March 2010 Archives

April Fool's Day?

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This is the first week in April. What are college recruiters doing? What should high school juniors be doing? And how important is the upcoming May evaluation period? And what don't high school coaches, prospects and their parents know about the recruiting process that they need to know?

Recruiting isn't as intense as it was a month ago. College coaches are focusing on spring practice. Many of them take one day off each week to watch and evaluate film. As far as the recruiting process, they are trying to persuade high school coaches to have their top prospects call them so they can arrange for as many unofficial visits as possible and offer invitations to one-day camps in June.

Some colleges already have offered 200 scholarships, some 100. They know who they really want. If they have circled a big-time prospect on their priority list of juniors, they have invited him to make an unofficial visit of the campus.

The Czar speaks out

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If I was the Czar of college football, there are several things I would do to re-organize the recruiting process and restore some sanity and integrity in the game.

Because of all the embarrassment created by kids making early commitments, then de-committing and hopping from school to school, I would establish two signing periods -- Sept. 1 and the official signing day in February.

Then college coaches could concentrate on the uncommitted players and on their own teams. It also would cut down on badmouthing and trying to persuade kids to switch. As the system is now, it is a black eye in the face of college football and it desperately needs to be remedied.

New and improved Big 10?

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As I travel from coast to coast evaluating high school football players, I am often asked -- since I'm a native Midwesterner who is based in Chicago -- what the Big 10 needs to do to reclaim its once glorious position as the elite conference in the nation.

As it is, the Big 10 ranks no better than third but probably fourth or fifth behind the SEC, Big 12, ACC and the Pac-10. Think about it. What's left? The MAC, WAC, Big East, Conference USA, Mountain West, Sun Belt. That's a frightening thought.

I have often suggested that the primary way for the Big 10 to get back in the fight is to invest in more aggressive recruiting, as the SEC and Big 12 have. Big 10 schools don't pay assistant coaches as much as they do in the SEC and Big 12. They hire the most effective recruiters. And they recruit the best players in the country.

Louisiana hayride

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I have just completed a six-day trip that included stops in Nashville, Tenn., Alabama, New Orleans, La., Mississippi, Memphis and St. Louis. New Orleans coach Sean Peyton, the former Naperville Central quarterback, and Saints special teams coach Greg McMahon, who was an assistant at Eastern Illinois and Illinois, opened up their training facility to allow me to interview the top 20 prospects in Louisiana.

It is a great year in southern Louisiana and LSU seems to be getting all of the top players. At this point, I have to believe that LSU and Texas are leading the country in recruiting for the class of 2011. For example, LSU already has commitments from one of the leading candidates for Player of the Year, two of the best running backs in the nation and two of the best offensive linemen in the country--and they're all from Louisiana.

The Answer Man

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Here are some answers to questions that I am frequently asked by the media and coaches and college football fans as I travel across Illinois and the rest of the country to evaluate talent:

Who were the best players you have seen in Illinois?

There is no clear-cut answer to that, not like Randy Moss, who was the best player I ever saw nationally. I started with Weber's Tim Marshall in 1979. He went to Notre Dame. Proviso East's Philip Maclin might have been the best. He was Player of the Year in 1998 but got into trouble and now is in jail. Niles West's Rashard Mendenhall was the best running back but he was hurt. Wheaton North's Jim Juriga was the best offensive lineman. On defense, for one game, Mount Carmel's Simeon Rice, was the best. And St. Rita's John Foley made 180 tackles as a junior, propelling him to be USA Today's Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.

Illinois' top 10 recruits for 2011

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Basketball is king at this time of the year -- Illinois' high school champions are being crowned and everybody is filling out their brackets for the NCAA tournament -- but you should know that this is a very important time in the recruiting process for college football coaches and high school prospects.

In basketball, the bulk of recruiting is done during the summer. In football, it happens in the spring. If you think you are a big-time prospect but you don't have any scholarship offers by July 1 prior to your senior year, you aren't as good as you think you are. Or you might be living somewhere north of Moose Jaw, Alaska.

So who are the major Division I players in Illinois in the class of 2011?

How recruiting has changed

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A lot of people who are involved in the recruiting process today don't understand how much it has changed over the years and how much they need to adjust to deal with the issues they must confront. It's a whole new ball game.

When I began evaluating players in the late 1970s, there was no sense of urgency. Almost all scholarships were offered after a player's senior season. There was no Internet, no other recruiting services, no cell phones, no e-mail, no text messaging, no ESPN. Most schools recruited within a 300-mile radius of their campus.

Colleges sent questionnaires and mailings to high schools in their area to gather information on prospective athletes. They rarely recruited outside their areas, usually when an alumnus informed them about a prospect. There were no recruiting coordinators, just a lot of 16 mm film.

Are Irish eyes smiling?

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New Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly has hired former Grand Valley State coach Chuck Martin as his recruiting coordinator and longtime Irish fans wonder if Martin will be the next Vinny Cerrato or...hey, do you remember who masterminded the recruiting for Bob Davie and Tyrone Willingham?

Martin has never recruited any big-time players, the five-star brand of talent that is needed if Notre Dame is to return to the elite status in college football that it once enjoyed. At the moment, a lot of the legwork is being done by Dave Peloquin, the director of football operations. Peloquin, 28, whose father is mayor of Blue Island, a Chicago suburb, started as a graduate assistant under Davie, Willingham and Charlie Weis.

Notre Dame recruiting has nosedived since the Lou Holtz era. Willingham battled Georgia Tech, Duke, Stanford, Northwestern and Mid-American Conference schools for players. Weis always seemed to battle Florida, USC and Texas and won several battles. But not enough. And he never was able to sign enough talent on defense.

8,000 miles, 15 states, 300 players

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I've just completed a two-week trip through the Southeast and am looking forward to upcoming trips to St. Louis, Memphis, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

During my recent trip, I traveled 8,000 miles through 15 states and saw 300 players. I also navigated one snowstorm, stayed in a haunted hotel in St. Petersburg, Fla., experienced 30-degree nights in Florida, four inches of snow on the ground in Atlanta and enjoyed a two-day vacation in Washington, D.C., my first vacation since 1999. In Washington, I stayed at the historic Willard Hotel near the White House, where Lincoln and Grant once stayed.

Let's catch up with South Carolina, which has average to below-average talent in the class of 2011 but boasts two super stars, one of whom should rank among the top five players in the nation.

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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