JUST LIKE THE OLD MAN
LOVIE, ILLINI LOOKING FORWARD TO KREUTZ 2.0 AS FORMER BEAR’S SON DECIDES ON CHAMPAIGN
Illinois football coach Lovie Smith didn’t have to introduce himself to the parents of his first in-state recruit in the Class of 2021. Loyola center Josh Kreutz, who announced his commitment to the Illini via Twitter on Thursday night, is the son of longtime Bears center Olin Kreutz. The elder Kreutz played seven of his 14 NFL seasons under Smith with the Bears.
But Olin Kreutz didn’t push his son into playing for his old coach.
“He agreed with my decision,” Josh Kreutz said of his dad. “[But] he wanted me to make the decision.”
Loyola coach John Holecek, himself a former Illinois and NFL player, believes the Illini are getting a good one in Kreutz.
“Josh is a chip off the old block,” Holecek said. “He’s an undersized kid for the Big Ten [at 6-2, 265 pounds]. But just like his dad, he’s going to improve himself, and he’s going to be a heck of a player.
“Lovie knows what he’s getting.” Kreutz, ranked as a three-star recruit by Rivals.com, played through a finger injury last season that prevented him from playing center full-time.
“He’s extremely athletic and competitive,” Holecek said. “Completely healthy, he’s scary.”
Like other prospects, Kreutz saw his recruiting process upended by the coronavirus pandemic, settling for some virtual visits and Zoom calls.
In the end, he said, “I felt like I got a good fit at Illinois.”
not looking back
The goodbyes have been said, and Nazareth is ready to move on.
The Roadrunners, like all teams, dealt with graduation losses from last year’s team, which was the Class 7A runner-up.
But Nazareth also is regrouping after losing two high-profile players to transfers.
Quarterback J.J. McCarthy, a Michigan recruit who was the state’s top-ranked player in the Class of 2021, is headed to IMG Academy in Florida. Syracuse-bound receiver Landon Morris transferred to Fishers, Indiana.
“For sure, J.J. was a huge part of our team,” said four-star receiver Tyler Morris [no relation to Landon], who is Illinois’ No. 2 junior prospect. “[But] we can’t determine our team based on [losing] him.
“A lot of people are saying Naz is going to be bad. Naz is still Naz. We’re going to do us.”
Indeed, the Roadrunners still have plenty of high-level talent. Besides Morris, there are senior defensive ends Ryan Keeler and Daine Hanson, three-star prospects with 32 and 13 scholarship offers, respectively.
Nazareth coach Tim Racki is looking ahead, not backward, after McCarthy and Landon Morris’ departures.
“It comes down to culture,” he said. “It was bittersweet with both of them leaving. It wasn’t like anyone was hacked off or had a grudge.”
His players, Racki said, “were sad that we were losing teammates, but more so relationships.”
One consequence of McCarthy’s departure is the quarterback competition that is happening a year ahead of schedule.
Racki said there are four candidates: returning backup Cass Kinsella, a senior; juniors Ben Michel and A.J. Parnell; and sophomore Benjamin Parrott.
Parrott, who transferred in from Alabama at the semester break after his father got a job in the area, already has impressed.
“He’s got a pretty good arm,” Tyler Morris said. “He can get the ball where it needs to go.”
Racki watched Parrott in open gyms before the pandemic lockdown, in addition to looking at video.
“He’s got incredible athleticism,” Racki said. “Just watching tape from Alabama, you know
he’s got special abilities.”
Back on the field
Though prep seven-on-seven competitions are on hold after an Illinois High School Association ruling last week, some of the area’s elite players have been getting reps in on the national club circuit.
That has helped to restart an evaluation process that was paused by the pandemic in March.
One player back on the field was Oak Park senior Jaden McGill, a three-star prospect getting interest on both sides of the ball.
Western Michigan has offered a scholarship as a quarterback, while Michigan State and Kansas State have offered McGill as a defensive back.
It probably didn’t hurt that one scouting website singled him out as one of the top 11 defenders at a recent seven-on-seven event in Texas. That was just a bonus to McGill.
“It was great to get out and be able to play,” he said. “We played against some of the top guys in Texas, USC commits and LSU commits.” There was a bit of catching up to do. “We came down there, we were all rusty,” McGill said.
But as the evaluation showed, he quickly got up to speed. He credits that to workouts with Josh Smith, an Oak Park basketball standout who is transferring to Culver City, California, for his senior year.
“In the beginning [of the lockdown], I took a couple weeks off,” McGill said. “But now I feel like at this point, I worked out more than I did last year.” ✶
Loyola’s Josh Kreutz (63) was slowed by a finger injury last season but is “scary” when he’s healthy, his coach said.
Nazareth’s Landon Morris is moving to central Indiana, where fall sports are more likely to happen.
Oak Park’s Jaden McGill has participated in drills on the national club circuit during the shutdown.