Everybody wants to know what is wrong with the programs at Illinois and Notre Dame. After demonstrating so much promise and potential in 2007, both schools have fallen on their faces this season. And it is easy to see why.
Both schools are hurting at quarterback. Illinois has talent--offensive linemen, running backs and receivers--but Juice Williams hasn't developed as he should have. He is inconsistent. He hasn't improved as a passer. He has the strongest arm in college football but he hasn't gotten better since his freshman year.
Notre Dame recruited a lot of talented high school players in the last few years but they haven't shown any progress in college. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen is a major talent but he hasn't developed as the No. 1 high school player in the country should have in his second year in college. He has gone downhill.
Meanwhile, recruiting goes on.
Illinois entertained 6-1, 205-pound linebacker/running back Jelani Jenkins of Wheaton, Maryland, last weekend. He is a first-team All-American who also is considering Penn State, Florida and Maryland.
Pete White, a 6-5, 330-pound lineman who is the No. 1 prospect in the Washington D.C. area, lists Illinois among his favorites with Maryland, Virginia Tech and Penn State.
But they likely will go elsewhere if Illini offensive coordinator and chief recruiter Mike Locksley opts for a head coaching position. His name has popped up at Clemson and Syracuse.
If Locksley leaves Illinois, it will devastate Illini recruiting because he brings in most of the big-name players, including Arrelious Benn and Vontae Davis. He also helped to bring in Juice Williams. Syracuse could be his destination. The school is looking for a minority coach and the athletic director is a minority.
Notre Dame entertained defensive lineman Mant'i Teo from Hawaii over the weekend. He is my co-defensive player of the year with Ryne Giddins of Senffner, Florida. He went from 80 degrees in Honolulu to 20 degrees and snow in South Bend. The chances of Teo signing with Notre Dame are slim and none and slim left Sunday on the 2 o'clock flight from Chicago to Honolulu. Lesson: You don't bring in a kid from Hawaii to visit your campus in November when it is snowing.
While Illinois and Notre Dame are recruiting good talent but still struggling, Northwestern continues to prove that coach Pat Fitzgerald has a superior evaluating staff. They rarely beat Illinois or Wisconsin head-to-head for recruits but find enough kids to beat them on the field. Evaluating is a lost art in recruiting but NU knows how to do it.