I have released my preseason list of the top 100 high school football players in the nation in the class of 2011 and, for the first time, the Chicago area isn't represented at all.
There is only one Illinois product on the list--6-3, 235-pound running back/linebacker Rodney Coe of Edwardsville. He is ranked No. 48 and is one of the top 10 running backs in the country. He has been offered by Alabama. Enough said.
But Coe is the only Illinois product on the preseason list. Nebraska-bound offensive lineman Ryan Klachko of Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin didn't make it. Neither did the leading players in the Chicago area, wide receiver DaVaris Daniels of Vernon Hills, defensive end James Adeyanju of Curie and offensive lineman Jordan Walsh of Glenbard West.
It confirms my original suspicion that the talent level in Illinois and the rest of the Midwest is down this season. It doesn't mean that some players won't have great seasons and earn spots in the postseason top 100. But they're going to have to play their way onto the elite chart.
Remember last year when offensive lineman Christian Lombard of Fremd had nearly 30 offers before he committed to Notre Dame in January, before his senior season? Remember when wide receiver Kyle Prater of Proviso West had nearly 50 offers before committed to USC? A year ago, four Chicago area players landed on the top 100 nationally.
This year, Walsh has 17 offers, the most of any player in the state this side of Rodney Coe. After meeting more than 250 players last weekend at Proviso West for my annual picture-taking and interview session, I must admit that I was very impressed with Adeyanju, who looks like a man among boys, as if he is ready for the NFL today. It will be interesting to follow his senior season to see how the colleges react.
Everybody already knows about Coe. He is the most recruited player in Illinois. He has 4.5 speed. He has more than 30 offers, including Illinois, Ohio State, Alabama, Tennessee, Michigan and Notre Dame. He is the best running back to be produced in Illinois since Niles West's Rashard Mendenhall.
The talent level revolves in cycles, up and down, one year to the next. For example, there have been years when quarterbacks dominated the national scene. But as we prepare for the 2010 season, not a single quarterback ranks among the top five candidates for Player of the Year recognition.