The leading football players in the Chicago area are anxious to make their college decisions before the 2009 season begins, so they can focus on having the best senior year they can have and not be caught up in the recruiting process.
The commitment list includes Johnsburg tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, Proviso East safety Corey Cooper and Downers Grove South quarterback Chandler Whitmer (to Illinois), Fremd offensive lineman Christian Lombard and Lake Forest quarterback Tommy Rees (to Notre Dame), Lane Tech offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson (Duke), Lane Tech linebacker Louis Trinca-Pasat (Iowa), Homewood-Flossmoor offensive lineman Zach Fulton (Tennessee) and Wheaton North quarterback Taylor Graham (Ohio State).
But the best may be yet to come.
The still uncommitted list includes Proviso West wide receiver Kyle Prater, St. Rita defensive tackle Bruce Gaston, Prospect quarterback Miles Osei, Loyola defensive end Chance Carter and Hinsdale Central quarterback John Whitelaw.
While Prater ranks as the No. 4 player in the nation according to Rivals and lists Illinois. Oklahoma, Tennessee, USC, Alabama and Notre Dame as his finalists, Gaston might be the most intriguing prospect of all.
At the end of the 2008 season, Gaston didn't rate a mention on anybody's recruiting chart. Today, the 6-4, 300-pounder is described as the top defensive tackle in the Midwest and one of the top 25 defensive linemen in the nation by recruiting analyst Tom Lemming.
"His stock has soared," Lemming said. "He hasn't done a whole lot yet (based on his 2008 performance) but he looked so good at camps. He has turned into the most recruited defensive tackle in the Midwest. His stock soared after the appeared at Notre Dame's camp. Until then, he was a curiosity. He has good grades and he is big and strong with great feet."
It happened so fast, Gaston admitted, that he can't remember when it happened. "I recall when I had zero offers, then six, then 10, then 15. But I've trained myself to get to this point. Rivals says I'm a 3-star player but I think I'm a 5-star player," he said.
At this time, Gaston said he doesn't plan to commit until after the season. He wants to take some official visits. But he plans to narrow his list of five colleges to five finalists in August, then focus on his senior season. His list includes Illinois, Northwestern, Iowa, Notre Dame, Purdue, Michigan State, Minnesota, Iowa, Arizona, Virginia, Wisconsin and Boston College.
"I truly enjoyed the process," he said. "It has been pretty intense but enjoyable. I always hoped it would be like this, the attention from the colleges. But I didn't expect it to blow up as it really did."
College coaches discovered Gaston is a big, athletic kid who can move, a rarity. He also competes in basketball, baseball and track. He wants to major in criminal justice in college. He wants to be a defense attorney. And he said he doesn't want to go too far away from home.
"I've been blessed with speed and movement all my life," he said. "Most big guys don't move as well or they are smaller. I'm a triple threat--big and quick and smart. I know nothing comes easy. I worked myself to get to this point. And I'm still training to get where I want to be."