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May 2, 2013

RCS Chicago: What to watch for

MORE: Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour

CHICAGO -- The 15th and final stop of the regional portion of the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour lands in the Chicago area on Saturday, where many of the Midwest's top prospects are ready to do battle.

Battle for No. 1 in Illinois

A pair of linebackers sit atop the rankings for the top prospects in Illinois' 2014 class, and both will be in attendance Saturday in Illinois. Plainfield South's Clifton Garrett and Crete-Monee's Nyles Morgan are ranked Nos. 53 and 70, respectively, nationally, and sit 1-2 in the early state-of-Illinois rankings.

With both being Rivals100 prospects and both playing the linebacker position there is a natural rivalry that exists between Morgan and Garrett, though it is certainly an amicable one.

The two Land of Lincoln linebackers know each other well, and will no doubt enjoy squaring off against one another in the Chicagoland area Rivals Camp on Saturday.

But with nine of the top 16 prospects in the state of Illinois registered for Saturday's Rivals Camp Series event (four of the top 16 attended the St. Louis RCS), there are others who have their eye on the top spot in the state of Illinois' No. 1 ranking. Keep an eye on Carol Stream (Ill.) Glenbard North running back Justin Jackson, who rushed for 2,612 yards and 35 touchdowns as a junior and is ready to show his versatility on Saturday.

Depth on defensive line

Many of the position groups on Saturday will be deep with talent, none more so than the defensive line. Headlining the group will be four-stars Craig Evans of Sun Prairie, Wis., and Gelen Robinson of St. John (Ind.) Lake Central, but the strength of the group will be its depth.

Featuring prospects such as Ohio State commit Dylan Thompson, Michigan State commit Enoch Smith Jr., Western Michigan commit Kenny Finley, Minnesota commit Steven Richardson, Wisconsin commit Connor Sheehy and high three-star Billy Hirschfeld, the defensive line group will be loaded with prospects who will be showcasing their games at the highest levels.

Several underclassmen will look to make their bones as well. Among the sophomores to watch are St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall defensive end Jashon Cornell, who already holds double-digit offers, and Green Bay (Wis.) Southwest defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie, the son of Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.

The group of offensive linemen who will be opposing the defensive line is also strong, with Pittsburgh commit Connor Hayes and Michigan State commit Brian Allen.

Midwest arms

While the defensive line group has a good chance to take many of the headlines on Saturday, there is also a very strong collection of passers headed to Chicago. Headlined by Sturgis, Mich., four-star Chance Stewart, quarterbacks will account for almost 20 percent of prospects in attendance.

Stewart's state of Michigan brethren, Detroit Country Day three-star Tyler Wiegers, will also be in attendance. Dual-threat quarterbacks such as Tommy Mister of Chicago St. Rita and Rickey Neal of Racine (Wisc.) Horlick will give the position added athleticism.

The story at the quarterback position by day's end, however, might be the talent of the underclassmen. Lisle (Ill.) Benet Academy sophomore Jack Beneventi already holds offers from Illinois, Iowa and Notre Dame while Grand Rapids (Mich.) South Christian's Jon Wassink, Gary (Ind.) West Side's Ramone Atkins, Lincolnshire (Ill.) Stevenson's Willie Bourbon and Champaign (Ill.) Centennial's Jimmy Fitzgerald are ready to break out.

Freshmen with offers

The accelerated timetable of the recruiting process will be on display this weekend when freshmen who have already received scholarship offers will take the field.

Downers Grove (Ill.) South offensive tackle Erik Swenson does not look like a freshman at 6-foot-7 and 290 pounds. Illinois and Notre Dame decided not to wait and have already offered scholarships.

Wheaton (Ill.) St. Francis' Justin Berry has yet to start a varsity game, but already the 6-foot, 195-pound dual-threat quarterback has collected offers from Arizona State, Temple and Youngstown State.

A total of eight class-of-2016 prospects will take part in Saturday's Rivals Camp in Chicago. Other names from that class to watch include Grand Rapids (Mich.) Christian cornerback Lucas Thompson, St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall running back Brison White and Muskegon (Mich.) Mona Shores defensive end Chris Daniels.

Commits competing

One of the notable topics going into Saturday's event in the Chicago area is how many committed prospects are not resting on their laurels.

A total of 25 prospects who have already made their commitments to Division I programs have registered. Wisconsin and Michigan State commitments make up a bulk of the off-the-market prospects who will be participating, but Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio State, Rutgers and Notre Dame will also have their commitments competing.

It should also be noted the job P.J. Fleck and his staff are doing at Western Michigan. The Broncos have nine commitments already in the class of 2014, and five of them -- four-star quarterback Chance Stewart, safety Deontae Brown, offensive tackle Curtis Doyle, defensive tackle Kenny Finley and athlete Robert Spillane -- will take part in the Rivals Camp Series on Saturday, making Western Michigan the best-represented program at the event.

In more than a dozen years of covering college football recruiting, we have identified several factors that portend success, and one of the main ones is prospects continually willing to test themselves and explore their strengths and weaknesses. Committing to a school is not the end of the process, but the beginning of a new path, and prospects such as those competing in Chicago this weekend are showing they have the drive to reach their potential.



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