January 2009 Archives

In fairness to the Big 10

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The Big 10 takes a lot of body punches, sometimes very unfairly and a little below the belt, from critics who love to point out how the conference's football teams have been dominated by the SEC, Big 12, ACC and Pac-10.

And subpar recruiting year such as this will only rev up their engines. Imagine, on signing day, the Big 10 won't land a single player who ranks among the top 25 in the nation. That is embarrassing.

But let's be fair. The Big 10 doesn't play on the same level as the other conferences. They have different rules. And, with the exceptions of Vanderbilt, Duke and Stanford, they have different academic standards, too.

Who is Matt Milton?

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The top five junior prospects in Illinois are tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz of Johnsburg, Notre Dame-bound offensive lineman Christian Lombard of Fremd, wide receiver Kyle Prater of Proviso West, defensive end Chance Carter of Loyola and...wide receiver Matt Milton of Mascoutah.

Matt Milton? Until now, his name hasn't been mentioned by any other recruiting service. He is the best player in Downstate Illinois, near Belleville. I saw him at the recent Iowa camp and have been evaluating his film. He is 6-6, weighs 205 pounds and has 4.6 speed. He is a great red zone receiver. He has great body control and, like Prater, has great hands.

Milton was offered by Iowa on the spot. Illinois and Notre Dame figure to offer him, too. Illinois and Notre Dame also have offered Fiedorowicz and Prater. Notre Dame also has offered Carter.

Early Signing? Yes. But when?

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The American Football Coaches Association overwhelmingly is in favor of an early signing period. After opposing the issue for many years, I have come to the conclusion that it is time to set a date. But when?

According to an AFCA proposal, which was rejected by Division I conference commissioners, the coaches called for a three-year trial that would allow seniors to sign over three days during the third week of December, along with the current period that starts on the first Wednesday of February.

December? That makes no sense to me. Sept. 1 seems like a reasonable date to me. December is too close to the February signing day.

Countdown to signing day

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National signing day for college football is Feb. 4. And it isn't like it used to be.

Ten years ago, it was like a circus with so many unsigned players making last-minute decisions and announcing their choices amid much fanfare. It was fun for everyone...the kids, coaches, fans, even the analysts.

Now the event is anti-climactic because most of the top 100 prospects are committed. Now it is a largely ceremonial process with the players faxing in their letters-of-intents to the schools. Now the only drama is who might switch on signing day and leave one school holding the bag while another celebrates.

When honesty doesn't pay

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No sooner had it been announced that I was going to appear on a Champaign radio station than a friend informed me that D.C. Dude had posted a question on Illiniboard.com: "Who will be the first to ask Mr. Notre Dame about his love for the Irish," he asked.

I never respond to anyone unless I hear real names. The anonymity of the Internet has made belligerent people out of milquetoast people. If D.C. Dude gives me his real name and phone number, I'd be glad to have a conversation with him.

I do chat shows all the time, maybe 15-20 a year. I used to do 40-60 a year but now I'm on the road so much and doing my television show in New York. Most chat shows are national, not regional, and usually the callers are polite and want to know where their local kids are going or where their favorite schools are going to rank in recruiting.

Johnson would be great hire

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Larry Johnson, Penn State's defensive line coach and coach Joe Paterno's best recruiter, reportedly has been offered $400,000 to join Illinois coach Ron Zook's staff. It would be a great move for Johnson and a big plus for Zook and his Illini program.

Johnson wants to be a head coach. But his upward mobility at Penn State is being blocked by Tom Bradley, the Nittany Lions' defensive coordinator. The staff also includes Ron Vanderlinden, who was Gary Barnett's defensive coordinator at Northwestern and later head coach at Maryland. Now he is in line to succeed Bradley.

If Johnson wants to become a head coach, he first must gain experience as a coordinator. By moving to Illinois, he could enhance his reputation. It is a practical move for him and a great addition for Illinois because Johnson is an even better recruiter than Mike Locksley, who left Illinois to become the head coach at New Mexico.

Change in Illinois recruiting?

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The hiring of former Texas Christian assistant coach Mike Schultz to succeed Mike Locksley as Illinois' offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, might signal a change in Illini coach Ron Zook's recruiting scheme.

Schultz, who coached All-NFL running back LaDainian Tomlinson at TCU, built an impressive reputation as a recruiter during his 11 years at the Texas school. He was especially effective in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, usually a gold mine for high school talent.

So look for Illinois to focus on that area in the future, moreso than the Virginia Tidewater, Maryland and Washington D.C. region where Locksley made his mark in recent years. There is more talent in Dallas/Fort Worth but also more competition to recruit players from Texas and Oklahoma.

U.S. Army Game Observations

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I think the officials of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl football game made a mistake when they selected the most valuable player in the wake of Saturday's nationally televised game in San Antonio.

Everybody agreed that quarterback Tajh Boyd of Hampton, Va., who passed for three touchdowns, was an obvious MVP choice. And running back Bryce Brown of Wichita, Kan., who caught two of Boyd's TD passes, was acknowledged as co-MVP.

But it should have been Florida State-bound Willie Downs, a free safety from Tallahassee Fla., who stood out on defense. I believe the vote-counters got confused between the names, Downs and Brown. Downs has said he prefers to play wide receiver in college but Saturday's performance proved he is a big-time playmaker on defense.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2008 is the previous archive.

February 2009 is the next archive.

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