Disabato: Division I college football programs loading up on talent from Southland
By Pat Disabato email@example.com Twitter: @disabato September 11, 2013 9:50PM
Crete-Monee's Nyles Morgan (5) pressures Evanston quarterback Chris Little, Friday, September 6 , 2013. | Allen Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 15, 2013 6:48AM
During my two decades and change career, I’ve been fortunate to cover some of the most talented high school football players the Southland ever has produced — from quarterbacks to cornerbacks, from the impoverished to wealthy, from private and public schools.
At one time, Thornton teammates Antwaan Randle El, Napoleon Harris and Tai Streets were playing in the NFL at the same time.
Lincoln-Way grad Cory Paus and Sandburg’s Zak Kustok, quarterbacks who never played in the NFL, enjoyed record-setting careers at UCLA and Northwestern, respectively.
More recent, there’s Crete-Monee grad Laquon Treadwell, a freshman receiver at Ole Miss, and Lemont grad Ethan Pocic, a freshman lineman at LSU, each of whom could develop into future All-Americans.
There are dozens more from this talent-rich region who have or are still playing college football.
However, I can’t recall a particular time when the area was blessed with so much Division I talent as this season. Quite a harvest.
“Major colleges love the blue-collar Chicago guys,” said Marist’s Pat Dunne, in his seventh season as RedHawks coach. “The area kids have the extra intangibles: heart, competitiveness and are willing to do whatever for their team. To have this much interest in the local talent, it says a lot about the area and the type of football we play.”
Rare is the Saturday when you watch an entire day of college football and a local name doesn’t appear.
And more names are on their way to College Game Day.
Marist receiver Nic Weishar already has committed to Notre Dame.
Mount Carmel’s Enoch Smith (Michigan State), Steven Richardson (Minnesota) and Matt Domer (Illinois) all are headed to the Big Ten. Another Caravan, Deontae Brown, has committed to Western Michigan, along with Andrew’s Jarvion Franklin.
Lincoln-Way East’s Nick Allegretti and Lincoln-Way North’s Julian Hylton will join Domer at Illinois.
St. Rita’s Tommy Mister is going to Iowa State. Mister’s Mustangs teammate, Lamar Dawson, is going to Syracuse, while fellow Catholic Leaguer Mikale Wilbon, of De La Salle, is Vanderbilt-bound.
There are others and still others who have yet to decide.
Among them, Crete-Monee linebacker Nyles Morgan, arguably the biggest fish in the local pond, who can pretty much pick the college he desires. One of the schools that offered is Ole Miss, where Morgan can join former Crete teammates Anthony Standifer and Treadwell.
Three local kids from the same high school playing at the same college at the same time? In the SEC? Wake me, I must be dreaming.
Marist receiver Flynn Nagel has been offered by Illinois, Indiana and Northern Illinois.
Another receiver, Miles Boykin, of Providence, has multiple major offers to sift through. Sandburg lineman Yanni Demogerontas, too, is a young man in demand.
The list of local players committing to D-I programs will grow.
So why, and how, has this happened?
Much of it can be attributed to exposure and skill. A college coach can access a player’s game tape from anywhere in the country — one of the true assets of the Internet.
Second, kids have become bigger, faster and stronger. Good or bad, high school sports has developed into a 365-day commitment, not just in football but nearly every sport.
Kids work year-round on their conditioning and strength, spending countless hours in the weight room in an effort to improve skills.
“Guys are continually doing stuff in the offseason and that’s helped,” said St. Rita coach Todd Kuska, in his 16th season. “They’re doing extra stuff more than they used to, which has made them bigger, faster, stronger. That’s definitely part of the attraction for major colleges.”
Mount Carmel coach Frank Lenti, the state’s all-time winningest coach, had a different take on the matter.
“I don’t think it’s more talent, just the evolution of the game,” said Lenti, in his 30th season. “College coaches don’t want to be left behind, and they’re offering scholarships a lot earlier. Whether they’re sure a kid can absolutely play or not, they’re offering a scholarship. They don’t want to be outdone.”