Northern Illinois stocks up on local talent
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