One of the most interesting and impelling aspects of the recruiting process for college football over the last several years has been the increasing number of big-time colleges that have begun to spend time and money in the Chicago area, schools that rarely if ever bothered to recruit the city and suburbs in the past.
For example, USC, Oklahoma, Miami and Tennessee have established a presence in the Chicago area. Until recently, they never ventured into O'Hare Airport except for a stopover or connecting flight.
But the Mid-American Conference is making bigger and bigger inroads in the city and suburbs. The latest is Akron. With new coach Rob Ianello bringing in a staff with Illinois roots, look for Akron to establish a major presence in the Chicago area. In fact, almost before he unpacked, Ianello signed two suburban standouts.
Ianello, the former recruiting coordinator at Notre Dame under coach Charlie Weis, landed wide receiver Keith Sconiers of Richards, who had interest from Illinois and others, and persuaded running back Giorgio Bowers of Rich Central to de-commit from Northern Illinois and switch his allegiance to Akron.
Akron hasn't recruited in the Chicago area before. They have been a doormat in the MAC for a long time but now they have some enthusiastic recruiters. I think they will do a good job in Illinois, Ohio and the Pittsburgh area, their major targets.
Ianello has put together a good staff. He hired Illinois assistant Curt Mallory to be his defensive coordinator. He hired Notre Dame assistant Ron Powlus to be his quarterback coach. He also hired Notre Dame offensive line coach John Latina.
Besides Sconiers and Bowers, Ianello signed 21 other players, including running back Erick Howard of North Canton, Ohio, who was Ohio's Player of the Year. According to Rivals.com, Howard, Sconiers, Bowers and defensive back Anthony Holmes of New Berlin, N.Y., were the highest rated recruits.
Akron's 2009 roster included three Chicago area products--senior defensive lineman Ryan Bain of Bolingbrook, a transfer from Iowa; junior tight end Kyle Weber of Herscher, by way of Joliet Junior College; and sophomore running back Dale Martin of Bolingbrook, a transfer from Louisville.