January 28, 2023


CCL/ESSS recruiting notes: Marist’s Jamel Howard Jr. sets announcement date

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

Marist’s Jamel Howard Jr. will be making a college decision soon after reopening his recruitment in November.

The defensive line prospect will announce his decision on Feb. 1, National Signing Day, and is considering Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and LSU. Howard felt like he needed to go through the process again and has enjoyed learning more about different schools.

“I enjoyed it a lot,” Howard said. “It’s something that I needed.”

Howard originally committed to Wisconsin in June but reopened his recruitment after the Badgers fired head coach Paul Chryst and decided not to name defensive coordinator and interim head coach Jim Leonhard as their new permanent head coach. The school chose Luke Fickell as the program’s new leader.

Both 247Sports and Rivals rank Howard as a three-star prospect, the 15th-best in the state of Illinois. He’s the lone top-15 state prospect who hasn’t signed with a school yet.

Howard finished 2022 with 53 total tackles, eight for a loss, and three sacks, which earned him IHSFCA All-State Honorable Mention honors and plenty of interest from Power Five programs. He visited Michigan in November and toured Illinois, Wisconsin and LSU this month.

Michigan’s close family vibes stuck with Howard after his visit and he enjoyed meeting Illinois’ new defensive coordinator Aaron Henry and spending time with head coach Brett Bielema.

“He’s a really great guy who has put a lot of people in position to succeed,” Howard said of Bielema. “I was hoping to be one of those people at Illinois that he’s recruited and put them in motion.”

Howard was happy to go through the recruitment process again but is excited to make a decision at the beginning of February.

“I just wanted to reopen my recruitment and make sure I’m making the right decision,” Howard said.

St. Ignatius’ Justin Scott announces top teams, earns more offers

Justin Scott’s impressive offer list continued to grow in January after Georgia and Florida both offered the St. Ignatius junior.

Both Rivals and 247Sports Composite list Scott as a five-star prospect, the best in the state. He’s coming off an impressive junior season where he was named as an IHSFCA All-State player and the CCL/ESCC White Lineman of the Year.

Scott recently announced that his top-eight schools are Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, Miami, Oregon, Notre Dame, USC and Colorado, but the offers from Georgia and Florida should add more intrigue to the most-watched recruitment in the state.

Mount Carmel’s Darrion Dupree adds Notre Dame, Michigan offers

Darrion Dupree never doubted that offers from schools like Notre Dame and Michigan would come, but when the two offered the Mount Carmel running back on Jan. 13, he couldn’t help but feel grateful that all his hard work was recognized.

“I was really thankful to get those offers,” Dupree said. “I don’t want to sound too cocky, but I feel like I should get those offers because I’ve worked hard all offseason.”

Rivals ranks Dupree as a four-star prospect, the sixth-best from Illinois in the Class of 2024 and 153rd-best in the national. 247Sports lists him as a three-star prospect, the 12th-best in the state.

Dupree rushed for 664 yards, averaging 10.9 yards per carry, and scored 10 touchdowns in nine games. He missed the entire postseason when the Caravan won the Class 7A state title because of turf toe.

Michigan and Notre Dame joined a long list of Power Five programs interested in Dupree. Syracuse first offered last January and Power Five programs like Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Rutgers and West Virginia followed suit. Minnesota and Purdue joined the group in the last week.

Dupree visited Rutgers earlier in the month and is set to visit Wisconsin and Missouri in the coming weeks. He’s also visited Mid-American schools Bowling Green and Toledo.

Trust is the biggest factor Dupree is looking for in a coaching staff. He’ll enjoy playing for a team that likes to run the ball and has a coaching staff that has been at its school for a bit, but building trust is the most-important factor when he makes his decision.

Dupree said that he should know soon what the next step of his rehab will be. He’s eager to get back onto the field with motivation to work harder with his latest offers.

“It motivates me more,” Dupree said. “It’s shown that I’m a talented person and keep going.”

Joliet Catholic’s Dillan Johnson adds first Power Five offers

Joliet Catholic’s Dillan Johnson finally felt like his hard work paid off when he earned his first Power Five offers from Missouri and Iowa State this month.

“It’s a blessing but also kind of a wake-up call,” Johnson said. “When you work hard and you’re really grinding, you’re hoping for the best. When it actually happens, it’s like wow. It’s a different feeling when it actually happens.”

Missouri became the first Power Five program to offer the Class of 2024 defensive lineman on Jan. 8 and Iowa State offered Wednesday. Johnson already held offers from Illinois State, Eastern Michigan and Ball State.

Johnson earned those offers after a junior season where he had 39 tackles, four for a loss, and five sacks and was named the CCL/ESCC Orange’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors. 247Sports lists Johnson as a three-star prospect, the 18th-best in Illinois.

Both Missouri’s and Iowa State’s offers came as a surprise to Johnson because he thought they reached out to check in on him as part of the process. Johnson is in the middle of his wrestling season and his father has helped him balance recruiting and wrestling.

“It’s definitely a lot easier because if I didn’t have him around, it would be way more than I would be able to handle,” Johnson said.

Johnson hasn’t visited any campuses yet and won’t plan on any until the wrestling season is over in February, but he’ll continue to work to get faster and stronger over the offseason.

“It’s motivated me to get to the next level,” Johnson said. “I want to put more work in and change things up. Let’s take that next step.”

Iowa offers Brother Rice’s Christian Pierce

Christian Pierce’s impressive list of Power Five offers grew Wednesday when Iowa offered the Brother Rice linebacker.

“It was really exciting,” Pierce said. “Given their successful defense and successful program, I was really excited to get that offer.”

The Hawkeyes joined Michigan, Texas and Illinois, who are all in on Pierce. Schools have noticed Pierce after he finished his sophomore season with 100 tackles, 11 for a loss, and four blocked punts.

Recruiting isn’t a new experience for Pierce after he watched his older brother Roderick Pierce III sign with Michigan. Christian tagged along on many of his brother’s trips and has seen some of the campuses of schools who have offered.

Since coaches can’t have direct contact with Chrisitan because of NCAA recruiting rules preventing coaches from talking to sophomores, he’ll continue to work on getting better as a player. He said it feels like a dream to already be in this position and he’s excited for the start of his recruitment.

“This is all very surprising but exciting at the same time, starting this process,” Christian said. “I’m just ready for it.”

A ‘life-changing experience’ for Fenwick’s Nathaniel Marshall

Fenwick’s Nathaniel Marshall always dreamed of earning scholarship offers, he just wasn’t sure when they’d come. Well, midway through his sophomore season, six Power Five programs have already offered.

“It’s a life-changing experience, really,” Marshall said. “This young, already getting college looks. Usually people don’t get looks until they’re like upperclassmen.”

Penn State, Purdue and Louisville were the latest schools to offer this month. They joined Illinois, Iowa State, Syracuse and Kent State.

Marshall put the state on notice during his sophomore season when he was named the CCL/ESCC White Defensive Player of the Year. He’s already made visits to Illinois and Notre Dame and really enjoyed those experiences, but for the time being, he’s going to remain focused on building off a successful sophomore season.

“It shows me that my work is actually paying off,” Marshall said. “It really motivates me a lot that I know that my work is actually paying off and I’m not doing it for no reason.”

IC Catholic’s Dominik Hulak earns Purdue offer

Purdue became the latest to offer IC Catholic sophomore Dominik Hulak. Boilermaker defensive coordinator Kevin Kane offered Hulak a scholarship for the second time Thursday — Kane had offered Hulak as an Illinois coach back in October.

“It really means a lot,” Hulak said. “Being able to get all these Power Five programs that have interest in me is a really great thing. I never would have imagined that.”

Purdue joins Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa State. Hulak has already visited Wisconsin and Illinois and plans to attend Northwestern’s Junior Day on Saturday.

“It motivates me a lot,” Hulak said. “I know since starting early there could be more on the way and I feel I can get more until my senior year. I feel like I can push myself more and achieve more, get more offers.”

Michal Dwojak

Michal Dwojak

Michal is an award-winning sports journalist based in Chicago. He most recently served as the sports editor of The Glenview Lantern and Northbrook Tower and is a graduate of the College of Media at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.