Class of 2012 loaded with linemenSimeon quarterback Robert Gregory has plenty of upside, according to CBS College Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. - John J. Kim/Sun-Times
Updated: May 16, 2011 10:21AM
Quarterbacks and running backs get the glory and the headlines, but another group of prep football players is getting more attention from college scouts these days.
As recruiting heats up for the Class of 2012, the Chicago area is becoming a magnet for colleges looking for big bodies to protect their quarterbacks and open lanes for their runners.
“Illinois is the No. 1 place for offensive linemen,” CBS College Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. “There’s a ton of [local] offensive linemen in the NFL. Chicago is where colleges come looking for offensive linemen.”
That judgment is reflected in Lemming’s list of the area’s top 30 junior prospects. Eight of them are O-linemen, and the talent pool runs deep.
“There’s another 20 offensive linemen in the Chicago area that could wind up in the top 30 with a little effort, working on their quickness,” Lemming said.
The best of the bunch in Lemming’s estimation is Simeon’s Jordan Diamond, a 6-6, 310-pounder who’s No. 1 on the top 30 list. Last season, he and linemate Christian Bryant paved the way for an explosive offense that keyed the Wolverines’ 11-0 start. Bryant became part of new Michigan coach Brady Hoke’s first recruiting class, and this year the spotlight is on Diamond, whose many offers include powers from the Big Ten and beyond.
Other offensive linemen in Lemming’s top 10 are Barrington’s Dan Voltz (6-4, 300), who has committed to Wisconsin, at No. 4 and Providence’s Ryan Ward (6-6, 280) at
No. 8. Also in the top 30 are Glenbard West’s Johnny Caspers (6-3, 270), Sandburg’s Dan Feeney (6-4, 300), Bolingbrook’s Robbie Bain (6-3, 270), Marian Central’s Scott Taylor (6-4, 270) and Hinsdale Central’s Ryan Callen (6-4, 270).
Caspers’ teammate Tommy Schutt (6-3, 290), a defensive lineman who has picked up offers from Florida and Auburn to go along with others from Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame, is No. 2. Speedy Joliet Catholic running back Malin Jones (6-2, 205), who has committed to Northwestern, and Voltz round out the top four.
A player whose stock has been rising like the price of gas is Crete-Monee defensive back Anthony Standifer (6-1, 180), who’s No. 5 on Lemming’s list.
“People knew about him, but when they saw him on film, he really skyrocketed the last two weeks,” Lemming said. “Michigan and Notre Dame have offered [scholarships to] him. He’s gone from an Akron recruit to a national recruit.”
One of the prospects with the biggest upside is Simeon quarterback Robert Gregory (6-3, 200).
“Of all the players, the kid who has the most potential is Robert Gregory,” Lemming said. “The kid’s got a good arm; he’s just not polished yet. If he goes to the right program, he’s going to be a star.”
While the top 30 is heavy on big guys in the trenches, it also features some capable skill players. Besides Jones and Gregory, there are burners such as Curie quarterback Maurice Fleming (5-11, 175) and Carmel running back Michael Panico (5-8, 185), whom Lemming calls the fastest of the group.
In all, it’s a talented class.
“It’s a very competitive top 30, as opposed to last year when we had trouble finding a top 20,” Lemming said.