Class of 2013 could be best since 1985

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Class of 2013 could be best since 1985

Recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network and other football analysts and historians claim that the class of 1985 was the most talented group ever produced in the Chicago area. And it's hard to argue against the evidence.

According to Lemming, 141 graduates earned Division I scholarships. The elite list included St. Rita linebacker and Player of the Year John Foley (Notre Dame), Whitney Young lineman and No. 1 NFL draft choice Russell Maryland (Miami), Simeon lineman Bobby Wilson (Michigan State), St. Laurence linemen Tim Grunhard (Notre Dame), Paul Glonek (Iowa) and Jeff Pearson (Michigan State) and Forest View linebacker Brad Quast (Iowa).

Also Sandburg linemen Jeff Alm (Notre Dame) and Dave Postmus (Illinois), Bogan end Frank Hartley (Illinois), Libertyville lineman Brian Wilcox (UCLA), Lockport lineman Brad James (Illinois), Mount Carmel receiver Chris Calloway (Michigan), St. Laurence defensive back Stan Smagala (Notre Dame), Schaumburg quarterback Paul Justin (Arizona State) and New Trier halfback Charlie Young (Stanford).

The class of 2013 won't approach that number but Lemming argues that this year's crop of juniors, led by running back Ty Isaac of Joliet Catholic, offensive lineman Ethan Pocic of Lemont and quarterbacks Aaron Bailey of Bolingbrook and Matt Alviti of Maine South, could be the most talented group since 1985.

"Isaac and Pocic are the two best players in the Midwest," Lemming said. "There are six or seven players in the class of 2013 who could rank among the top 100 in the nation."

Lemming said offensive lineman Kyle Bosch of Wheaton St. Francis isn't far behind Isaac and Pocic. He rates Crete-Monee's LaQuon Treadwell as the best receiving prospect in the Midwest and Bolingbrook's Bailey as one of the best athletes. He also is high on Maine South quarterback Matt Alviti and Glenbard West running backreceiver Kendall Johnson.

Other highly regarded prospects in the class of 2013 are safety Jesse Bobbit of Palatine, tight end Nathan Marcus and defensive end Ruben Dunbar of Glenbard West, defensive lineman Colin Goebel of Naperville Central, tight end Danny Friend of Morris, running back Matthew Harris of Lyons, tackles Brandon Stanfel of Libertyville and Blake King of Minooka and linebacker Caleb Bailey of Romeoville.

But the headliners are Isaac, Pocic and Bailey.

Isaac, a 6-3, 215-pound running back with 4.5 speed, set a state record by rushing 26 times for 515 yards and six touchdowns in a 70-45 loss to Montini in the Class 5A final. He also set a school single-season record by rushing for 2,629 yards, surpassing the mark of 2,624 set by James Randle in 1996.

He has 13 scholarship offers -- Illinois, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Purdue, Indiana, Arizona, Vanderbilt, Mississippi and Toledo -- with more to come.

"He is the best player I have coached," said Joliet Catholic coach Dan Sharp. "He is one of the greatest ever to play in Illinois."

Lemming said Isaac is the best running back to come out of the Chicago area since Niles West's Rashard Mendenhall. "He is the best I've seen this year. He looks like (NFL Hall of Famer) Eric Dickerson," Lemming said.

Pocic, a 6-7, 285-pound offensive tackle, is being touted in some circles as the next Jake Long or Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz, comparing him to two of the best left tackles in history.

He has offers from Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Iowa, Purdue, West Virginia and Arizona and can be expected to attract more during his senior season. His older brother Graham was a standout center at Illinois.

Lemont coach Eric Michaelsen said Pocic is "the best offensive lineman I've seen this year." He ranks Pocic in a class with former Lemont star David Molk, who earned All-America recognition as the best center in college football at Michigan in 2011.

Bailey, a 6-2, 215-pound quarterback with 4.5 speed, led Bolingbrook to the Class 8A championship last season. He rushed for 1,986 yards, passed for 1,000 and accounted for 40 touchdowns. Very athletic, he could be a quarterback, running back or wide receiver in college.

He has offers from Illinois, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Indiana, Iowa, Purdue, Minnesota, Northern Illinois, Boston College and Colorado State. Look for the list to grow as college coaches continue to evaluate his all-around skills.

Alviti, a 6-foot, 195-pound quarterback, led Maine South to the Class 8A championship while passing for 3,150 yards as a sophomore. As a junior, he led the Hawks to a 10-1 record and passed for 2,220 yards. He has passed for 54 touchdowns in two years. He has indicated that he will attend either Northwestern or Notre Dame.

Treadwell, a 6-3, 183-pound wide receiver, caught 75 passes for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. He has offers from Notre Dame, Nebraska, Michigan and Indiana.

Bosch, a 6-5, 290-pound tackle, is described by Wheaton St. Francis coach Greg Purnell as "the best young offensive lineman I've coached in 30 years. He has the most big-time potential of anyone I've seen. He can play on Sunday."

He has more offers (14) than any Illinois product in the class of 2013 -- Alabama, Arizona, Boston College, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, Stanford and West Virginia.

Bosch has been on the radar of Lemming and other recruiting analysts and college coaches since he was an eighth grader. As a sophomore, many longtime observers of high school football in the Chicago area said that Bosch was the best young prospect since running back Howard Jones of Evanston in 1970.

Jones was a two-time All-Stater and three-time state champion in the 100 and 220-yard dash events. Evanston coach Murney Lazier, who lost only 17 games in 18 years, said Jones was the best player he ever produced.

Palatine coach Tyler Donnelly, a nephew of former Illinois and NFL star George Donnelly, said Bobbit is the best player he has produced in 18 years. A punishing tackler, he could be a linebacker or strong safety in college. He has attracted interest from Northwestern, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Penn State and Northern Illinois.

Proviso East has a pair of promising juniors who have been flying under the radar because the Maywood school's football program isn't as celebrated as its basketball program. But defensive end Anthony Greenhow and offensive tackle Rashad Williams are academic qualifiers who should receive plenty of attention from college recruiters this fall.

Marian Central coach Ed Brucker has produced several big-time Division I players in recent years and quarterback Chris Streveler is his latest. He passed for over 2,000 yards and rushed for 900 while leading his 11-1 team to the state quarterfinals last fall. "He is potentially the best all-around quarterback I've coached in 40 years," Brucker said.

The DuPage Valley is one of the most competitive conferences in Illinois and offensive lineman Colin Goebel of Naperville North figures to be one of the leading prospects in the Midwest in 2012. He was the conference's offensive lineman of the year as a junior, a rare distinction. His cousin, former Montini star Garrett Goebel, is a stater at Ohio State.

Chad Hetlet has restored the glory at Glenbard West that Bill Duchon built in the 1960s and 1970s and Jim Covert sustained in the 1980s. Hetlet's 2011 squad was led by Ohio State-bound defensive tackle Tommy Schutt, who was rated as the state's No. 1 player in some circles.

The 2012 Hilltoppers will feature at least three Division I prospects -- running backreceiver Kendall Johnson, defensive end Ruben Dunbar and tight end Nathan Marcus.

Interestingly, Schutt wasn't selected as the defensive player of the year in the West Suburban Silver. That distinction went to Proviso West junior linebacker Jamaal Payton. He had 100 tackles in 10 games and had a 103-yard interception return for a touchdown against Hubbard.

Top 30 (Class of 2013)

1. Ty Isaac, Joliet Catholic, RB
2. Ethan Pocic, Lemont, OT
3. Aaron Bailey, Bolingbrook, QB
4. Matt Alviti, Maine South, QB
5. LaQuon Treadwell, Crete-Monee, WR
6. Kyle Bosch, Wheaton St. Francis, OT 7. Colin Goebel, Naperville Central, DL 8. Jesse Bobbit, Palatine, DB 9. Kendall Johnson, Glenbard West, RB 10. Brandon Stanfel, Libertyville, OT 11. Blake King, Minooka, OT 12. Danny Friend, Morris, TE 13. Matthew Harris, Lyons, RB 14. Ruben Dunbar, Glenbard West, DE 15. Chris Streveler, Marian Central, QB 16. Jamaal Payton, Proviso West, DB 17. Anthony Greenhow, Proviso East, DE 18. Rashad Williams, Proviso East, OT 19. Devon Sanders, Robeson, RB 20. Tate Briggs, Montini, OT 21. Nathan Marcus, Glenbard West, TE 22. Jabari Winston, Simeon, DB 23. Kendall Moore, Simeon, OT 24. Bruce Holder, Streamwood, WR 25. Adam Kulon, Jacobs, LB 26. John Peltz, Wheaton North, QB 27. Caleb Bailey, Romeoville, LB 28. Jalen Banks, Thornton, DB 29. A.J. Fish, Grayslake North, QB 30. Jake Lemming, Lemont, DB

Bears, Lions have been totally different teams in fourth quarters

Bears, Lions have been totally different teams in fourth quarters

Apart from any specific player or statistic, one unavoidable part of Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions looms ominously in front of the Bears, and there is no way they can avoid it: The fourth quarter.

Every game has one, and it has been the blessing of the Lions’ 2016 existence and the bane of the Bears’. The Bears talk constantly about the importance of playing a 60-minute game.

Before last Sunday’s 28-13 win over the New Orleans Saints, the Lions had trailed in the fourth quarter of all seven of their previous victories this season. A team that had traditionally found undisciplined ways to squander games has been finding ways to win them, according to a formula.

As Detroit Free Press columnist Jeff Seidel noted, “every single one of these games has looked the same: There was the drive, the field goal and the huge defensive play or, at least, some variation of those things."

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This is particularly relevant — and concerning — for the Bears, who have been the virtual opposite: Three times this season (at Houston, at Indianapolis, vs. Jacksonville) they have led in fourth quarters and lost those games.

The reasons lie in different phases, not simply cases of one, same unit failing.

"With us it’s not excuses, but we’re young, on our third quarterback, and that can affect it as far as experience and just being in that situation,” said coach John Fox. “To close the game, sometimes it’s just a mindset. When you have young players, it’s learning how to deal with adversity and learning how to deal with prosperity.”

The Bears did not outscore an opponent in the fourth quarter of any of their first 10 games this season, finally getting something going late in the Tennessee and San Francisco games, outscoring those two opponents by a combined 19-3.

“Being able to finish games, that’s something we’re learning and I think I saw examples of it last week in the San Francisco game and even going back to Minnesota, games where we have closed it, even in the first Detroit game, although we made that one interesting,” Fox said. “We found a way. So a lot of it’s experience under pressure and hopefully we’re figuring it out and can figure it out the last four games of the year.”

Beginning Sunday, presumably, against the NFL’s reigning comeback team.

Joe Maddon breaks down Wade Davis vs. Aroldis Chapman as Cubs ramp up for another World Series run

Joe Maddon breaks down Wade Davis vs. Aroldis Chapman as Cubs ramp up for another World Series run

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The Cubs downplayed expectations after spending almost $290 million on free agents during their 2-for-1 offseason.

Trading for one season of Wade Davis at $10 million – and betting his right arm can withstand another deep playoff run – feels logical and measured in an environment where the New York Yankees just gave Aroldis Chapman a five-year, $86 million contract that smashed the record for closers.

Giving up Jorge Soler – an immense Cuban talent who looks like an NFL linebacker and once sparked a bidding war among big-market teams like the Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers – seems painless. The Cubs have a roster crunch and obvious concerns about Soler’s ability to stay healthy and can’t turn him into the part-time designated hitter the Kansas City Royals envision.

But don’t confuse acting rational at the winter meetings with thinking small. Everything becomes clearer once you escape the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center bubble and head toward Reagan National Airport. Make no mistake, the Cubs left Washington on Thursday after acquiring the closer they believe will get the final out of the 2017 World Series.

“The Wade Davis move is an aggressive move,” team president Theo Epstein said. “It’s not like a hedge or a cautious move. We traded a longer-term asset for a short-term asset. But if you do that, you have to make sure the short-term asset is an impact one. And that was the case with Chapman. And that’s now the case with Davis.

“I see that as an aggressive move of an organization that’s hungry to win another World Series.”

After the Cubs handed manager Joe Maddon a shiny new toy – and gave up uber-prospect Gleyber Torres in that blockbuster Chapman deal with the Yankees in late July – Epstein asked: “If not now, when?”

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The Cubs viewed Chapman strictly as a rental and showed no interest in bringing him back to Chicago. The end would always have to justify the means after trading for a player who began the season serving a 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic-violence policy. The Cubs got that championship parade down Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue, so it won’t really matter if Torres becomes a star in The Bronx.

Beyond the enormous financial commitment and off-the-field concerns with Chapman, the Cubs are now getting an All-Star closer who worked at his craft by first making 88 starts in the big leagues. Where dealing with Chapman presented a language barrier and his preference to work one clean inning at a time, Maddon managed Davis during his first four seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays.

“They’re just different kinds of pitchers,” Maddon said. “I mean, Aroldis is pretty great. There’s several guys out there right now that everybody would like to have – and the guys that are out there as free agents are obvious. Guys like Wade Davis – ask around the industry – how many people would like to have him also?

“I can’t tell you he’s better. He’s just different. Like I said, Aroldis pretty much relies on his fastball and he’s got a great slider, whereas Wade, growing up as a starter, pitches.

“It’s just a different method of closing.”

Chapman is an athletic freak who created a buzz throughout Wrigley Field as fans looked up at the 3,990-square-foot LED video board for the velocity readings. He will turn 29 in spring training, but at some point the question will inevitably become: Can he pitch with something less than a 103-mph fastball?

Instead of waiting to pounce at the trade deadline, having Davis from Opening Day through possibly October should help protect Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Grimm from a manager who wants to win every pitch and pushes his relievers hard.

Credit Chapman for evolving in the World Series and throwing 97 pitches in Games 5, 6 and 7 combined. But adding Davis shows the Cubs want to be a dynasty.

“He’s definitely a difference-maker,” Maddon said. “His stuff is that good. He’s high velocity, great cutter, very good curveball. He knows how to pitch, too, so part of the allure with him is he’s just not a thrower out there.

“He has other things other than his fastball. He gets out righties and lefties. So he pretty much does it all.”