Illinois has four football players from Chicago and its surrounding suburbs in the Class of 2014.
It’s half the class so far.
And one more than what Illinois landed with the Class of 2013.
While Tim Beckman will talk about winning the state of Chicago recruiting-wise till he’s hoarse, it isn’t exactly happening.
So says ESPN recruiting analyst Jared Shanker.
“That’s the biggest reason Illinois is struggling,” said Shanker, who specializes in recruits from the Midwest. “They’re not getting the in-state guys like they should be. Mike Dudek is their top in-state commit. He’s No. 21 overall on our boad in the state of Illinois.”
Illinois coaches are high on the skills Dudek, a wide receiver from Neuqua Valley, has.
But that won’t get it done, according to Shanker.
Not in a class chock full of skilled players at multiple positions.
“This is one of the best years the state of Illinois has ever had in terms of talent, especially the Chicago area,” Shanker said. “That’s where you start. They are struggling pretty mightily in-state. If you can’t win your own backyard, it’s going to be a struggle to get to the top of the recruiting rankings.”
Enduring a 2-10 season like Illinois did in Beckman’s first season didn’t help matters.
Not at all.
“Winning sells a lot of things,” Shanker said. “If Illinois goes out and gets to .500 or pulls of an eight, nine-win season, this year, you should see a marked improvement with recruiting. Chicago is getting better and better every year. That’s an area they have to tap into and get the best players. If you win seven or eight games, that gives Illinois a lot of momentum in the 2015 recruiting class.”
Plainfield South linebacker Clifton Garrett and linebacker Nyles Morgan of Crete-Monee are ranked 1-2 in ESPN’s look at the top Illinois prep players.
Both those prospects have not decided on a school yet, but have an avalanche of offers.
Ranked ahead of Dudek are a laundry list of players who have already made college choices.
Players like Chicago De La Salle offensive tackle Jamarco Jones (No. 3, Ohio State), East St. Louis linebacker Kyron Watson (No. 5, Kansas), Hinsdale Central tight end Ian Bunting (No. 6, Michigan), Wheaton North quarterback Clayton Thorson (No. 8, Northwestern), Hinsdale Central center Brian Allen (No. 9, Michigan State), Glenbard North running back Justin Jackson (No. 10, Northwestern), Chatham-Glenwood tight end Daniel Helm (No. 11, Tennessee), defensive tackle Enoch Smith Jr. (No. 12, Michigan State), Montini defensive tackle Dylan Thompson (No. 13, Ohio State), Chicago Marist tight end Nic Weishar (No. 16, Notre Dame), Lake Zurich linebacker Colton Moskal (No. 17, Syracuse), Chicago St. Rita running back Tommy Mister (No. 19, Iowa State) and Chicago De La Salle running back Mikale Wilbon (No. 20, Vanderbilt).
That’s 12 in-state players who have already decided a month before their senior season of high school football begins that Illinois isn’t the place to go.
Shanker is impressed with the evaluation part of recruiting when it comes to the Illinois staff. It’s closing the deal that they need to work on improving.
“They’ve done a really good job with their evaluations,” he said. “A lot of the first offers to a lot of the top kids have come from them, but everybody loves that first offer. They just have to do a beter job of remaining at the top of a kid’s list. Winning is a part of that, but you look at some of the other programs that have struggled recently, like a Boston College, and they are putting together decent classes.”