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?
The top 10 at the moment are wide receiver DaVaris Daniels of Vernon Hills, offensive lineman Ryan Klachko of Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, defensive end Riley McMinn of Rochester, running back Rodney Coe of Edwardsville, offensive lineman Jordan Walsh of Glenbard West, fullback/linebacker Nick Lifka of Naperville North, defensive lineman James Adeyanju of Curie, Northwestern-bound safety Jarrell Williams of Richards, wide receiver Evan Spencer of Vernon Hills and center Brian Bobek of Fremd.
The next 10 are offensive lineman Patrick Flavin of Benet, offensive lineman Matt Frazier of Bishop McNamara, tight end Jack Konopka of Fremd, wide receiver Keante Minor of East St. Louis, running back Josh Ferguson of Joliet Catholic, offensive lineman Victor Nelson of Maine South, offensive lineman Mason Fuller of Urban Prep, offensive lineman Chris Bryant of Simeon, quarterback Matt LaCosse of Naperville North and running back Calvin Phillips of Kankakee.
It is a down year for talent in the Chicago area compared to last season. But it is better than average year for Downstaters. For example, usually talent rich East St. Louis has four Division I prospects, all of whom have scholarship offers. In January 2009, Fremd's Christian Lombard had 26 offers. No one is in that class this year.
I saw Daniels as a freshman. He had all the trappings of a big-time player at that time. He hasn't disappointed. The son of defensive end Phillip Daniels of the Washington Redskins, the 6-3, 180-pounder is versatile -- he has played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, free safety, linebacker and cornerback and also returns kicks and punts -- but will play wide receiver in college.
Daniels, who has 4.4 speed and a vertical leap of 41 1/2 inches, has big-time interest from almost everyone, including offers from Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Notre Dame, Miami, Nebraska and Wisconsin.
Spencer, son of former Ohio State star and Chicago Bears running backs coach Tim Spencer, is a 6-1, 190-pounder with 4.43 speed and a 25 ACT. He has offers from Illinois, Iowa, Purdue, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
Klachko, a 6-4, 280-pounder, is the best offensive lineman in the state. He has offers from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue, Boston College, Nebraska and Arizona. He will be a 300-pound guard in college.
McMinn, a 6-7, 220-pounder, needs to fill out. But he has been offered by Illinois, Boston College and Purdue. He plays at the same school that sent quarterback Sean Robinson to Purdue for next season.
Coe is the best running back in Illinois. The 6-3, 230-pounder has 4.5 speed. He is one of the premier big backs in the nation. He has offers from Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan State, Iowa, Alabama, Tennessee and Kansas State.
Adeyanju, a 6-2, 220-pounder, is one of the fastest rising commodities in the country. His brother went to Indiana and currently is playing in the NFL. A good student, he has offers from Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern, Stanford, Duke and Northern Illinois.
Phillips is an intriguing prospect. If he is academically eligible to play as a senior, he figures to be a top 10 prospect. The 6-3, 220-pounder has 4.5 speed. Illinois and Minnesota have offered. But he is a borderline student at best. As a sophomore, he rushed for 1,300 yards, sat out his junior year for disciplinary reasons, then transferred to Kankakee. If he puts his act together, Kankakee coach Cornell Middlebrook predicts Phillips "could be one of the best players around."
Others who are attracting interest are defensive end Demetrius Hill of Kankakee, defensive lineman Zach Colvin of Minooka, offensive lineman Ben Carbery of Oak Park, quarterback Hayden Daniels of Naperville Central, running back Peter Bonahoom of Prospect , quarterback Reilly O'Toole of Wheaton Warrenville South, offensive lineman Rafe Kiely of Wheaton North, offensive lineman Ed O'Connor of Mount Carmel, offensive lineman Dan Lembke of Providence, quarterback Judson Wienke of Tuscola and defensive lineman Clint Tucker, safety Glen Faulkner and running back Vincent Aterbridge of East St. Louis.