Where the nation's Super 25 are going

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Where the nation's Super 25 are going

Dick Butkus wouldn't believe it.

"There were six linebackers last year who were better than the No. 1 linebacker in the class of 2012," said recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network.

But linebackers?

"It's a good year but not an overwhelming year for talent, a weak year for linebackers and tight ends but an average to above-average year for the other positions," Lemming said.

Butkus, the legendary linebacker who practically invented the position at Chicago Vocational, Illinois and the Chicago Bears and the man whose name is on the trophy awarded annually to the best linebacker in college football, would find it hard to imagine that the word "weak" is being used to describe this year's crop of linebackers.

Lemming's three picks are Wisconsin-bound Vince Biegel of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., who is rated as the No. 34 player in the nation--and the first linebacker listed among the top 100; USC-bound Scott Starr of Norco, Calif., who is No. 60; and Florida-bound Antonio Morrison of Bolingbrook, who is No. 69.

Other services single out Kwon Alexander of Oxford, Ala., USC-bound Jabari Ruffin of Downey, Calif., Stanford-bound Noor Davis of The Villages, Fla., and Josh Clemons of Valdosta, Ga. Alabama-bound Dillon Lee of Buford, Ga., Michigan-bound James Ross of St. Mary's, Mich., LSU-bound Trey Granier of Thibodaux, La., and Rutgers-bound Quanzell Lambert of Creek, N.J.

"There are a lot of All-America teams and a lot of scouting services and 3,000 kids to pick from. We only choose the top 100," Lemming said. "We would be charged with collusion if our picks were close to being the same. There are a lot of opinions, no set way to separate one prospect from another.

"Football isn't like basketball. It isn't as easy to predict if a kid will develop into a star. It's about size, maturity, productivity, speed, growth and potential. Few kids are ready-made prospects. They have to develop. Sometimes it takes until their senior year in college or a year or two in the NFL to reach their full potential."

And then you have to add politics to the equation.

"Some colleges actually call the ratings people to talk up their classes so their school will be rated higher. They want high ratings. Some can save their jobs with a good recruiting class," Lemming said.

The only top 25 player who didn't commit on national signing day was wide receiver Stefon Diggs of Olney, Maryland. He is considering Ohio State, Florida, Maryland, Arkansas and California. He will make a decision on Feb. 10, after visiting Maryland.

Florida landed four players among the top 25--Morrison, tight end Kent Taylor, offensive lineman D.J. Humphries, kicker Austin Hardin. USC had three players, Alabama and Florida State two each.

Here are the nation's Super 25 players:

Offense

Pos.PlayerHometownHtWtCollegeTEKent Taylor
Land O'Lakes, Fla.
6-5218FloridaWRDorial Green-Beckham
Springfield, Mo.
6-6220MizzouOLJohn Theus
Jacksonville, Fla.
6-6301GeorgiaOLAndrus Peat
Tempe, Ariz
6-7280StanfordOLArik Armstead
Pleasant Grove, Calif.
6-7275OregonOLDJ Humphries
Charlotte, N.C.
6-6265FloridaOLZach Banner
Lakewood Lakes, Wash.
6-8320USCQBGunner Kiel
Columbus, Ind.
6-4216Notre Dame
RBJonathan Gray
Aledo, Texas
6-0195TexasRBRushel Shell
Aliquippa, Pa.
6-0215PittsburghKAustin Hardin
Atlanta, Ga.
5-11200FloridaPBradley Pinion
Concord, N.C.
6-5220ClemsonWRStefon Diggs
Olney, Md.
6-0175Undeclared
Defense:

Pos.PlayerHometownHtWtCollegeDLEddie Goldman
Washington D.C.
6-4295Florida State
DLNoah Spence
Harrisburg, Pa.
6-3230Ohio State
DLMario Edwards
Denton, Texas
6-3270Florida State
DLEllis McCarthy
Monrovia, Calif.
6-4300UCLALBVince Briegel
Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
6-3215WisconsinLBScott Staff
Norco, Calif.
6-4230USCLBAntonio Morrison
Bolingbrook, Ill.
6-3220FloridaDBShaq Thompson
Sacramanto, Calif.
6-2215WashingtonDBLandon Collins
Geismar, La.
6-1205AlabamaDB
Shaq Roland
Lexington, S.C.
6-2180South Carolina
DBGeno Smith
Atlanta, Ga.
6-0165AlabamaKRNelson Agholor
Tampa, Fla.
6-2180USC

High School coaches 'leave no stone unturned' in helping players explore next level

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Photo at top: Loyola Academy assistant coach Paul Pryma extends his hand toward a Steinmetz High School player during pregame introductions on Feb. 21. (Andres Waters/MEDILL)

High School coaches 'leave no stone unturned' in helping players explore next level

By Andres Waters
Special Contributor to CSNChicago.com

After Loyola Academy held off rival New Trier 43-40 to win the 2017 Zion-Benton regional championship, Ramblers head coach Tom Livatino had a special message for his players.

"That's the best celebration that I have ever been a part of," Livatino said. "Because everybody was completely about love. You guys love each other and we all can tell. I'm really, really proud just to be one of our coaches."

While the speech was a powerful way for Livatino to tell the players of his appreciation, he and other high school coaches engage in something much bigger to show players how proud they are: college recruiting.

In addition to time spent planning and practicing, coaches also sacrifice countless hours each week helping their players find opportunities to play at the next level.

"It's a really long part of the process, but to be honest, it's a part of the job that I absolutely love," Livatino said. "We demand so much of our players in every aspect. And, from a basketball standpoint, the least I could do is everything in my power to help them out."

Less than 48 hours after the Ramblers completed their season with a loss to Evanston Township in the Waukegan Sectional semifinal, Livatino was back in his office holding individual meetings with each player.

Starting with the 10 departing seniors, Livatino discussed the factors that go into choosing a college for high school athletes.

His conversations with the two players who already committed, senior guards Ramar Evans and Matt Lynch, focused on how they felt about their next steps. With the others, Livatino asked whether they wanted to play at the next level and, if so, which schools they wanted to attend that shared an interest in them. The conversations held with the Ramblers' juniors are very similar.

"I wasn't just looking for basketball, I was looking for a fit academically and socially," said Lynch, who committed to Division III St. Norbert College. "[Livatino] said St. Norbert would be the best fit for me. It fit everything I was looking for."

Read the full story at Medill Reports Chicago.

CSN Chicago, in partnership with Northwestern University,  features journalism by students in the graduate program at Medill School of Journalism. The students are reporters for Medill News Service. Medill faculty members edit the student work. Click here for more information about Medill.

From dunks to deliveries: Former No. 1 pick LaRue Martin's unlikely success story

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Photo at top: La Rue Martin poses for a photo at a National Basketball Retired Players Association event. (Photo courtesy of La Rue Martin)

From dunks to deliveries: Former No. 1 pick LaRue Martin's unlikely success story

By Elan Kane
Special Contributor to CSNChicago.com

LaRue Martin Jr. thought his future was set. The Portland Trail Blazers had drafted him No. 1 overall in the 1972 NBA draft. Money and fame awaited.

Fifteen years later, he started work as a UPS driver, struggling to find uniform pants that fit his 6-foot-11 frame.

"There is life after sports," Martin said. "Period."

It's been 45 years since the draft and Martin, a former Loyola University star, is now the UPS Illinois district public affairs and community services manager. He is labeled by many as one of the biggest busts in NBA draft history, but he is fine with that designation.

"I don't believe in saying anything negative, you have no control over that," Martin said. "I took care of my family, did what I had to do and I'm the type of person I can't dwell off the negatives. I can't. I kept my head up high and moved onto a positive mode of life and it has treated me very well."

Martin averaged 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds in 14 minutes per game in just four seasons with the Trail Blazers. He blames his low numbers on his lack of playing time, but many believe he was just not good enough.

"He didn't get playing time because he [stunk]," said Boston Globe sports columnist Bob Ryan, who has covered the NBA for decades. "[Former No. 1 overall draft pick Michael] Olowokandi didn't do much but I think he did more than that."

Martin is used to the criticism.

"As a young man, reading the papers all the time, that bothered me, I must admit that," Martin said. "But I hold my head up high now because I've been very successful in the corporate world."

Read the full story at Medill Reports Chicago.

CSN Chicago, in partnership with Northwestern University,  features journalism by students in the graduate program at Medill School of Journalism. The students are reporters for Medill News Service. Medill faculty members edit the student work. Click here for more information about Medill.