The college football season is three weeks old and high school teams in Illinois are preparing for Week 5, long enough for rabid posters on Internet sites to begin calling for the firing of some underachieving coaches and for others to start beating the drums for Player of the Year candidates. Here are several issues to banter about:
1. Wheaton Warrenville South quarterback Reilly O'Toole, who is committed to Illinois, staked his claim to the Player of the Year award in Illinois with a brilliant performance against Maine South on national television. And he hasn't skipped a beat. If the Tigers continue to impress, O'Toole will be difficult to overtake. He is emerging as one of the leading quarterbacks in the Midwest.
2. Edwardsville running back/linebacker Rodney Coe and Fremd center Brian Bobek, who is committed to Ohio State, are the only Illinois products who have been invited to participate in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January in San Antonio. Others who are being considered are wide receiver DaVaris Daniels of Vernon Hills, Iowa-bound offensive tackle Jordan Walsh of Glenbard West and defensive end James Adeyanju of Curie.
3. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has emerged as a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy. So where did he rank coming out of high school in Deerfield Beach, Fla.? Nowhere. The 6-0, 185-pounder wasn't rated in the top 100 by any service. He wasn't invited to the U.S. Army All-American Game. He wasn't a national recruit. Michigan did a good job of developing him and fitting him into its spread offense.
I saw him in high school. I thought he would be more of a spread quarterback. He wasn't a great passer in high school. I rated him as a three-star player and bumped him to four stars when I saw him perform well in a loss to national power St. Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale. I thought he might be a running back in college because he had 10.6 speed for 100 meters. But his passing skills always were questioned. It only shows that guys who end up making it big have speed. Robinson is better than all of us thought he would be.
4. Dan Voltz, Barrington's 6-4, 290-pound junior offensive lineman, has the same potential that former Barrington star Dan Doering had coming out of high school. There is no doubt that he will be a top 100 recruit. He already has four major offers. He is in a class with Wheaton North's Jim Juriga and Evanston's Mike Kenn, who went on to the NFL. He has a chance to become one of the best offensive tackles ever produced in Illinois. He has great size and athletic ability and aggressiveness. But will he keep improving? That is the key.
5. Look for Schaumburg's Shepard Little to start attracting scholarship offers. After an outstanding sophomore year, he sat out last season for disciplinary reasons. But he is emerging as one of the most prolific running backs in the Chicago area as a senior. It is a down year for talent so Little will get a lot of looks. Normally, recruiting is over at this time but college coaches are coming back because it is a down year for talent.
6. I haven't seen everybody yet but Simeon's Robert Gregory could be the best junior quarterback in the Midwest. He is one of the most exciting players in the state. A great athlete, he could develop into the most recruited quarterback in the Midwest as a senior.
7. What does it say when 30 players have been arrested for various misdeeds while performing under the regime of Florida coach Urban Meyer? It doesn't make sense because Meyer has a reputation as one of the top disciplinarians in college coaching. It says that no matter who you are, when you bring in kids who have a sense of entitlement, who don't think the law can touch them, who think the college will let them get away with it, these kinds of things can and will happen.
Great players without a parent or proper guidance at home think they are like kids in a candy store. Remember, USC, Alabama and LSU have had troubles, too, elite programs with elite players who had no discipline in high school. It is getting worse because of the lack of discipline coming out of high school. Coaches and parents don't have a will or a way to discipline super stars in high school. They often think they will be cash cows down the line so they don't want to upset them or lose their attention or influence them to transfer to another school. We have to realize these kids are fully mature adults at 16 or 17. It is worse than ever before because kids are being built up to be super stars on the Internet before they can handle the hype.
8. Sophomore Steven O'Block of Carmel Catholic in Mundelein is a big-timer. The 5-10, 190-pound left-footed kicker boots the ball into the end zone and converted a 44-yard field goal that was the difference in Carmel's 31-28 victory over Joliet Catholic last week.
9. Illinois got a good one when 6-4, 265-pound offensive lineman Scott McDowell of Hinsdale Central recently made an oral commitment to coach Ron Zook's program. In hard times, the Illini are recruiting kids with potential and McDowell, a three-star prospect, is better than folks on the Internet and college evaluators think he is. He has good potential to play guard or center in college. He chose Illinois over Cincinnati.
10. Thornridge's Mika'il McCall, a 5-11, 210-pound running back with 4.5 speed, is rated as the No. 10 big back in the nation. As a running back, he is the biggest sleeper in the Midwest, though after committing to Michigan State I'm not sure how college evaluators and Internet sites can't be aware of his talent. He runs low to the ground, stays on his feet and can find the hole. He is a power back with good speed.