After evaluating more than 2,000 players from coast to coast in the last nine months, I've come to the conclusion that five Illinois products and three of Illini coach Ron Zook's recruits deserve to be ranked among the top 100 in the nation.
The five homegrown players are defensive end Craig Drummond (36) of Morgan Park, Notre Dame-bound offensive guard Chris Watt (67) of Glenbard West, Illinois-bound wide receivers Kraig Appleton (82) and Terry Hawthorne (97) of East St. Louis and Wisconsin-bound quarterback Jon Budmayr (96) of Marian Central.
The other Illinois recruit is quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase (87) of Kansas City, Mo.
It is significant because, even though this is not a banner year for recruiting in Illinois and the Midwest, only three other states landed more players on the top 100. Florida has 15, California 13 and Texas 9. Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina also have 5.
Surprisingly, Ohio only has two, its lowest total in memory. Ohio has a lot of good players this year, in my opinion, but not a lot of great ones. For example, Marcus Hall of Cleveland is rated in some circles as one of the best offensive lineman in the nation. But he didn't make all-conference last season and I'm waiting for him to do something. Currently, I rate him No. 126 in the nation but he will move up if he has a good senior season. He could rank behind only Xavier Nixon Fayetteville, N.C., on the OL list.
But remember, this is an outstanding year for defensive linemen, one of the best ever, but it is a weak year for offensive linemen.
Here are some other notes about the top 100:
* Some analysts rate players according to scholarship offers. I evaluate according to talent. I saw Craig Drummond three times last year and he is the best player in Illinois going into the 2008 season. He had 20 sacks last year. Many schools were backed off on his recruiting when it was feared he wouldn't make grades. But since it was revealed that he scored 22 on his ACT, his recruiting has picked up dramatically.
* As far as other Illinois products are concerned, Northwestern-bound Evan Watkins (170) of Glenbard North, Northwestern-bound running back Mike Trumpy (195) of Wheaton North and offensive tackle Pat Ward (200) of Providence are other big-timers who could climb into the top 100 with good senior seasons.
* Who are some players you don't know about but will?
USC-bound Alshon Jeffrey (28) of St. Matthews, S.C., could be an All-American at wide receiver or safety. He is a 6-4, 229-pounder with 4.49 speed.
Jarvis Jones (9) of Columbus, Ga., a 6-3, 215-pounder, is the best linebacker in the country, one of the best I've seen in the last few years.
Rod Woodson of Olive Branch, Miss., is a standout at defensive back.
And Arizona State-bound quarterback Brock Osweiler of Kalispell, Montana, a 6-8, 235-pounder, is flying under the radar despite his size. He is regarded as the best basketball player in his state.