I just completed a recruiting trip through New Jersey, western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh and Illinois seems to be everywhere while Notre Dame seems to be virtually nowhere, which certainly isn't the way it used to be.
First of all, I just met what I think is the No. 1 player in the nation in the class of 2012. Rushel Shell, a 5-11, 213-pound running back from Tony Dorsett's old high school, Hopewell in Aliquippa, Pa., will be a sophomore next fall.
Shell has 4.4 speed and is the best player in Pennsylvania right now. He has size, speed and strength and reminds me of LeShean McCoy, who was a second-round pick in this year's NFL draft. Shell said he grew up as an Ohio State fan. But every major program will offer him before he makes up his mind.
As far as next year's seniors, Illinois has offered 6-6, 263-pound offensive lineman Thomas Ricketts of North Allegheny in Wexford, Pa., 6-5, 265-pound offensive lineman Luke Graham of Harrison City, Pa., 6-1, 160-pound cornerback Cullen Christian of Penn Hills in Pittsburgh and 6-2, 212-pound safety Chad Hogan of Canonsburg, Pa.
Ricketts has been offered by Illinois and six other schools to date. Illinois and Northwestern offered Graham, who has 10 offers. Illinois and Michigan have offered Christian. Illinois is Hogan's only offer at the moment.
Notre Dame has offered nobody in western Pennsylvania, which used to be one of its recruiting strongholds. But during my trip, not a single recruit said they had been offered by the Irish.
In my view, the best senior-to-be prospect in Pennsylvania could be 6-3, 215-pound fullback/linebacker Dakota Royer of Manheim, an all-state selection on offense and defense. He has been offered by Illinois, Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, Northwestern and Penn State, among others.
It is an average year for talent in Pennsylvania and a down year in New Jersey. The best player in New Jersey could be 6-6, 260-pound defensive end T.J. Clemmings of Paterson Catholic. He has had only one year of football competition but he looks like an NFL player. He also is a big-time basketball recruit and has been offered by two Big East schools. But he said he wants to concentrate on football. Notre Dame, Florida, Penn State, Wisconsin and all Big East schools have offered him.