So how does the State of Illinois Football Class of 2014 grade? Overall, this looks to be a very solid class. The Class has several top tier/highly ranked recruits along with a very deep group of talented kids with quantity and quality at most positions.
Positions of strength?
Linebacker: It's been many years since we've seen as good of a linebacker group as we have in 2014. The top two recruits in Crete-Monee's Nyles Morgan (Notre Dame) and Plainfield South's Clifton Garrett (LSU) drew scholarship offers and national recruiting attention. Montini Catholic's Nile Sykes (Notre Dame) played defensive end as a junior but made the conversion to inside linebacker this past fall and had highly impressive senior year. My Top 50 is loaded with several other quality linebackers who could all make an early impact.
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Tight end: It just seemed that the state had three top tier tight ends in the Class of 2014 and colleges across the nation seemed to agree. Marist's Nic Weishar (Notre Dame) along with Glenwood's Daniel Helm (Tennessee) and Hinsdale Central's Ian Bunting (Michigan). All three have size and terrific ball skills and will be great down the field receiving tight ends at the next level. You honestly could put all three in a hat and draw names when it comes to actual individual and positional rankings.
Running back: Another position that quite honestly hasn't been strong here in Illinois, but that's not the case here with the Class of 2014. Glenbard North's Justin Jackson (Northwestern) was a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Illinois. De La Salle's Mikale Wilbon (Nebraska) along with Notre Dame's Chris James (Pittsburgh) are power backs with huge upside. Illinois landed a very good back in Mount Carmel's Matt Domer while Wheaton St. Francis' James Butler (Nevada) could be a huge steal for the Wolfpack. All five have a chance at being multi-year contributors.
Northwestern: The Wildcats landed four Class of 2014 in-state prospects including three in the Top 10. All four in-state commits are athletic recruits who have a chance to develop into major impact players for the Wildcats.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish also did well in Chicagoland, adding my No. 1 ranked recruit in Morgan and a terrific pass catching tight end in Weishar. Sykes isn't as highly ranked as others but he has a real chance of being a very solid player for the Irish.
Michigan State: Michigan State did well in Chicagoland with Mount Carmel defensive lineman Enoch Smith Jr., Hinsdale Central center Brian Allen, Stevenson safety Matt Morrissey and St. Charles North offensive tackle Chase Gianacakos. The Spartans made a valiant last minute run at De La Salle offensive tackle Jamarco Jones (Ohio State) and just missed.
Tennessee: Anytime the Volunteers can come from SEC country and steal two of the top ranked Land of Lincoln recruits in O'Fallon defensive end Dewayne Hendrix along with Helm, it's a real positive.
Syracuse: The Orange have serious Illinois ties including head coach Scott Shaefer and a staff of coaches who all have previous coaching and recruiting experience here. The Orange have landed six of my Top 50 recruits, and while only Crete-Monee defensive end Chris Slayton is ranked in the Top 20, expect Syracuse to become a regular fixture in Illinois.
Illinois State: Huh? So the Redbirds might not of fared well against the big boys, yet they added some serious quality, including Class 8A state champion quarterback Jake Kolbe (Naperville Central) along with Waubonsie Valley wide receiver Christian Gibbs and Oswego fullback/linebacker Bryce Holm.
Overall Letter Grade for the State of Illinois 2014 Signing Class? B: While the class lacked the usual amount of big body offensive tackle types, which Illinois is known for nationally, the overall number of of highly ranked prospects along with great depth at several positions brings home a much better than average recruiting class.