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

Kiper: Deshaun Watson would be a stretch at No. 3 for Bears

Kiper: Deshaun Watson would be a stretch at No. 3 for Bears

If you haven't heard, the Bears are in the market for a quarterback.

It's no surprise that finding a long-term solution at the position will be at the top of GM Ryan Pace's to-do list as it's likely Jay Cutler has played his last game in a Bears uniform.

The Bears have a bevy options this offseason as they're saddled with the No. 3 selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, and have over $54 million of salary cap space — before roster cuts and an added $8 million in roll over money.

Having the 3rd overall pick, the opportunity is going to present itself for the Bears to nab one of the draft's top quarterbacks or add to their young defensive core with a player like Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen (who ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has the Bears selecting in his latest mock draft) or LSU's Jamal Adams (Kiper Jr. also has him as a possibility for the Bears).

If quarterback is the choice, that's where the real debate begins.

The 2017 draft marks one of the rare years where there isn't a consensus No. 1 quarterback. The four signal-callers likely to hear there name called within the first two rounds are UNC's Mitch Trubisky, Clemson's Deshaun Watson, Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer and Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes.

Who comes off the board first? That may change 100 times between now and Thursday, April 27.

Despite only starting one year at Chapel Hill, Trubisky has the strongest case to be the first quarterback taken. Trubisky threw for 3,748 yards and 30 touchdowns and added 308 yards on the ground and five rushing scores in his first full year as a starter in 2016.

If the Bears have their eyes set on Trubisky, they may have to pull off a trade as Kiper Jr. doesn't see the former Tar Heel lasting to the third pick. In his conference call on Thursday, Kiper Jr. said it's Trubisky's dream to play for his hometown Cleveland Browns, and sees him in play for both the Browns at No. 1 and the San Francisco 49ers at No. 2.

Would the Bears pull the trigger on Watson if Trubisky is off the board? Kiper Jr. believes Watson would be a stretch for the Bears at No. 3 and right now he sees Watson as a fit with the Buffalo Bills at No. 10. Kiper Jr. had a second-round grade on Watson before he shined on the big stage in the College Football Playoff. Watson's stock catapulted back into the first-round mix after he torched Alabama for 463 yards and four touchdowns en route to leading Clemson to a National Championship.

By selecting a defensive player at No. 3, the Bears could still have the opportunity to draft their quarterback of the future in the second round. Kiper Jr. believes both Mahomes and Kizer will be available on Day 2 where the Bears hold the 34th overall selection in the draft.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What happens if the Bears don't come away with one of the draft's top quarterbacks? They could look toward free agency or the trade market.

The downfall of the free agent market is that the best available option is former Tampa Bay Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon — he hasn't started a game in almost three years. You can cross Kirk Cousins off the wish list because there's a better chance of Brett Favre coming out of retirement and leading the Browns to a Super Bowl in 2017 than the Washington Redskins letting Cousins walk in free agency. The Bears also could elect to bring back two of their own unrestricted free agents in Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, but neither would provide an ample long-term fixture at the position.

One of the most intriguing players available on the trade market is New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The connection between him and the Bears runs deep as Garoppolo starred at Rolling Meadows High School in the Chicagoland area and played his college football at Eastern Illinois — the same alma mater as Pace — before he was selected by the Patriots in the second-round of the 2014 NFL Draft. In limited snaps backing up future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, Garoppolo has shown potential to be an above-average NFL quarterback, but unless the Patriots step down from their rumored asking price of a 2017 first-round pick and more, trading away the No. 3 pick would be too high of a price for the Bears to pay.

The Bears could explore the possibility of trading for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to serve as a stopgap and help groom a young quarterback, but bringing in the veteran Romo — just four starts since 2014 due to various injuries — would be a lateral move, and the Bears would likely be better off keeping Cutler for another season.

With less than two months until the start of free agency on March 9, we'll finally get our first clue then as to which direction the Bears will go at quarterback this offseason. 

Charles Tillman wrote a letter to his younger self and it will hit you in the feels

Charles Tillman wrote a letter to his younger self and it will hit you in the feels

Grab a pocket pack of tissues for this one.

Bears icon Charles Tillman released an emotional tell-all article on The Players' Tribune Thursday.

He starts off discussing how often he moved around as a kid with his dad in the Army and little things like learning cursive before delving into growing up in Germany and learning to communicate through sports.

It then moves on to the NFL Draft and coming up through the Bears with Lance Briggs, then jumping to the Super Bowl and what it was like to cover Calvin Johnson and Marvin Harrison.

Tillman even provides a fascinating take on how being a new dad affected his play on the field because he was so tired and stressed.

It was refreshing to hear a player talk like that. In everyday life, you hear all the time about first-time parents being exhausted and stressed, but now one of the most elite athletes in the world — whose job is exclusively in the public eye and his performance is dissected weekly by millions — is saying the same thing.

He discusses how he got past that stress and at this point, you're nearly halfway through the article and it's easy to think this is just like any other athlete's story.

But then Tillman gets serious and the story turns heart-wrenching.

The man affectionately known as "Peanut" takes us into the hospital room as he and his wife are told their young daughter, Tiana, may not make it through the night.

Tillman recounts the gripping tale behind how his family very nearly fell apart and how they climbed back to where they are today.

Give it a read. It's a fantastic snapshot into the career of one of the best Bears players ever, but also into the life of one of the truly great people to ever put on the orange and navy.