Keep an eye on the promising class of quarterbacks in Illinois for the 2009 season. There are at least seven who have big-time college potential and they will receive more attention after recruiters view their film and size them up during the May evaluation period.
Quarterbacks are overlooked a lot in the recruiting process. Remember, Wheaton North's Chuck Long wasn't offered until Iowa came along at the of his senior season. He became a star at Iowa, was a Heisman Trophy runnerup and played in the NFL.
It is a tough position to evaluate. College coaches look for height and arm strength. They overlook prospects who simply can play better than taller, stronger guys. Who would you rather have, Joe Montana or Jeff George? Coming out of high school, George was the better prospect at 6-5 with one of the strongest arms anyone had ever seen.
Recruiters look for Payton Mannings or Brady Quinns. Players who resemble Drew Brees, Jeff Garcia and Rex Grossman get little respect. They even wanted Michael Vick to be a wide receiver. They look for 6-5 kids with guns for arms. They overlook the fact that 6-1 and 6-2 kids often emerge as better players rather than the cookie-cutter design.
That's the way it is in the Chicago area this year. There are a few quarterbacks who meet the size requirement but there are a few others who are 6-1 and have demonstrated that they have the talent to produce at the next level. Now it's up to the college coaches to make some accurate evaluations.
Wheaton North's Taylor Graham, the son of former NFL player Kent Graham, potentially could be the best QB prospect of all. The 6-4, 200-pounder only played 4 1/2 games last season before being sidelined by an injury but he passed for 459 yards in his first year as a starter. He has only two offers to date, one from Iowa, but he would have 20 if not for his injury-shortened junior season. He has a big-time arm, good bloodlines and a very high ceiling.
Prospect's Miles Osei is only 6-1 but he was enormously productive as a junior, passing for 2,238 yards and 22 touchdowns and rushing for 1,237 yards and 18 touchdowns. He averaged 7.2 yards per rush and 347 yards per game in a spread offense. He has offers from Northern Illinois and Akron and many other schools are interested. If he goes to a school that will build its offense around him, he'll be a star.
Downers Grove North's Chandler Whitmer, also 6-1, recently committed to Illinois. He has a good arm, better than most of the others, good foot speed and a complete game. He stood out at the Elite 11 regional camp in Florida. After Juice Williams graduates from Illinois, will Whitmer beat out highly regarded freshman Nathan Scheelhaase of Kansas City for the starting job?
Hinsdale Central's John Whitelaw, another 6-1 candidate, also was very productive as a junior, passing for more than 2,000 yards and rushing for 1,174 yards. He accounted for 37 touchdowns running and throwing. In the Class 8A championship game, he passed for 262 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 139 yards and one touchdown. He has a good arm, good vision and makes things happen, all perfect factors for the spread offense.
Lake Forest's Tommy Rees, who is 6-3, is the son of former UCLA assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Bill Rees. Last season, he passed for 2,031 yards and 21 touchdowns in a pro-style offense. He has a good arm. He is athletic and can run out of trouble.
Two other promising candidates have the most size of all but the least amount of experience--Brandon Pechloff of Montini and Tyler Warden of Glenbard West.
Pechloff is a 6-6, 220-pound lefty who was a backup on Montini's 11-1 state quarterfinalist. But he is big and athletic and impressed observers at the U.S. Army All-American Combine last January in San Antonio.
Warden is a 6-6, 210-pounder who was a backup on Glenbard West's 12-1 state semifinalist. In limited action, he passed for 357 yards and four touchowns and also ran for four touchdowns.
Both Pechloff and Warden have to prove themselves. They should attend as many one-day camps as they can during the spring and summer to get exposure. Once college recruiters get a good look at their size and skills, both will receive their share of scholarship offers.