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Second Season: October 2009 Archives

Illinois' next coach?

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Mike Leach of Texas Tech would be my choice to be the next head coach in the Big 10. There are at least two coaches on the hot seat at the moment, at Illinois and Wisconsin, and although Illini athletic director Ron Guenther is standing behind Ron Zook through the 2010 season, alumni aren't too happy about what is happening in Champaign.

Leach brings an exciting, innovative offense to college football. He is quirky but intelligent and seems to be one step ahead of everyone else offensively. He has proven to be a good recruiter but hasn't been able to beat Texas head-to-head, although he has begun to land blue-chippers because of the high-profile games he has won.

Here is a man who has a reputation as a players' coach, a good recruiter and a good evaluator of talent but, most of all, a good teacher of the offense he has invented.

What makes an All-American?

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It is frequently debated what should be the criteria for selecting an All-America football player, an All-Stater, an All-Chicago Area player, a Player of the Year.

Surely, it takes more than statistics...passing yardage, rushing yardage, receptions, receiving yardage, touchdowns, tackles, interceptions, sacks.

In my view, the key item in separating one player from another should be production, the guys who have the best years statistically. But competition counts for something. It means you are playing against better teams. Wins and losses shouldn't be of paramount importance but helping a team to have a successful season counts for something, too.

In the end, the easiest way to determine an all-star is if he is a dominant player.

How to get noticed

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I received an e-mail from the father of 6-3, 225-pound senior linebacker J.C. Barchard of Crystal Lake South. By all accounts, he is a very good high school football player. All of which makes his father wonder why his son isn't attracting more attention from college programs. It is a dilemma that many fathers face.

"He is still being recruited by several schools," Dean Barchard's e-mail stated. "Some of the schools that have shown recent interest are Arizona, Colorado, South Dakota State, Illinois State, Northern Illinois and Buffalo University. But no offers yet. Many schools are asking: 'Who do you have offers form so far?' as though they would offer if someone else had offered. Just haven't gotten that first one yet."

This is a familiar story.

Carter finally takes a chance

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Chance Carter, Loyola Academy's highly promising 6-4, 245-pound defensive end, got tangled up in the recruiting process to the point where he almost got left out in the cold. But he finally took his coach's advice and pulled the trigger, accepting Northwestern's scholarship offer before anyone had a chance to think twice about it.

I saw Carter as a sophomore and was so impressed that I put him down as the best sophomore prospect in the state. Before his junior year, I selected him to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio. He had so much size and potential.

Then I saw him three times as a junior. I was disappointed. I saw no aggressiveness. He didn't excel in pursuit and didn't demonstrate great change in direction and movementthat you see in great defensive linemen.

Memories of Jeff Zgonina

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The lengthy and flattering article on NFL veteran Jeff Zgonina in the current issue of Sports Illustrated rekindled a lot of old memories of a time when he was building a reputation at Carmel of Mundelein and going through the recruiting process.

At Carmel, he was an outstanding and dominating defensive lineman, a blue-collar and aggressive player who was as tough as nails. But Notre Dame and Michigan didn't think he was good enough for their programs. I always felt more schools should have recruited him but few big-time schools thought he was a big-timer.

He was recruited by then Illinois assistant coach Bill Kollar along with Hersey's Frank Kmet, King's Payton Minter and Fremd's Jim Schwantz. But when the NCAA began to investigate Illini head coach Mike White, the recruiting became unglued. White was fired. I called Purdue coach Freddy Akers to recommend Kollar. Akers hired Kollar, who took Zgonina and the others with him.

Extra! Extra! Latest recruiting news

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Penn State was known as Linebacker U. for a long time, producing some of the best linebackers in the nation. With commitments from three of the best linebackers in the nation, it appears coach Joe Paterno is rekindling that reputation.

The Nittany Lions have landed Khairi Fortt of Stamford, Conn., the best outside linebacker in the nation; DaKota Royer of Manheim, Pa., and Mike Hull of Canonsburg, Pa.

This is USC Week at Notre Dame and the Irish have accumulated a distinguished list of visitors, including offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson of St. Paul, Minn., the nation's No. 1 player; safety Corey Cooper of Proviso East, who earlier committed to Illinois; defensive back Dietrich Riley of LaCanada, Calif.; wide receiver T.J. Jones of Atlanta, who earlier committed to Stanford but whose father played at Notre Dame; free safety Devon Carrington of Phoenix, who earlier committed to Stanford; and running back Jordan James of Corona, Calif., who has been offered by USC and UCLA, is averaging 10 yards per carry and is my choice as the most underrated player in the nation.

USC is countering Notre Dame's recruiting effort on Henderson by pushing hip-hop. Rap artist Snoopy Dogg is trying to woo the 6-7, 325-pound lineman from Minnesota to the West Coast.

How to sell a product

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This isn't a sales pitch. I'm not selling anything. I'm just responding to several inquiries by parents and high school coaches who want to how to make colleges aware of a high school football player who they believe might be a Division I prospect but plays for a losing or obscure program and is getting little if any exposure to recruiters.

What should he do?

Call Tom Lemming.

I'll take care of it. If he is good enough, I'll let the colleges know. In this day and age, with access to the Internet, no one should be overlooked, no matter where he lives or what kind of program he plays for.

Brewster is the best

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The best football coach/ recruiter in the Big 10 is Minnesota's Tim Brewster. He is relentless, personable and knowledgeable. For years, Brewster and John Blake were the two best assistant coaches, Brewster at Texas and North Carolina and Blake at Oklahoma, Nebraska and North Carolina. Now Brewster is putting a new face on Big 10 recruiting.

Brewster played high school football in New Jersey, junior college football in California and caught a touchdown pass for Mike White's 1983 Illinois team in the Rose Bowl. He learned his trade from Mack Brown, one of college football's all-time best recruiters. It was great preparation, like going to the Harvard of recruiting.

His personality seems to attract everyone, black and white, parents and coaches. In only his third year, he has brought national recruiting to Minnesota.

Troublemakers on campus

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There always have been incidents of fights, stealing, drunkenness and other forms of lack of disciplinary behavior among college athletes, particularly in the high profile sports of football and basketball. But 30 years ago, they were isolated issues. Today, they are breaking out in nearly every program.

Think of some of the troublemakers from the Chicago area...Boo Boo Thompson, Kyle Williams, Phillip Macklin, Yarmo Green, Ryan Hare, to name a few. Just read the sports section daily and you see one example after another of kids who are getting into trouble in college. And some colleges have a long history of troublemakers.

How do you explain it?

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Second Season in October 2009.

Second Season: September 2009 is the previous archive.

Second Season: November 2009 is the next archive.

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