Tom Lemming's Road Trip: Illinois 

Tom Lemming's Road Trip: Illinois

This past Sunday, I organized my annual Illinois stop. I live in Chicago, so we had just about everybody in the state of Illinois come to Proviso West High School. I put the event together along with the Chicago Sun-Times before I head to the west coast next week.

The best signal-caller in the Windy City is Teddy Schell (6-5, 200 lbs.), a tall, kind of thin-looking quarterback from Barrington. He's gotten offers from Duke, Kansas State and Arizona. It also looks like Cal and Stanford might be offering down the line. He's a good quarterback now, but his future could be great -- that's the reason everyone's kind of zooming in on him. There are several other quarterbacks that could make it big, but nobody has just yet.

That's not the same for running backs. There are some really good ones in Illinois this year, including two All-Americans. One of them is Robert Hughes (6-0, 230 lbs.) from Hubbard. He's already gotten 20 offers from schools like Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State. He's getting pounded by everybody. I think he would rank as one of the top 10 tailbacks in the country, but also one of the top three fullbacks if he chose to play that spot. He's got kind of a Ricky Williams-type of a body with explosive moves and great strength -- he benches almost 400 pounds. The Wolverines probably have the lead for him right now.

Then you have Dale Martin (5-11, 195), a back from Bowling Brook. He's the complete opposite of Hughes, more of a slasher with brilliant speed and moves. Martin doesn't have a lot of power, scurrying almost completely on speed and moves. He's got a lot of ability. Last year he averaged over 10 yards per carry; he just needs to get more carries. Martin has 20 offers including Northwestern, Tennessee, Boston College and Illinois and schools like that. He says he has no favorite -- he's just going to wait.

A third back, who is kind of a surprise to a lot of people, is Dan Durking (5-10, 190 lbs.) from Warrenville South in Wheaton. This is the town that produced Red Grange, Chuck Long and the late actor John Belushi, who played football at the Wheaton Central High School. Dan runs a 10.7 in the 100 meters. What's more, he's got the bloodlines: His dad Scott Durking played ball for years with the New York Jets and the Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue has already offered Dan and he'll probably wind up there. This kid's got a knack for making big plays. He rushed for over 2,000 yards last year and he averaged nine yards per carry against really good competition. He's the real deal and a lot of people don't know much about him.

Another running back who also has no offers right now -- but I think should -- is Alan Smith (5-10, 195 lbs.), who runs the 100 meters in 10.6. Smith is from Naperville Neuqua Valley and I really liked him a lot as a running back. He went for over 1,400 yards last year and upwards of seven yards per carry. He's got no offers yet which really surprises me -- I'm wondering why, but it's still relatively early. A lot of these guys won't get them for a while.

The best wide receiver in the state right now is Anthony Morris (6-4, 205 lbs.) from Harvey Thornton. This is the high school that, two years ago, had more players in the NFL than any other high school in the country; right now they still have six, but they had eight or nine before. Anthony's the type of guy with leaping ability who can run. He's already got several offers from most of the Big Ten schools. He's the prototypical wide receiver: 6-foot-4 with a 40-inch vertical. Florida State is his favorite school but Illinois is showing him the most interest.

Sort of a surprise to many -- but he's getting his due attention now -- is Sean Kettouse (6-3, 195 lbs) from Hubbard. The rising senior played more free safety and a little bit of wide receiver as a junior but he's going to play more wideout this coming year. People have watched him at some of the camps and he's got nine offers including K-State and Purdue. He played a lot of quarterback last year too, but because of his athletic ability and his potential he'll be playing a lot more wide receiver as a senior.

The best tight end I saw was Jack DiNardo (6-4, 245 lbs.) from Hindsdale Central. He blocks already like a tackle. DiNardo plays on a run-oriented team but he's got great hands. Northwestern, Illinois and K-State are schools that have offered him. His father Larry was the captain of the 1970 Notre Dame football team with Joe Theismann; today, he's a very popular lawyer in Chicago. Jack's uncle is Jerry DiNardo, who was another All-American at Notre Dame and has been the head coach at LSU and Indiana the past few years. Notre Dame has yet to offer but they're coming after him.

The best offensive lineman, without a doubt, is Bryan Beluga (6-5, 270 lbs.) from Merion Central Catholic in Woodstock, the town where they shot the film Groundhog Day. He's one of the biggest surprises in the country and one of the best players. He's an All-American. This school as famous for producing the Hartlieb brothers, who became stars at Iowa. I believe Bryan, who runs a 4.7 in the 100 meters, is going to wind up at Iowa. I think he's going to end up being an All-American guard for the Hawkeyes. He plays tight end and defensive end in high school, but he'd be an offensive guard at the collegiate level. He's got great speed and great strength, and in person he already looks like he belongs in the NFL. Beulga has already got 15 offers but I think he's going to end up at Iowa.

David Molk (6-1, 270 lbs.) is from Lemont and plays tackle but will wind up being an offensive center. Molk could be the best center in the Midwest. He benches over 400 pounds and already has 11 offers. They're coming in strong once people see how quick he is -- he runs a 5.0 at 270 pounds. Once he makes the move to center he could become a great payer.

Then you talk about great size and there's Miles Strother (6-6, 340 lbs.) from King High Schoo. This guy is a load -- a straight-ahead blocker, a great run blocker with tremendous girth. He sets a real wide base and is tough to really come after. He also got a 29 on his ACT, which is a benefit. Illinois has the lead for him over Notre Dame, Miami, Iowa and Michigan. I'll say it again, he's a big-time player.

As for defensive linemen, perhaps the best pure pass rusher in the country is Simeon product Martez Wilson (6-4, 235 lbs.), who runs a 4.5. This is a high school best known for its basketball players. Last year, Martez was a 6-3, 200-pounder being recruited more as a wideout even though he had 20 sacks. Now, since he's grown, people have realized he has natural instincts as a pass rusher. He runs the 100 meters in 11.0 second and is a terrific all-round athlete. His favorite schools are Michigan, Notre Dame, Illinois, USC and Texas -- he's been offered by all of them. He'll be one of the most recruited players in the country. The relentless style he demonstrates on film reminds me of Simeon Rice, who came out of the Chicago area 10 years ago.

The best linebacker is Aaron Nagel (6-3, 220 lbs.) from Lemont. Nagel, who has 4.5 speed, played tailback last year and rushed for eight yards per carry. He was all-state at tailback and at free safety, and was one of the fastest and hardest-hitting defensive players I saw. Nagel has been recruited as a `backer and is committed to ND. He had the most offers back in March, and would have probably had over 30 offers by now. He is a quick-to-the-ball kid, and is probably one of the most productive defensive players in the Midwest. The key to his whole game is that he can run.

Another linebacker is Kevin Rouse (6-1, 220 lbs.) from Joliet Calholic, one of the more renowned high school programs in the country. He's got a lot of offers -- among them Ole Miss, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Northwestern -- but no favorites right now. He's tough as nails with 4.6 speed, from the school that produced Rudy and several NFL players, He's next the long line of tough-nosed players.

One that I didn't see -- but had already seen -- from downstate Illinois: Maybe the best quarterback in the whole state is Luke Hockaday (6-2, 180 lbs.) from Maroa Forsyth in downstate Illinois. He threw for 2,300 yards and 35 TDs last year and was probably the No. 1 QB from in the Land of Lincoln.

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