This is a weak year for football recruiting in Illinois. So Illinois coach Ron Zook is going elsewhere to find talent. A majority of his scholarship offers have been extended to out-of-state players. But he is getting the players he wants.
Zook got the quarterback he wanted in Nathan Scheelhaase of Kansas City, Mo., who is a perfect fit for Illinois' spread offense. He can run and pass. For Zook's needs, he is one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the nation.
Zook also got a wide receiver he coveted in Terry Hawthorne of East St. Louis, who is great in space, reliable and a playmaker. Look for more celebrated teammate Kraig Appleton, a 6-3, 195-pound game-breaker who won the state low hurdles championship last spring, to join Hawthorne in the near future.
Zook also landed three other Illinois products in offensive lineman Leon Hill and defensive lineman Lendell Buckner of Chicago Leo and 6-0, 240-pound fullback Greg Fuller of Thornton.
Hill and Buckner have great potential but they need to keep their weight down and get into college football shape. Both weigh over 330 pounds. Both ran OK at the combine in San Antonio in January but they aren't great players yet. Note that Rivals once ranked them among the top 50 prospects in the nation but has dropped them out of the top 100.
Fuller reminds of Jerome Bettis with his power, build, strong legs and shoulders. He will be a blocker in Illinois' offense. He is another product from Thornton coach Bill Mosel's program who figures to be a contributor in college.
Zook's class will get a big boost if he gets commitments from Appleton, Morgan Park defensive end Craig Drummond and offensive tackle Marcus Hall of Cleveland, Ohio.
Drummond, in my view, is the No. 1 player in Illinois. Hall, a 6-5, 300-pounder who ranks with Notre Dame-bound Chris Watt of Glenbard West as the best offensive linemen in the Midwest, probably will choose Ohio State or Illinois.