Judging by the talent level in the Midwest next fall, Big Ten schools will have to focus their recruiting nationally if they hope to compete with the SEC, Big 12 and Pac-10.
Early observations and evaluations from the Midwest indicated that it isn't heavy in talent. Michigan's No. 1 prospect in 6-4, 300-pound tackle William Campbell of Detroit.
There are several good players in Illinois but no great ones. Glenbard West lineman Chris Watt and Morgan Park defensive end Craig Drummond are the two most sought after prospects. Jon Budmayr of Marian Central and Evan Watkins of Glenbard North are the best of a good crop of quarterbacks.
Almost all of the Big Ten schools are in Florida, an indication that they are aware there isn't much underclass talent in the Midwest.
Illinois is camping out in the Sunshine State. Coach Ron Zook has offered several scholarships to some of the state's best players, including quarterback Aaron Murray of Tampa, a 6-1, 205-pounder who passed for 4,000 yards and rushed for 1,000 yards last season.
Murray is the most recruited player and the No. 1 prospect in Florida, one of the top two quarterbacks in the nation. If he was as tall as 6-3 Matt Barkley of Santa Ana, Calif., he would rank ahead of Barkley as the No. 1 junior in the nation. Murray is a superior runner to Barkley, who already has committed to USC. He has over 40 offers, including Notre Dame.
Illinois has offered Jarvis Giles of Tampa, one of the top three running backs in Florida; 6-3, 230-pound tight end Orson Charles of Tampa; Ryne Giddins of Senffner, one of the top defensive ends in the nation; defensive end Dyron Dye of Samford; 6-0, 230-pound defensive end Olivier Vernon of Miami, who might be close to committing to Miami; 6-0, 245-pound linebacker Petey Smith of Senffner; 6-0, 221-pound linebacker Willie Farrell of Tallahassee; 6-2, 195-pound Jawanza Starling of Tallahassee, one of the leading free safeties in the nation; and 6-3, 250-pound lineman John Gallagher and 6-2, 260-pund lineman Frank Souza, who attended Tim Tebow's high school in Fort Augustine.
Why do colleges make so many offers so early in the recruiting process? Because they don't offer bad players, only good ones. They know that a lot of them won't commit early if ever. But they also know that kids like being offered early. They often choose schools that offer early or first. The sooner they offer, the more time they have to get familiar with them. At least one school offered 200 scholarships by this time a year ago.
My choice as the biggest sleeper is 6-3, 215-pound linebacker Jarvis Jones of Columbus, Ga. He is the best linebacker I have seen. He has offers from all over the South. He hits and runs better than anyone I've seen. Other linebackers may have bigger reputations but he's the best I've seen.
Notre Dame also is in the hunt for one of the nation's leading linebackers, Dorian Bell of Pittsburgh, Pa. The Irish have offered only one prospect in Illinois to date, Watt.