April 17, 2024


CCL/ESCC recruiting notes: Marist’s Jamel Howard Jr. enjoying renewed interest after Wisconsin decommittment

Marist's Jamel Howard Jr. committed to play collegiate football at Wisconsin.

Jamel Howard Jr. has enjoyed the second part of his recruitment.

The Marist defensive linemen decommitted from the Badgers on Nov. 17 after the program fired head coach Paul Chryst earlier in the season. Nebraska and Michigan extended offers to the senior in the time since Chryst was fired. Ole Miss and LSU offered after Howard decommitted.

“It’s like no other feeling,” Howard said. “Sometimes when you get that call, you’re just really excited, honestly. You don’t care who it is, you get excited and it fires me up that someone is that inspired about what I’ve been doing so far.”

Howard said his recruitment has gone faster now than it did the first time. Many schools told him that he’d have an offer if he put everything together both on and off the field and after an impressive senior season.

Howard’s hard work was rewarded.

Howard visited Michigan on Nov. 19 when the Wolverines took on Illinois and he’ll visit Wisconsin this weekend, the first time he’ll return to campus since the program hired Luke Fickell as its new head coach. The senior has always loved the school and Madison, now it’s time to see how he’ll connect with the new coaching staff.

“I want to go down there and see the new staff,” Howard said. “I’m going there to get a feel for what I end up getting in love with down there, just to see if it’s the same culture.”

With early signing day coming up on Dec. 21, Howard doesn’t expect to sign with a school. After visiting Wisconsin, he’ll still want to visit Illinois, Michigan, Ole Miss and LSU in the next two months before signing in February.

While the second part of his recruitment includes more buzz, what he’s looking for in a school remains the same.

“I’m naturally the same guy,” Howard said. “I’m looking for a home where I’m going to be comfortable for the next four years.”

St. Rita’s Kingsbury taking his time

Matt Kingsbury isn’t in a rush to decide where he’ll play college football.

The St. Rita linebacker has both full-scholarship offers and preferred walk-on offers and is fine to weigh all of his options.

“I’ve been really patient with recruiting,” Kingsbury said. “I’m not rushing anything, but it’s been a good experience.”

Kingsbury holds preferred walk-on spots from Purdue and Texas A&M and full scholarships from schools like Ohio, Miami (Ohio), Toledo and Western Michigan. He also thinks some more Big Ten schools could offer in the next couple weeks because of the uncertainty of the transfer portal.

The senior said deciding between whether to take a guaranteed scholarship or walk on to a team is tough, but that he can play at any stage and believes that he can earn a scholarship eventually.

“Both are really good options,” Kingsbury said. “I’ve been talking to coaches on all these staffs and it’s just kind of what place am I going to fall in love with the most. I just need to take some time, take some visits and see where things go from there.”

Kingsbury finished his senior season with 131 total tackles, 11 sacks and two blocked punts. He also earned the CCL/ESCC Green Lawless award for the division’s most valuable player and thinks he put together a senior season that should impress many schools.

“It was a great senior year,” Kingsbury said. “I was really proud of myself, I felt like I had put together some great film, so now I’m just letting these coaches digest it.”

Mustangs’ Schmitt makes his bet

Johnny Schmitt decided to bet on himself.

The St. Rita senior had full-ride scholarships from schools like Western Illinois, Holy Cross and Dayton, but the safety decided to take a preferred walk-on spot at Illinois when he announced his commitment Friday, betting that he could earn a scholarship when he got to Champaign.

“I know that I can play at this level,” Schmitt said. “I trained with guys at this level, I’ve put in the work. I know that I can play there, so there’s a great staff at Illinois believing in me.”

Preferred walk-on spots from Illinois and Wisconsin were Schmitt’s top two preferences but he knew he wanted to be a part of the Illini’'s culture after visiting campus. He enjoyed how much everyone in the program, from coaches to players, believed in head coach Bret Bielema’s vision for the program.

“The feeling I got when I was down there was really special and I’m really excited to have the opportunity to play with them,” Schmitt said. “Their coaching staff was different for sure.”

Schmitt earned CCL/ESCC Green All-Conference honors for the past season after finishing with 71 total tackles and three interceptions. He helped St. Rita reach the Class 7A semifinals, where the Mustangs fell to eventual champion Mount Carmel.

The Illini staff told Schmitt that he could earn a scholarship quickly if he worked hard once he got to campus. He might start playing on special teams as a freshman but could eventually play safety, it’s up to him to put in the work.

“I’m doing everything possible to just get closer to achieving my goals,” Schmitt said. “I’m going down there and I’m getting ready to compete right from the bat.”

Dowling’s ‘sigh of relief’

Monday felt like a long time coming for Blainey Dowling.

The Mount Carmel senior quarterback wanted to find a place where he felt wanted by a coaching staff. He got that feeling on Monday after Eastern Illinois offered him a scholarship.

“It’s a huge sigh of relief,” Dowling said. “Just all the hard work that I put in during the offseason, it’s paying off when it comes to recruiting. So I was pumped and I’m excited for the opportunity.”

The Panthers coaches offered Dowling after watching him throw routes at Mount Carmel on Monday and talking to him. Western Illinois also offered Tuesday and Drake followed up Thursday to add on to a list of offers from Dayton, Winona State, Findlay, Minnesota State, Lindenwood and Notre Dame College.

Dowling appreciates the opportunity to get a full-ride offer.

“It’s going to help my family out for sure,” Dowling said. “At the end of the day, going to school for free is huge, walking out now debt-free and getting a great education.”

Dowling will take an official visit to Charleston this weekend and said he’s leaning toward signing in the early signing period instead of waiting.

“It’s just an awesome opportunity to go out and play for a great program like Eastern Illinois,” Dowling said. “Now I’m going to get to work as soon as possible.”

Brother Rice’s Christian Pierce gets early offers

Christian Pierce got rewarded for a strong sophomore season with Brother Rice.

Michigan offered Pierce on Wednesday a day after Texas gave Pierce his first Power Five offer. Pierce’s older brother Trey currently is deciding where he’ll go to college after decommitting from Wisconsin, also holding offers from Texas and Michigan.

Christian Pierce had 110 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss and four blocked passes this fall.

Michal Dwojak

Michal Dwojak

Michal is a sports enterprise reporter for Shaw Local, covering the CCL/ESCC for Friday Night Drive and other prep sports for the Northwest Herald. He also is a Chicago Bears contributing writer. He previously was the sports editor for the Glenview Lantern, Northbook Tower and Malibu Surfside News.