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Friday, October 1, 2010
Big catches in Illinois

By Tom Luginbill and Billy Tucker
ESPN Recruiting

For the second straight year, the premier prospect in the state of Illinois lines up at receiver. In fact, there's actually high-end quality and quantity at the receiver position throughout the state, highlighted by three four-star receivers -- ESPNU 150 teammates Notre Dame commit DaVaris Daniels and Ohio State commit Evan Spencer (Vernon Hills, Ill./Vernon Hills) and Arkansas commit Keante Minor (East Saint Louis, Ill./East Saint Louis).

Daniels is a big target with great athleticism and body control, while Spencer is a fluid route runner with vertical speed that needs to be respected. Minor is a 200-pounder with good strength and physical prowess at the position. He will make the difficult grab in traffic, sneak behind coverage and produce as a downfield target.

Top prospect

WR DaVaris Daniels
The No. 15-ranked receiver in the country is one of the more dynamic athletes in the Midwest. Daniels also plays some quarterback for Vernon Hills, basically just to ensure he got the ball in his hands because his great blend of size, strength and athleticism make him a dangerous weapon every time the he has ball at the high school level. While he's a versatile offensive weapon, the Under Armour All-American is headed to South Bend as a receiver and has all the tools and physical ability to develop into a very good one. His size (6-foot-2, 164 pounds), length and athleticism make him a difficult matchup in jump-ball situations and he has the big hands and wide catching radius to snatch most passes thrown in his vicinity. Daniels is not a burner, but has deceptive speed to get behind coverage as a vertical route runner and move the chains with a sneaky extra gear and deceptive elusiveness after the catch. We feel the son of NFL defensive lineman Phillip Daniels has his best football ahead of him and could be a versatile weapon playing in the slot or split out wide.

Remember the name

QB Adam Pittser (Richmond, Ill./Richmond Burton)
If he were playing in the spread or pro-style scheme, he would have a minimum of 10 offers already. As it stands, he has engineered a conservative rushing attack out of the Wing-T set since his junior year and the only reason why he started garnering attention is because of his performance at this past summers EA Sports Elite 11 competition where outside of five-star QB Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, Fla./Paul J. Hagerty) you could argue Pittser was the most impressive passer of the group. One of his shortcomings is that he lacks ideal height at 6-1, but he compensates with a live arm and a nice sense of urgency. He has the feet, release and just enough athleticism to make plays. Pittser lacks experience as a true passer, but he possesses the tools to have a bright future if someone is smart enough to take a chance on him.

Taking up residence

Here are the colleges that are doing the best with prospects from Illinois.

Notre Dame
Notre Dame The Fighting Irish recruited the state well under Charlie Weis and has started strong under Brian Kelly. They only hold a commitment from one prospect in the state of Illinois, but it's a significant one. Daniels will bring coveted size and athleticism to the receiving corps.

Ohio State
Ohio State The Buckeyes currently claim the No. 4 class thanks to their ability to retain homegrown talent and also recruit outside in states like Illinois. Spencer is a deep receiving threat and a threat after the catch. The No. 18-ranked WR still has room to blossom in Columbus. Its hard to find good centers at the high school level, but OSU has a solid four-star prospect in Brian Bobek (Palatine, Ill./William Fremd), who's fundamentally sound and efficient as a shotgun snapper with good strength and quickness as a blocker.

Northwestern
Northwestern The Wildcats have a very good class assembled under the energetic Pat Fitzgerald and the Illinois native continues to recruit the state well. They have a strong nucleus of in-state commitments with five three-star prospects on board. Jack Konopka (Palatine, Ill./William Fremd) is a high school tight end with a large frame and strong blocking skills that make us believe offensive tackle is in his future. Like Konopka, safety Sean Cotton (Melrose Park, Ill./Walther Lutheran) is a notch below a four-star with his ability to run, close and find the football.

Illinois
Illinois There has been a lot of action on the recruiting trail in Illinois as 18 of the state's top-20 rated prospects are committed, but only one is committed to the Fighting Illini, which is not a good sign for Ron Zook. They do have six in-state prospects hovering around the three-star range and one prospect just shy of four-star status in defensive tackle Clint Tucker (East Saint Louis, Ill./East Saint Louis), who's a stout and solid two-way player we project will play defensive tackle and produce in blue-collar fashion.

Tom Luginbill is ESPN's national director of football recruiting. Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school levels.