Tate: Windy City success is a mirage

Judgments will be all over the board when Illini football recruiting — the lifeblood of the program — is finalized early next month.

On one hand, the Illini won’t be ranked among the nation’s Top 30. On the other hand, they’re in a tight, multi-team battle for fourth in the Big Ten behind Scout.com’s 1-2 national leaders, Michigan and Ohio State, and a third school, Nebraska.

My thoughts are all about location, location, location. Admitting an addiction to this subject, my feeling is that, while Illinois can fill holes by recruiting in other states, this program will never consistently challenge Big Ten leaders unless it entices the top talent from Chicagoland.

Bringing in 11 Ohioans in two years is helpful but, even when you strike gold with Mason Monheim, that doesn’t mean the “seconds” in Ohio — those that Ohio State and Michigan can’t take — are superior to the firsts in Illinois.

How can you be successful in college football if you are not attractive to athletes in your own state?

Athletic director Mike Thomas acknowledges this with his actions: his master plan, his billboards and the Illini office up there. Just imagine all money and talent bubbling up among 10 million people and hundreds of high schools in a metropolitan area that stretches from northwest Indiana through Joliet and up through the northern suburbs.

Slim pickings
At this juncture — one year after the UI took just three preps from the entire state — Tim Beckman’s program appears to have two firm football commitments from this vast metro area.

Highly athletic QB Aaron Bailey, a star at Bolingbrook since his freshman year, has confirmed he will sign. Crete-Monee defensive back Jaylen Dunlap, who had no other Big Ten offers, reportedly gave his word this past weekend.

Meanwhile, Chicago Simeon’s Reggie Spearman, the only linebacker on the UI list, is still considering Iowa. And Lincoln-Way Central defensive end Evan Panfil committed but has lately expressed an interest in Purdue. You can’t count those two, not with them wavering.

That leaves Dunlap and the 220-pound Bailey, whose athleticism is four-star level but who has yet to prove himself as a polished passer.

With Beckman desperate for receivers, the state’s top-rated player, Laquon Treadwell of Crete-Monee, chose Ole Miss. Flashy Joliet ball carrier Ty Isaac is headed for Southern Cal. Ethan Pocic, brother of Illini senior Graham Pocic, picked LSU. Lincoln-Way West tackle Colin McGovern chose Notre Dame. Wheaton tackle Kyle Bosch will attend Michigan. These are leaders among two dozen top Chicagoland players rated by Edgy Tim, whose evaluations are generally confirmed by Rivals, Scout and ESPN.

Looking elsewhere
Furthermore, two highly rated huskies from Peoria are leaving the state. Josh Augusta announced this past weekend for Missouri, and Logan Tuley-Tillman (6-7, 305) is, like Bosch (6-5, 311), already enrolled at Michigan.

My point is the same as it has always been. The UI needs a playground it can count on for recruiting, and it has to be Chicagoland. If not, don’t look for consistency.

Beckman has done his best to compensate. At this juncture, with five preps and five jucos already enrolled, the Illini intend to sign 15 or more on Feb. 6. A recent addition is Floridian James Crawford, unranked by Scout and a two-star by Rivals.

Crawford and Dunlap step in after two quality DBs, Ohioan Reon Dawson and Michigander Joshua Jones, decommitted. Dawson switched to Michigan even though the Wolverines already have a quartet of four-star DBs on the way, two of whom (Ohioans Ross Douglas and Dymonte Thomas) are enrolled.

Jones is considering several schools (Pitt?) after having a bangup senior season — maybe too good as far as Beckman is concerned — at Walled Lake Western.

The signing date is two weeks off. Look for more changes between now and then, with academics possibly coming into play. And don’t look for the Illini to get much help from Chicagoland.

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.

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geriatricillini wrote on January 22, 2013 at 11:01 am

deleted

Moonpie wrote on January 22, 2013 at 8:01 am

Another subtle but nonetheless hissy type fit by Oracle Tate, who must sit at home with his eyes closed desperately wishing Chicago would disappear.As a boy did he visit Chicago and was offended that it's not full of corn fields and Dancin' Injuns?

Bwp 5P wrote on January 22, 2013 at 9:01 am

Moonbeam......you really add a lot to these articles. Did Loren diss you at some time in your past life?

JohnUI82 wrote on January 22, 2013 at 11:01 am

Tate hates fans, Tate hates Chicago, Tate throws people under the bus. If that's really all you got, is it a by-product of OCD, or are you simply too stupid to originate and express any other thoughts?

Chiefton wrote on January 22, 2013 at 10:01 am

What Tate is saying is very true --- but he's not saying anything new --- This has been the case for as long back as I can remember. 


By & large, Illinois has not been the #1 school of choice for chicago HS football players for a verrrrrrrry long time.  This ain't gonna be changing anytime soon if everr.

illini89 wrote on January 22, 2013 at 10:01 am

Moonpie.......just go away

DaisyJ wrote on January 22, 2013 at 11:01 am

Look, I could care less if you get a kid from Illinois or Chi-town or what ever. If an Illinois kid

wanted to come here he would. No need to even ask. This state is not the best  place for finding football players anyway.

patrick wrote on January 22, 2013 at 11:01 am

What Tate and others have said is largely correct. It's been a very long time since the UofI has had any football respect in Chicago.. Much of this is due to the rotten teams the Illini have put together. However, even in Elliot's Rose Bowl year, the Chicago press never had anything positive to say...when they said anything at all. It just wasn't "cool" to go to the state school.

Now we have to deal with a pair of writers at the Tribune who seem to have this visceral hatred of evrything concerning the UofI. I grew up in Chicago and loved the city, but I've never understand the contempt that the Chicago media has for the Illini.I don't expect them to write as "boosters', but they go out of their way to say negative things about the teams, the University and C-U. I simply have never understood it.

nick wrote on January 22, 2013 at 1:01 pm

 There are many Illinois supporters in the Chicago area.Some of the Chicago media outlets have been critical and harsh. I've also noticed some that are balanced and supportive.I'm not interested in trying to do a statistical analysis of positive comments and negative comments.Football and basketball have been mismanaged at Illinois. When people write about that fact,or talk about the situation,it should be expected to hear critical opinions. At least I hear some positive support and recognition from Chicago. Have you talked to anyone in St.Louis about Illinois football or basketball? At least in my experience it is brutal to read the papers or to listen to the radio in the St.Louis area if the subject is Illinois sports.It's worse than Chicago by 10 to 1.The results,especially in football,invite this type of scathing criticism and all of the jokes,sarcasm, and derision that teams on the bottom have to endure. Illinois has a terrible image in the two money sports at this time. I'm not sure that there is much that will change in the future. I'm a fan and a graduate of Illinois so I'll keep supporting them and hope for a turnaround.

calvin wrote on January 22, 2013 at 2:01 pm

....would love to see if the top 50 or even top 100 Illinois High School players from any given year would even be able to fill out a roster for a legitimate BCS school.............

PortlandIllini wrote on January 22, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Football success is a long term investment.   Successful teams generate more enthusiastic fans which generate better recruits which generates more success.  Don't forget this important fact: the last time the Illini went to the Rose Bowl we couldn't even fill the stadium for the last game of the season. 

Mike Thomas has one major challenge:  fill Memorial Stadium with cheering fans for every game.   Then you don't have to be concerned with the Chicago media reporting.