East St. Louis wide receivers Terry Hawthorne and Kraig Appleton are two of the top four football prospects in Illinois for the 2008 season, two of the leading wide receivers in the nation according to recruiting analyst Tom Lemming, and coach Darren Sunkett thinks it is within the realm of possibility that they could choose the same college.
"There are real good friends," Sunkett said. "They have been going to school together since junior high school. They have mentioned it (going to college together)."
Sunkett rates Hawthorne better than Appleton even though most college recruiters and analysts seem to give an edge to Appleton because of his size. Appleton also recently demonstrated his athletic skills by winning the state championship in the 300-meter hurdles.
Hawthorne, a 6-1, 185-pounder with 4.4 speed, is the total package, according to Sunkett. "He runs with the ball after the catch better than Appleton. You can run screens to him. Give him a five-yard hitch route and he can go 80 yards. I think he is a better prospect than Appleton, a Jerry Rice type. He can beat you deep and underneath," the coach said.
Hawthorne had a better junior season, catching 41 passes for 973 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has 15 offers, including Illinois, Missouri, Arizona, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Kansas, Kansas State and Vanderbilt.
Appleton, a 6-4, 205-pounder with 4.4 speed, is a superb athlete. "He is worth the price of admission. He can stretch a defensive vertically and horizontally," Sunkett said.
He has 15 offers, including Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Vanderbilt. A year ago, he caught 38 passes for 850 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Sunkett is cautious about making predictions for his 2008 squad. He has a lot of offensive talent returning from an 11-2 state semifinalist, including Hawthorne, Appleton, quarterback Detchauz Wray and running backs Courtney Molton and Vincent Arterbridge. The offense averaged 39 points last season and amassed nearly 5,000 yards rushing and passing.
"It's too early to tell," Sunkett said. "You have to have offensive linemen to complement your backs. We graduated three up front (including all-stater Brandon Harold, who went to Missouri) so we have three holes to fill. The quicker they come along, the better we will be. This year's team still have to prove themselves. Each team has its own personality."
On another front, it appears that former All-Chicago Area linebacker Aaron Nagel of Lemont has decided to leave Notre Dame after his redshirt freshman season and likely will opt to transfer to Northwestern, where he will join younger brother Brett, an incoming freshman who may be groomed to play tight end.
Aaron Nagel saw the handwriting on the wall. He received little practice time last fall and, with Darius Fleming of St. Rita and Steve Filer of Mount Carmel coming in to bolster an already solid group of linebackers on the Irish roster, he felt he would get little playing time in his second year.