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June 9, 2005
Illinois has potential
Potential is the word best-used to describe the top 50 prospects in the state of Illinois for the Class of 2006.
While last year's crop, particularly on the offensive line, was one of the best in history, this year's group has more skill position players at the top and doesn't have quite the depth that the Class of 2005 had.
"Last year, Chicago was a destination," Rivals.com recruiting analyst Tim O'Halloran said. "This year, it is a stop-over."
Click HERE to view the 2006 preseason Illinois Top 50.
But that doesn't mean that there isn't a talented group in the Land of Lincoln. Led by Rivals100 quarterback Demetrius Jones, the preseason Illinois Top 50 is full of potentially great college football players, particularly at the skills positions.
"This class has a chance to be average or above average," O'Halloran said. "Overall, it is down from last year."
Jones, a dynamic dual-threat quarterback, is a four-star rated prospect and the No. 53 overall prospect in the country. He brings intangibles to the game that can't be taught.
"He might not have the strongest arm or be the fastest kid," O'Halloran said. "But he's a special player and you want him to have the ball in his hands. I've seen him take over games and you won't see that very often.
"He fits the prototype of what colleges are looking for in a quarterback."
Defensive end Jamie Cumbie, who recently committed to Clemson, is the state's No. 2 prospect. What makes Cumbie worthy of his lofty ranking is that he projects to possibly play a number of different positions at the next level.
"He could stay at defensive end, he's a good athlete and has the hands and speed to play tight end or he might be a great offensive tackle at Clemson."
Like Cumbie, quarterback Isiah Williams also has made an early commitment, giving his pledge to Ron Zook and Illinois. O'Halloran says that Williams has the strongest arm he's seen on a quarterback prospect in more than 20 years of scouting in Illinois. Williams and Jones, while both talented, bring different styles to the table in terms of quarterbacking.
Defensive back Sergio Brown, the No. 11 prospect, did the most to help himself during the May evaluation period. Brown had no offers heading into the May 7 Ann Arbor NIKE camp at the University of Michigan, but soon had double-digit offers soon after.
"He improved his stock with a good performance," O'Halloran said.
O'Halloran says that while "Chicagoland is know for three things, Pizza, election rigging and offensive lineman," there are several offensive line prospects who will have to prove themselves at summer camps this season in order to generate the kind of interest that Dan Doehring and company got last year.
Leading the way among the offensive lineman this year is Ramone Johnson. O'Halloran thinks Johnson is well ahead of every other offensive line prospect.
"He just brings it," O'Halloran said.
O'Halloran, who is releasing an Illinois Top 50 earlier than he ever has, feels that there could be movement in the rankings as performances in summer camps and during the 2005 high school season start to move players up or down.
"There could be a whole lot of shaking going on," O'Halloran adds. "It's like a Thunderdome. All the kids are going into a cage and we'll see who comes out.
"There will be a lot of kids in that cage."