey would be another, with 10 carries for 48 yards, his second straight game with high-impact running; Jordan Howard has been shackled for two weeks, so the Bears have needed another backfield-committee member contributing. Jeremy Langford may have trouble finding work when he comes back from his ankle injury.

But negatives have far outweighed positives, which is how you get to 1-6. Fixing three of those will go a long way toward improving their chances against a Minnesota Vikings team that appeared eminently beatable in losing at Philadelphia on Sunday:

Stop the penalty hemorrhaging

For the third straight game the Bears had 10 penalties walked off against them. This "streak" started after eight infractions in the win over Detroit. The 10 in Green Bay cost the Bears 108 yards in a game where their offense netted just 189. Seven of the penalties were charged to the defense, six of which gave the Packers first downs.

The three offensive penalties were mental. A wide receiver (Alshon Jeffery) lined up offsides. The quarterback (Matt Barkley) drew a delay flag. An offensive lineman (Ted Larsen) was illegally downfield.

All of which point to a discipline problem getting worse, not better. Whether the fault lies with players losing focus or coaches not instilling a mindset is a debate, but meaningless if the problem is not addressed. “There were a lot of penalties out there,” said cornerback De’Vante Bausby, who committed three of those penalties. “We had a good scheme and plan but we just didn’t finish in the second half as a group.”

Stop the dinking

While Brian Hoyer replacing Jay Cutler scaled back the downfield element of the offense, the loss of an emerging Kevin White should not be understated. The de facto rookie may not have gotten in the end zone but he was leading the team in receptions before he suffered a broken leg in the win over Detroit.

Since the loss of White, however, the offense has shrunk. The Bears averaged 7.5 yards per pass attempt through four games with White. Without White the average is 7.0, and that is including the blip in Indianapolis, which stands as a complete anomaly. The average was 5.9 in the Jacksonville loss and 5.0 in Green Bay.

Hoyer’s ball-security orientation has been a positive, but also a limiting factor. Cutler last year had one of the best ball-security seasons of his career, yet the offense was able to average 7.5 yards per attempt.

The Bears scored two of their three rushing touchdowns in games with White, who may not yet be the field-stretcher his 4.35 speed but the prospect of White arguably made for a more threatening offense than even with the contributions of Cam Meredith.

Stop the Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings have suffered injuries at a rate like the Bears’ but have overcome them. Until Sunday in Philadelphia, when the Eagles sacked Sam Bradford six times and hit him more than a dozen other times. The Vikings never sacked Carson Wentz, who wasn’t special but was good enough while Minnesota was self-destructing.

The Vikings have beaten the Bears the last three times they’ve met, the first time that’s happened since 1999 and 2000, which is also the last time the Bears started 1-6. And the Bears have lost three straight.

The Bears were able to end the first three-game skid by focusing on one game: the Lions. The result was shutting down a very good offense, the lowest yardage-allowed (263) of the season and the firmest commitment to the run game (29) attempts.

Morale inside the locker room can only be revived by a win. One game. This game.