Seven Illinois products in nation's top 100

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Seven Illinois products in nation's top 100

The class of 2013 is being touted as perhaps the most talented group of football players produced in Illinois since 1986, according to longtime recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network.

Seven Illinois products are ranked among the top 100 senior prospects in the nation with two or three other players capable of earning a spot by the end of the 2012 season. And Joliet Catholic's Ty Isaac is the top-rated running back of all.

In fact, it's the most Illinois players to earn top 100 recognition in more than a decade. And Isaac is only one of three Illinois products to be ranked among the top 100 since St. Rita linebacker John Foley was No. 1 in 1985. Isaac joins Niles West's Rashard Mendenhall and Proviso West's Kyle Prater on the elite list.

"It looks like a better year than last year," Lemming said. "Most positions are solid. Last year was weak at linebacker and tight end, average at defensive back. But all positions are stocked this year. You can find talent if you are looking for it."

Specifically, Lemming said talent in the Midwest is average except for the Chicago area and Ohio. "It's a very good year in Illinois, not only in the Chicago area but also the East St. Louis and Peoria areas. And there are as many good offensive linemen as anywhere in the country."

Robert Nkemdiche, a defensive end from Loganville, Georgia, is universally regarded as the No. 1 player in the nation. He has 15 scholarship offers and is expected to choose Alabama over USC, LSU, Florida, Georgia and Auburn.

Interestingly, four of the top six prospects are already committed.

Quarterback Max Browne of Sammamish, Wash., is headed for USC, linebacker Rueben Foster of La Grange, Georgia, has chosen Alabama, quarterback Tyrone Swoopes of Whitewright, Texas, is committed to Texas and wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones of Sealy, Texas, will also attend Texas.

Linebacker Su'a Cravens of Vista Murrieta, California, has 30 offers, including Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas, Stanford, UCLA and USC.

Offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil of Lake City, Florida, has 20 offers, including Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Miami, USC, LSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas, Illinois and Michigan.

In fact, 14 of the top 20 players in the nation have made oral commitments, altering a past trend in which the most elite prospects usually waited until a week or two prior to the national signing day in February before announcing a decision.

What it says is the rich continue to get richer, the elite programs continue to dominate the recruiting sweepstakes and the most talented high school players want to play for winners or traditional powers rather than opt for a program that is rebuilding or struggling.

"As in basketball, the best football players want to play for the best programs, the most successful programs, the ones that will give them a chance to play for a national championship and best prepare them for a career in the NFL," Lemming said.

Texas got Browne, Swoopes, Seals-Jones and offensive lineman Darius James of Harker Heights, Texas. Florida got wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood of Jacksonville, Fla., and running back Kelvin Taylor of Belle Glade, Fla. Alabama got Foster and wide receiver O.J. Howard of Prattville, Ala.

USC got defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow of Elkton, Maryland. Oregon got running back Thomas Tyner of Beaverton, Oregon. Georgia got running back Derrick Henry of Yulee, Fla. Auburn got defensive tackle Dee Liner of Muscle Shoals, Ala. Penn State got tight end Adam Breneman of Camp Hill, Pa. And South Carolina got offensive lineman D.J. Park of Dillon, S.C.

Isaac, who is ranked No. 8 in the nation, has 21 offers, including Ohio State, USC, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Auburn, Clemson, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Northwestern.

Other Illinois products on Lemming's elite list are wide receiver LaQuon Treadwell (30) of Crete-Monee, offensive tackle Ethan Pocic (48) of Lemont, offensive tackle Logan Tuley-Tillman (50) of Peoria Manual, quarterback Aaron Bailey (72) of Bolingbrook, offensive tackle Colin McGovern (75) of Lincoln-Way West and offensive tackle Kyle Bosch (89) of Wheaton St. Francis.

Treadwell has 18 offers, including Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma, USC, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska.

Pocic, whose brother plays at Illinois, has 10 offers, including Ohio State, Michigan, USC, Florida, Auburn, Illinois and Michigan.

Tuley-Tillman and Bosch have committed to Michigan while McGovern has committed to Notre Dame.

Bailey, who led Bolingbrook to the Class 8A championship last year, has 13 offers, including Illinois, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Wisconsin.

Three players who could crash the top 100 are Northwestern-bound quarterback Matt Alviti of Maine South, defensive end Josh Augusta of Peoria Central and Illinois-bound running back Kendrick Foster of Peoria Richwoods.

TOM LEMMING'S TOP 100 FOR 2012

No. Player, Hometown Pos. Ht. Wt.
1. Robert Nkemdiche, Loganville, Ga. DE 6-4 270
2. Max Browne, Sammamish, Wash. QB 6-5 205
3. Reuben Foster, La Grange, Ga. LB 6-2 242
4. Tyrone Swoopes, Whitewright, Texas QB 6-5 220
5. Su'a Cravens, Vista Murrieta, Calif. LB 6-1 205
6. Ricky Seals-Jones, Sealy, Texas WR 6-6 215
7. Laremy Tunsil, Lake City, Fla. OL 6-6 278
8. Ty Isaac, Joliet (Catholic), Ill. RB 6-2 220
9. Ahmad Fulwood,, Jacksonville, Fla. WR 6-4 200
10. Thomas Tyner, Beaverton, Oregon RB 6-0 205
11. Derrick Henry, Yulee, Fla. RB 6-3 240
12. O.J. Howard, Prattville, Ala. WR 6-5 225
13. Adam Breneman, Camp Hill, Pa. TE 6-5 225
14. Kelvin Taylor, Belle Glade, Fla. RB 5-11 210
15. Robert Foster, Monaca, Pa. WR 6-2 180
16. D.J. Park, Dillon, S.C. OL 6-6 315
17. Kenny Bigelow, Elkton, Maryland DL 6-3 275
18. Marquez North, Charlotte, N.C. WR 6-3 210
19. Dee Liner, Muscle Shoals, Ala. DT 6-4 258
20. Darius James, Harker Heights, Texas OL 6-6 320
21. Tim Williams, Baton Rouge, La. LB 6-4 228
22. E.J. Levenberry, Woodbridge, Va. LB 6-3 220
23. Shane Morris, Warren, Mich. QB 6-3 190
24. Antonio Conner, Batesville, Miss. DB 6-0 190
25. Henry Poggi, Baltimore, Maryland DL 6-4 255
26. Tray Matthews, Newnan, Ga. DB 6-2 200
27. Tramel Terry, Goose Creek, S.C. WR 6-0 190
28. Leon McQuay, Seffner, Fla. DB 6-1 180
29. Vernon Hargreaves, Tampa, Fla. DB 5-11 186
30. LaQuon Treadwell, Crete-Monee, Ill. WR 6-3 190
31. Greg Bryant, Del Ray Beach, Fla. RB 5-10 200
32. Cody Thomas, Colleyville, Texas QB 6-5 215
33. Pegter Kalambayi, Matthews, N.C. LB 6-3 230
34. Jalin Marshall, Middletown, Ohio QB 6-0 198
35. Jaylon Smith, Fort Wayne, Ind. LB 6-3 217
36. Jonathan Allen, Ashburn, Va. DL 6-3 230
37. Kevin Olsen, Wayne Hills, N.J. QB 6-3 200
38. Montravius Adams, Vienna, Ga. DT 6-4 285
39. James Hearns, Tallahassee, Fla. LB 6-3 235
40. Cam Burrows, Trotwood, Ohio DB 6-1 196
41. Matt Thomas, Miami, Fla. LB 6-4 197
42. Kendall Fuller, Olney, Maryland DB 6-0 175
43. Derrick Green, Richmond, Va. RB 6-0 215
44. James Quick, Louisville, Ky. WR 6-0 180
45. Marcell Harris, Orlando, Fla. DB 6-2 200
46. Altee Tenpenny, North Little Rock, Ark. RB 5-11 200
47. Trey Johnson, Lawrenceville, Ga. LB 6-1 218
48. Ethan Pocic, Lemont, Ill. OL 6-6 295
49. Larenz Bryant, Charlotte, N.C. LB 6-1 213
50. Logan Tuley-Tillman, Peoria (Manual), Ill. OL 6-7 304
51. Chans Cox, Pinetop, Arizona LB 6-3 225
52. Hunter Henry, Little Rock, Ark. TE 6-6 235
53. D.J. Ward, Lawton, Okla. DE 6-4 238
54. Jake Raulerson, Celina, Texas OL 6-5 250
55. Bryce Ramsey, Kingsland, Ga. QB 6-4 205
56. Jon McCrary, Ellenwood, Ga. QB 6-4 195
57. Elijah Daniels, Avon, Ind. DL 6-3 253
58. Antwuan Davis, Bastrop, Texas CB 6-3 180
59. ArDarius Stewart, Fultondale, Ala. RB 6-3 190
60. Demarcus Robinson, Fort Valley, Ga. WR 6-2 200
61. Isaac Rochell, McDonough, Ga. DE 6-5 255
62. Torrodney Prevot, Alief, Texas LB 6-4 217
63. Michael McCray, Trotwood, Ohio LB 6-3 235
64. Christian Hackenberg, Fork Union, Va. QB 6-4 215
65. Isaac Savaiineaea, Honolulu, Hawaii LB 6-3 235
66. Ryan Burns, Ashburn, Va. QB 6-5 225
67. Joey Bosa, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. DE 6-4 255
68. Desean Smith, Lake Charles, La. TE 6-5 230
69. Priest Willis, Tempe, Arizona DB 6-2 208
70. A'Shawn Robinson, Arlington Heights, Texas DL 6-5 285
71. Joe Fennell, South Fort Myers, Fla. OL 6-4 312
72. Aaron Bailey, Bolingbrook, Ill. QB 6-2 215
73. Bucky Hodges, Virginia Beach, Va. QB 6-6 235
74. Steve Elmer, Midland, Mich. OL 6-5 300
75. Colin McGovern, New Lenox, Ill. OL 6-7 285
76. Derrick Griffin, Rosenberg, Texas WR 6-6 210
77. Kent Perkins, Dallas, Texas OL 6-6 287
78. David Dawson, Detroit, Mich. OL 6-5 290
79. Tyren Jones Marietta, Ga. RB 5-9 195
80. Carlis Parker, Statesville, N.C. QB 6-4 185
81. Ezekiel Elliott, St. Louis, Mo. DB 6-0 205
82. Taj Williams, Tallahassee, Fla. DB 6-4 187
83. Rod Crayton, Dadeville, Ala. DL 6-1 295
84. Grant Hill, Huntsville, Ala. OL 6-5 315
85. Cooper Bateman, Salt Lake City, Utah QB 6-3 195
86. J.T. Barnett, Wichita Falls, Texas QB 6-2 205
87. Chris Fox, Parker, Colorado OL 6-5 295
88. Ryan Green, St. Petersburg, Fla. RB 5-10 190
89. Kyle Bosch, Wheaton (St. Francis), Ill. OL 6-4 275
90. Greg Gilmore, Hope Mills, N.C. DT 6-4 272
91. Marcus Farria, Peoria, Arizona DL 6-5 245
92. Rashad Kinlaw, Galloway, N.J. DB 6-0 175
93. Taquan Mizzell, Virginia Beach, Va. RB 5-10 180
94. Reeve Koehler, Honolulu, Hawaii OL 6-3 300
95. Uriah LeMay, Matthews, N.C. WR 6-2 195
96. Courtney Love, Youngstown, Ohio LB 6-2 228
97. Cord Sandberg, Bradenton, Fla. QB 6-2 205
98. Keenon Johnson, Kannapolis, N.C. WR 6-3 200
99. Troy Williams, Harbor City, Calif. QB 6-1 185
100. Kenneth Santa Marina, New Orleans, La. OL 6-6 328

Why Dodgers could be a playoff problem for Cubs

Why Dodgers could be a playoff problem for Cubs

LOS ANGELES – Imagine a Los Angeles Dodgers team doing more with less getting Clayton Kershaw back to start Game 1 of a playoff series. That could become a nightmare matchup for the Cubs, if Rich Hill stays healthy and continues his late-career renaissance, and if rookie phenom Julio Urias saves enough bullets for October.   

“They would be a tough team,” said Ben Zobrist, a World Series hero last year with the Kansas City Royals, the switch-hitter the Cubs signed with October specifically in mind. “We would have our hands full because of all the lefties they have. 

“We have to do a better job against lefties overall – and figuring out how to just get more runners on base. We tend to rely on the homer a little bit too much. And in those situations, (we) have to find a way to just take our hits and hit line drives around the park.”

On Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, the Cubs didn’t have any answers for Brock Stewart, a 24-year-old right-hander out of Illinois State University who matched $155 million lefty Jon Lester for five scoreless innings. The Dodgers manufactured a 1-0 victory, and might have swept the best team in baseball out of Chavez Ravine if not for Kris Bryant’s MVP game on Friday night.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]   

“They have a veteran group on the field,” manager Joe Maddon said. “They’re always able to come up with another pitcher somehow. They got a really good bullpen. For right now, they’ve been utilized a lot, so I don’t know how that’s going to hold up, but they are good.”

Maddon couldn’t resist taking a few passive-aggressive shots, but he did compare this Los Angeles bullpen to the 2002 Anaheim Angels team that won the World Series and gave him a championship ring as Mike Scioscia’s bench coach.
  
Kershaw (11-2, 1.79 ERA) appeared to be rolling toward his fourth National League Cy Young Award when he went on the disabled list with lower back pain in late June.

“Kershaw coming off a back injury, you just don’t know,” Maddon said. “Hill’s good. He’s reinvented. He’s a curveball pitcher and all that kind of good stuff. So, of course, they can be good.”

Maddon wondered how Urias – who settled down after a rocky start to win a 3-2 game on Saturday – would hold up at the age of 20 after throwing only 80-plus innings combined last year at four different minor-league affiliates. 

“The biggest concern would probably be that he would run out of gas,” Maddon said, “not being used to pitching that late into a year. And I know they’re mindful. I know they’re going to do things to restrict him, whatever. But that would be the biggest concern there.”

[RELATED: With John Lackey ramping up for return, could Cubs go to six-man rotation?] 

The Dodgers (73-57) built a lineup around professional hitters like Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez, Chase Utley and Howie Kendrick. They have a two-way catcher (Yasmani Grandal), their own 22-year-old All-Star shortstop (Corey Seager) and a lights-out closer (Kenley Jansen).

“They’re in first place,” Lester said. “I don’t see why they should be overlooked. I don’t feel like they’re overlooked. Being a part of West Coast baseball for a couple months (with the Oakland A’s), I think really everything on the West Coast gets overlooked. I think it’s the time difference and a lot of other factors that are going on. But they’re a good team. They’ve been a good team.”

Maybe the Dodgers will expend too much energy trying to fend off the San Francisco Giants, and there are conditionals to Kershaw, Hill and Urias. But that left-handed-heavy rotation could mean the Cubs will be slamming their bats and helmets in frustration in October.  

“I’m not there yet,” Maddon said. “I’m not worried about the Dodgers. I’m worried about getting our guys healthy and us playing the game properly. If it comes to that, I would be more than happy. I would be ecstatic about facing them in the latter part of the season. They can throw as many lefties as they want. They’re good, but I can’t worry about the Dodgers.” 

Big Ten preview: Can Tommy Armstrong better get the ball to Huskers' offensive weapons?

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Big Ten preview: Can Tommy Armstrong better get the ball to Huskers' offensive weapons?

Tommy Armstrong has some terrific weapons on the offensive side of the ball at Nebraska. In Jordan Westerkamp and Brandon Reilly, Armstrong — the Huskers’ fourth-year starting quarterback — has one of the best wide receiver tandems in the Big Ten.

But the question is: Can Armstrong put the ball in their hands more often than he puts it in the hands of opposing defenders?

It seems like a pretty straight-forward fix for a senior quarterback, but Armstrong’s Achilles’ heel has been accuracy. For someone as talented as Armstrong, for someone as capable as he when it comes to big, game-changing plays, getting the ball to his receivers has been a surprising struggle.

Last season, Armstrong ranked third in the Big Ten with 3,030 passing yards and 22 touchdown tosses. But his completion percentage was just 55.2 percent, which ranked 11th among conference quarterbacks, and he threw a league-high 16 interceptions, more than either of the quarterbacks at Maryland, which had the most picks thrown of any team in college football.

Maybe it comes down to leaning on his receivers a little more. In Westerkamp, he has one of the all-time best to play the position at Nebraska. Westerkamp ranks fourth on the program’s all-time receiving list. In Reilly, he has a big-play threat. Reilly caught eight passes for 30 or more yards last season.

And those two aren’t the only guys Armstrong will be throwing too, either. The return of receivers Stanley Morgan Jr. and Alonzo Moore plus tight end Cethan Carter and running back Terrell Newby mean all six of the team’s top receivers from a season ago are back. Oh, and the electrifying De’Mornay Pierson-El will be back from injury, too.

“They’re real good,” Armstrong said during the team’s media day earlier this month. “They’re talented, they’re the most talented group I’ve had since I got here. Those guys make it easier for me. They make it easier for the running backs. They give defenses trouble, and they’re going to help us a lot. It’s good that they’re all going to be healthy. They’re going to do what they do best.”

“I think that’s great for Tommy,” head coach Mike Riley said. “I think that when you have versatility that way — that’s a big factor when you have to look at a group like that defensively, especially when you have an interior that will sometimes have Cethan Carter and Jordan Westerkamp as inside receivers. Then you’re always talking defensively where you’re going to put the strength of the coverage. Are you going to roll over the top of the corners to help them because we have pretty good wide receivers? Are they going to stay inside to help the linebackers and cover those slots and the tight ends?

“I love having all those threats like that. With our style of game, utilizing those people as much as we can, really gives you balance attacking a defense, and I think the better we run the ball, the more effective we can be in getting the ball to those guys. That’s going to have to be our game. We’ll have to put it all together like that.”

Armstrong, of course, has also proven his ability to make plays by himself with his legs, and the dual-threat nature of his game is what makes him one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. He was the team’s third-leading rusher last season and scored a team-high seven touchdowns on the ground. That ability makes the Huskers’ offense even that more multi-faceted and that more dangerous.

In the end, Armstrong will be judged on what he does to make sure last season’s six-win campaign was a fluke. And in the eyes of many, that means whether he’ll be able to take care of the ball and better get it to all those weapons mentioned above.

If he can, Nebraska could be right back where it historically has been: competing for a conference championship.

Patrick Reed wins Barclays, Rickie Fowler loses Ryder Cup spot

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Patrick Reed wins Barclays, Rickie Fowler loses Ryder Cup spot

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) -- Patrick Reed had a crystal trophy, a clear shot at the richest payoff in golf and a spot on the Ryder Cup team.

All he could offer Rickie Fowler was best wishes to join him at Hazeltine.

Reed picked up two victories Sunday at The Barclays. He rallied from an early two-shot deficit to win the FedEx Cup playoff opener and assure himself a clear shot at the $10 million bonus. And he secured a spot on the U.S. team at Hazeltine that will try to win back the Ryder Cup.

"Everyone's been talking about the Ryder Cup, been talking about, 'Oh, you're in the eighth spot and you're on the bubble' and all that," Reed said after his one-shot victory. "If you go and win, it takes care of everything else. ... It takes care of everything."

The way Fowler finished only leads to two weeks of uncertainty.

Fowler needed only to finish alone in third place, which was the farthest from his mind as he battled Reed at Bethpage Black.

"I wasn't trying to get a decent finish," Fowler said. "I was trying to win."

Two shots behind with four holes to play - and two shots clear of third place - Fowler missed a 4-foot par putt on the 15th hole and made double bogey on the next hole. His late meltdown sent him to a 74, a tie for seventh and kept him off the Ryder Cup team.

Reed built a big enough lead that a few sloppy mistakes over the final hour didn't matter. He made bogey on the final hole for a 1-under 70 and a one-shot victory over Sean O'Hair and Emiliano Grillo.

Fowler still could have made the Ryder Cup team with a birdie on the 18th hole. He missed another fairway and took bogey. It was the fourth time Fowler has failed to convert a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour, though he remained optimistic.

"He just told me, 'Hey, I'm going to go get my work done. I'll see you in Minnesota,'" Reed said.

Sunday was the final day to earn eight automatic spots on the U.S. team. Fowler's late collapse allowed Zach Johnson to claim the eighth and final spot. Davis Love III still has four captain's picks over the next three weeks.

Reed, who finished at 9-under 275, wasn't the only player who felt like a big winner.

O'Hair was among five players who moved into the top 100 in the FedEx Cup, advancing to the next playoff event at the TPC Boston that starts Friday. And he made a big move, closing with a 66 to tie for second. That moved him all the way up to No. 15, assuring two more playoff events and giving O'Hair a good shot at staying in the top 30 who qualify for the finale at the Tour Championship.

Grillo birdied the final hole for a 69 and moved to No. 6.

Defending champion Jason Day struggled all week with his accuracy and had to settle for a 69, tying for fourth with Gary Woodland (69) and Adam Scott (71).

Reed had gone 55 tournaments worldwide since starting 2015 with a victory at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. A bogey on the par-3 third hole put him two shots behind Fowler, but not for long. Reed made three birdies on the next four holes to tie for the lead.

Even so, Reed could sense another tournament slipped away. Just seven holes into the final round, he already had missed four putts from 10 feet or closer and began to think back to other lost opportunities that kept him from winning.

That's when his caddie, brother-in-law Kessler Karain, told him to let it go and look ahead. A pair of tough par saves and a birdie at No. 12 gave Reed a two-shot lead, and he was on his way.

Fowler missed the 11th fairway and ended his streak of 55 consecutive holes without a bogey, losing the lead in the process. Reed holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the next hole for a two-shot lead, and Fowler never got any closer.

Sung Kang matched the course record with a 64 to move from No. 122 to No. 88. John Huh, Tyrone Van Aswegan and Derek Fathauer also moved into the top 100, while Shane Lowry, Peter Malnati, Robert Streb, Lucas Glover and Jonas Blixt fell out and ended their season.

The top 70 after next week advance to the third playoff event, with the top 30 going to East Lake for the Tour Championship.

With his victory, which moves Reed to No. 9 in the world ranking, Reed goes to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup. He will be assured of being in the top five who only have to win the Tour Championship to capture the $10 million prize.