North­ern Illi­nois stocks up on lo­cal tal­ent

Chicago Sun-Times - - HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL - BETH LONG Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ Beth_ Long.

The Class of 2018 is wrapped up and in the books, and North­ern Illi­nois was the big win­ner when it came to sign­ing Chicago- area tal­ent.

The Huskies brought in 11 lo­cal prospects, in­clud­ing Home­wood-Floss­moor run­ning back Justin Hall, an Un­der Ar­mour All- Amer­i­can. He was elec­tric last sea­son and also can play de­fen­sive back. H- F team­mate Jef­frey Grif­fin, a de­fen­sive tackle, also signed with NIU.

Maine South run­ning back Fo­tis Koko­sioulis, an ath­lete who was one of the best backs in the area the last two sea­sons, also signed with the Huskies.

NIU got qual­ity, proven play­mak­ers in Phillips de­fen­sive tackle Queneil Mor­ri­son, Pala­tine line­backer Cortez Ho­gans, Simeon re­ceiver Leon Payne, Oswego East de­fen­sive back Ant­wain Walker, De La Salle line­backer Joseph Bonds and Waubon­sie Val­ley tight end Charles Robin­son.

North­west­ern also signed a load of tal­ented in- state play­ers, head­lined by Lin­coln Way- East de­fen­sive line­man Devin O’Rourke, an Un­der Ar­mour All- Amer­i­can and an All- Area se­lec­tion. The Wild­cats also signed Crys­tal Lake South of­fen­sive line­man Wy­att Blake.

NU landed plenty of size and tal­ent. O’Rourke is 6- 6 and 230 pounds, and Blake is 6- 4 and 300 pounds. Two other Wild­cats re­cruits are 6- 7, 210- pound tight end Brian Kaiser of New Trier and 6- 4, 270- pound of­fen­sive line­man Char­lie Schmidt of Lib­er­tyville.

Illi­nois signed one re­cruit who was orig­i­nally from the Chicago area. Of­fen­sive line­man Verdis Brown spent his se­nior year at IMG Academy in Florida but be­gan high school at Mount Carmel.

Bar­rows one to watch

Brooks ju­nior Joel Bar­rows is start­ing to turn heads on the re­cruit­ing trail. The 6- 3, 185- pound cor­ner­back and re­ceiver re­cently picked up schol­ar­ship of­fers from South Dakota and Illi­nois State. South Dakota was the first school to make him an of­fer.

‘‘ My first of­fer was a re­lief; I was re­ally happy,’’ Bar­rows said. ‘‘ I was in the car with [ coach Ben­jamin Mc­Call] when I got it, which made it even more of a spe­cial mo­ment.’’

Bar­rows said he has started to do his re­search on South Dakota.

‘‘ They have a nice cam­pus and a good aca­demic sys­tem,’’ Bar­rows said. ‘‘ Re­cruit­ing is pick­ing up a lot, and I’m en­joy­ing ev­ery minute of it. Be­fore I was get­ting at­ten­tion, I doubted my level of tal­ent. But now that I see I com­pare to some of the best tal­ent, I feel as if the sky is the limit.’’

Bar­rows said he likely will visit Illi­nois State, Ball State and Illi­nois this fall. He has sev­eral things to work on this off­sea­son.

‘‘ I’m work­ing on im­prov­ing my tech­nique and my foot­ball IQ,’’ Bar­rows said. ‘‘ I think my strength and lead­er­ship skills are the most im­por­tant as­pects of my game.’’

Home­wood- Floss­moor run­ning back Justin Hall is one of 11 Chicago- area play­ers in the Class of 2018 who has signed with North­ern Illi­nois. | WORSOM ROBIN­SON/ FOR THE SUN- TIMES

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