It is time to award my annual Tom Lemming awards, better known as the "Lemmies," to the leading college coaches/recruiters and high school players in the nation for the 2010 season. Most significantly, two awards go to people with Chicago area ties.
The "Rising Star of the Year" award goes to quarterback Reilly O'Toole of Wheaton Warrenville South. The 6-3, 185-pound senior, who is committed to Illinois, completed a staggering 75 percent of his passes for 3,187 yards and 42 touchdowns while leading the Tigers to their second Class 7A state championship in a row. He was intercepted only three times.
Based on his peformance last year, we knew about him. But he far exceeded expectations this season. He can be a star at Illinois. He is a pure passer with a good arm. His consistency at putting the ball where his receivers can catch it is extraordinary.
The "Director of Operations" award goes to Dave Peloguin of Notre Dame, who worked behind the scenes under former coach Charlie Weis and current coach Brian Kelly to bridge the gap between the two regimes and has enabled the Irish to recruit what shapes up as one of the top 15 classes in the country. He is the son of longtime Blue Island mayor Don Peloquin.
Alabama coach Nick Saban receives the "Best Recruiter" award in college football. The top assistant coaches/recruiters are Eric Johnson of Iowa, Bobby Kennedy of Texas and James Franklin of Maryland.
The "Offensive Player of the Year" in high school football is running back Savon Huggins of Jersey City, N.J. This season, the 6-0, 198-pounder with 4.39 speed averaged 12 yards per carry, rushed for 1,800 yards and scored 32 touchdowns against the best competition in New Jersey. Uncommitted, he likely will choose Rutgers, Notre Dame, USC, Florida or Pittsburgh.
The "Defensive Player of the Year" in high school football is defensive end Jadeveon Clowney of Rock Hill, S.C., a 6-6, 240-pounder with 4.6 speed who had 26 sacks this season. I rated him No. 2 in my preseason top 100 list but he will move to No. 1 in my postseason list ahead of Florida State-bound running back/linebacker James Wilder of Tampa, Fla., because of his superior production.
Clowney reminds me of Mario Williams, the No. 1 draft choice in the NFL three years ago. He has natural pass-rushing skills not often seen in an athlete of his size. Uncommitted, he is expected to choose South Carolina or Alabama.
Interesting note: A year ago, Clowney's team was beaten by Everett Colson's team in the semifinals of the state playoff in South Carolina. Colson, a 5-11, 170-pound quarterback from Myrtle Beach, is Notre Dame's latest recruit and I predict he will be a star in South Bend, the next Tony Rice. He has good running skills and a cannon for an arm. He passed for 3,500 yards last season. He will be a top 100 player in my postseason list.
Ironically, Notre Dame discovered Colson by accident. He wasn't listed as one of their top recruits. He committed to North Carolina. But because of the scandal involving the football program, he reopened his recruiting. After Notre Dame lost several other recruits, they came back to Colson. I think they may have backed into a star quarterback.