Chicagoland’s football recruiting class of a year ago includes a couple of Southeastern Conference freshmen to watch: Defensive end Craig Drummond of Morgan Park at Mississippi and quarterback Charlie Goro of Maine South at Vanderbilt.
Goro won a Class 8A state championship with Maine South. Quarterback Jordan Lynch, now at Northern Illinois, came within a sniff of a state title at Mount Carmel. So who will the stars of 2009 be?
It will bear close watching. While some have already verbaled their commitments, such as Maine South running back Matt Perez to Indiana and Wheaton North’s Taylor Graham to Ohio State, perhaps the biggest of Chicagoland recruits this year, Proviso West receiver Kyle Prater is still considering a boatload of BCS offers.
Here are 10 seniors to watch for this season, which begins with a full slate of games Aug. 28:
KYLE PRATER, Proviso West
Position: Wide receiver
College: Uncommitted; has at least 10 BCS offers, including Illinois, Southern Cal, Oklahoma, Tennessee.
The skinny: Prater is ranked as the No. 1 recruit at his position by Rivals.com. Prater’s speed and pass-catching abilities are unmatched by any high school recruit in Illinois. Imagine what he could have accomplished by playing with a quarterback of, say, Goro’s abilities. Prater averaged more than 15 yards per catch last season, and you can expect that and more this season for Proviso West, which lost seven of nine games last season. Prater was used at receiver and quarterback during summer passing jamborees, so just watching him in a number of offensive roles will be a delight this fall. His goal is to lead West to a West Suburban Silver title. That is a tall order.
Key game: Sept. 12, at rival Proviso East.
TAYLOR GRAHAM, Wheaton North
College: Verbaled to Ohio State in June.
The skinny: Ohio State is in his blood, since his dad played there. Graham‘s BCS offers went from coast to coast, including Duke of the ACC and UCLA of the Pac-10. Graham is rated as one of the top 15 quarterback recruits nationally, by Rivals.com. Wheaton North finished just 5-5 last year while Graham fought off an injury, but he was impressive in camp this summer.
Key game: Oct. 16, at DuPage Valley defending champ Naperville North.
TOMMY REES, Lake Forest
College: Verbaled to Notre Dame in July.
The skinny: Rees had a combination of interest from Big Ten and Mid-American schools, in addition to Stanford and Tennessee. Lake Forest finished only 5-5 last year, so it‘ll be interesting to see how far Rees can lead the Scouts in 2009.
Key game: Sept. 25, vs. North Suburban Lake defending champ Gurnee Warren.
JOHN WHITELAW, Hinsdale Central
College: Uncommitted; only offers thus far are from Toledo and Harvard.
The skinny: What gives here? All Whitelaw did last year was throw for more than 2,200 yards and rush for more than 1,300 yards and lead Hinsdale Central to the Class 8A championship game against Maine South. Several Big Ten schools have shown at least some interest, but his best offer (football) comes from Toledo of the Mid-American Conference and best educational offer comes from Harvard. In a Chicagoland quarterback class that has already landed recruits at Ohio State and Notre Dame, keep an eye on this dark-horse candidate at Hinsdale Central.
Key game: Sept. 12, at West Suburban Silver defending champ Glenbard West.
MATT PEREZ, Maine South
Position: Running back
College: Verbaled to Indiana.
The skinny: Even in a Maine South offense dominated by Vanderbilt quarterback Charlie Goro‘s passing and running last year, Perez rushed for more than 1,100 yards and 22 touchdowns. Those numbers will rise this year as the number called most often in the huddle will be his own. When Indiana became the first BCS school in early July to offer, Perez quickly jumped on it. Perez will be the leader for a young Maine South offense that knows only success; none of its players have ever lost a freshman, junior varsity or varsity game.
Key game: Sept. 4, vs. Wheaton Warrenville South
COREY COOPER, Proviso East
Position: Wide receiver
College: Verbaled to Illinois in April 2008, but is reported to be keeping an eye on other schools; other offers include Notre Dame, Tennessee and Stanford.
The skinny: Cooper is hoping that his buddy, Prater, of Proviso West, joins him at Illinois. He has already agreed to take a visit this fall to Notre Dame. He is an offensive and defensive star at Proviso East, catching 40 passes last year for 700 yards and intercepting four passes and breaking up 20 passes on defense. Special teams? He returned four kicks for TDs. Cooper will play a big part in Proviso East‘s challenge to Downers Grove South in the West Suburban Gold. Last year, a 3-point loss to South cost East a league championship.
Key game: Oct. 2, at Downers Grove South.
CHANDLER WHITMER, Downers Grove South
College: Verbaled to Illinois.
The skinny: Whitmer passed for 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, and has thrown for nearly 2,800 yards in two seasons. His passing accuracy is what destroys opponents -- just seven interceptions in two seasons as a starter. The Mustangs are 16-4 in Whitmer’s two varsity seasons, and last year won the West Suburban Gold with a 6-0 record.
Key game: Aug. 28, vs. Bolingbrook.
BRUCE GASTON, St. Rita
Position: Defensive tackle
College: Uncommitted; offers from seven Big Ten schools plus three other BCS schools.
The skinny: Gaston‘s stock has really risen, especially among Big Ten schools. His possible choices include Iowa, Purdue, Wisconsin and Notre Dame. He is a three-sport athlete who‘ll lead St. Rita‘s charge toward a second consecutive title in the always-tough Chicago Catholic Blue Conference. The Mustangs lost just twice last year, including in the Class 7A quarterfinals to powerful East St. Louis.
Key game: Oct. 2, at rival Mt. Carmel.
LOUIS TRINCA-PASAT, Lane
Position: Defensive end
College: Verbaled to Iowa in June; the Hawkeyes were one of four Big Ten schools, and nine overall, to offer Trinca-Pasat.
The skinny: Trinca-Pasat is a great high school success story. He didn‘t play competitive football until high school, and now he has a Big Ten scholarship in his back pocket. Trinca-Pasat will be a shining star for a Lane team that went 11-3 last year and won the Public League championship. What makes this season‘s Lane squad even more intriguing is the play of Laken Tomlinson, an offensive lineman who has verbaled to Duke.
Key game: Aug. 28, vs. Chicago De La Salle in Kickoff Classic at Soldier Field.
MIKE HUSAR, Mt. Carmel
The skinny: With a new quarterback (Chris Sujka) replacing Northern Illinois freshman Jordan Lynch and a younger offensive line, Husar is a third-year starter who will be counted on to be the glue that holds the Caravan together. You won‘t find his name at the top of many recruiting lists, but he comes from great football blood. His father, Mike, played for the University of Michigan. Husar will be key for a line opening holes for RB Milton Greer, whose scholarship offers include Minnesota.
Key game: Oct. 2, vs. rival St. Rita.
PRESEASON HONOR ROLL:
RB Milton Greer, Mt. Carmel: Uncommitted, as yet. The Caravan’s rushing game begins with him.
QB Matt LaCosse, Naperville North: Steps into starting role as the Huskies begin defense of their DuPage Valley Conference championship.
QB Brad Geever, Bolingbrook: Leads an experienced Raiders offense; Bolingbrook won 10 games last season.
WR Steve Kmiotek, Wheaton Warrensville South: One of seven returning starters on offense for a team that lost just twice last season.
RB Jamel Martin, Bolingbrook: rushed for more than 700 yards and 10 TDs last year.
RB Tim Hanrahan, Providence: The Celtics, a Class 6A semifinalist in 2008, could be a factor in the Chicago Catholic Blue title race this year.
Paul Bowker, a sports journalist for 25 years who has worked at newspapers nationwide, covers the Chicago area for MaxPreps. He may be reached at email@example.com.