With Wednesday's National Signing Day showing a declining number of commitments from Illinois high school players to FBS schools, one has to wonder if that's better news for the state FCS programs.
"In theory it has a chance to be a decent haul," Illinois high school recruiting expert "Edgy Tim" O'Halloran told Prairie State Pigskin. "If you look at the last four years there hasn't been an overwhelming amount of in-state kids that have ended up signing (with the state FCS programs).
"Eastern was kind of an exception last year just because of the situation," O'Halloran said in reference to EIU hiring Chicago native and former Northwestern assistant Adam Cushing in December. "They were still trying to build a roster. All of those guys (EIU assistants) have Chicagoland ties. That made sense.
"If you look at Western's numbers and Illinois State's numbers, it's been what, a handful of kids at the most in each class. That's just a reflection of where things have been going."
O'Halloran, who has covered IHSA football since 1995, maintains his website edgytim.rivals.com to monitor the statewide recruiting scene.
In addition to Wednesday's early signees, the traditional February signing date is still in place.
"The sheer overall numbers of expected FBS level verbal commitments who are expected to sign Letters of Intent on Wednesday are easily at an all-time low. So why the low numbers you ask?" the Channahon-based O'Halloran wrote on his website earlier this week.
O'Halloran cited several factors including lower overall participation numbers, continued dwindling in-state population growth and what he terms "just a not very deep talent base in the 2020 class overall."
Furthermore, O'Halloran said the overall demand from schools who recruit Illinois on a regular basis is "very low."
O'Halloran added, "In short, the overall lack of depth of this class is clearly evident by the very limited numbers of FBS level signings."
The Rivals.com database supports O'Halloran. The number of FBS-level signings from Illinois high schools has declined the last two years and appears to be headed in that direction again.
Moreover, fewer state prep athletes are signing with Big Ten programs this fall.
"Now we're really getting the impact of the lower participation," O'Halloran told Prairie State Pigskin. "You have major (high school) conferences eliminating a level. You're seeing Catholic League schools that aren't playing freshmen football. Major suburban schools that are either going JV, or they're combining frosh into frosh-soph. That's been happening in the last handful of years and it's affecting the overall numbers and the quality."
O'Halloran projects the Class of 2020 will have 50-55 recruits sign FBS level Letters of Intent by the end of the February recruiting period.
A closer look at FCS level
"The Class of 2020 is going to again be a relatively a strong group for the FCS/D2 level," O'Halloran wrote on his website. "Currently I'm showing 34 names from the Class of 2020 already being verbally committed to FCS schools and a majority of those names are expected to sign Letters of Intent on Wednesday.
"The combined FBS/FCS number of signees should number in the upper 80's to low 90's, which is also on target to be well below average over the past seven signing classes from the State of Illinois. Currently from an in-state school's perspective, Southern Illinois and head coach Nick Hill have five known in-state verbal commitments"
O'Halloran also noted that no Illinois in-state quarterback has yet committed to an FBS school.
"Just a handful of in-state quarterback including Neuqua Valley's Mark Gronowski (South Dakota State), Rochester's Clay Bruno (Western Illinois) and Normal West's Carson Camp (South Dakota) are expected to sign Letters of Intent on Wednesday," he wrote prior to this past week's National Signing Day. "The upcoming strong quarterback class in the 2021 group I feel was another huge factor working against the Class of 2020 quarterbacks in the State of Illinois."
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