June 08, 2023


CCL/ESCC recruiting notes: IC Catholic Prep’s Eric Karner decommits from Purdue, sets official visits

IC Catholic's Eric Karner (19) celebrates with teammates Isiah Gonzalez (71) and Giovanni Ortiz after scoring a touchdown against Princeton in the Class 3A Quarterfinal game on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022 in Princeton.

Eric Karner started to feel different a couple weeks after he committed to Purdue.

Karner, a junior tight end at IC Catholic Prep, wondered whether he rushed his decision once schools like Texas A&M, Alabama and Arkansas offered after he committed. Karner wondered whether he’d second-guess himself for a year.

He decided he couldn’t let those doubts continue and take up a spot on Purdue’s recruiting class from someone who was more sure than he was. And so Karner decommitted from the Boilermakers on April 13.

“I wanted to see where I could end up,” Karner said. “I spent nights thinking about it, if that was really what I wanted to do. It was a tough decision to make.”

Karner committed to Purdue on March 7 after quickly falling in love with the Boilermaker coaching staff. His recruitment took off quickly after Western Michigan first offered him on Feb. 13, leading to 13 offers by the time he committed.

Despite his commitment, schools kept offering. Texas A&M, South Carolina and Arkansas all offered before his decommitment and Auburn, Illinois, Louisville, Iowa and Florida have all followed suit.

“I wanted to see where I could end up. I spent nights thinking about it, if that was really what I wanted to do. It was a tough decision to make.”

—  Eric Karner, IC Catholic junior tight end

The offers felt surreal to Karner because he felt he hadn’t produced enough game film to earn offers from some of the best programs in the country. Karner is a three-star prospect according to both 247Sports and Rivals, with 247Sports ranking him the 14th-best in Illinois.

Coaches told Karner that they’re impressed with his versatility as a 6-foot-5, 220-pound tight end, saying he blocks well down the field on runs and gets on the line for passes.

“I am grateful for every opportunity that I’ve got,” Karner said.

Karner will have an official visit with Michigan State on June 2-4 and then Iowa June 23-25 and is still trying to figure out which two SEC schools he’ll take official visits to. He narrowed his top-five down to Iowa, Michigan State, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Florida in no particular order.

Karner hopes to make his decision around late June before his senior season starts and is looking for two things when visiting coaches.

“If they can show me how I fit into their offensive scheme and how they will use me, what type of formations they run, how many times they run,” Karner said. “If I have a good relationship with a coach, they can build me up and develop me, so those are the two key things I’m looking for.”

Marian Catholic Austin Alexander’s ‘eyes opened’ after reopening recruitment

Austin Alexander is enjoying the second part of his recruitment.

Alexander, a junior cornerback for Marian Catholic, decommitted from Wisconsin at the end of January after pledging to the Badgers on Oct. 31 because he felt like he rushed his decision after committing with one offer. Wisconsin changed its coaching staff after firing Paul Chryst and hiring Luke Fickell.

“It opened my eyes to a lot of different schools and what those schools have to offer,” Alexander said. “I’ve learned there’s plenty of different coaching styles, ways of doing practice, ways teams carry themselves.”

Alexander originally committed to the Badgers after earning the CCL/ESCC Purple Defensive Player of the Year award last season. He finished his junior season leading the conference with seven interceptions and had 49 total tackles in six games before breaking his tibia in Week 7. He also scored defensively once and found the end zone three times on offense, finishing with 472 all-purpose yards.

247Sports lists Alexander as a three-star prospect, the eighth-best in the state while Rivals also ranks him as a three-star prospect, the 14-best in the state.

Alexander quickly caught different coaches’ attention. Illinois, Kansas, Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Syracuse, USC, Nebraska, Northern Illinois and Indiana have all offered the talented cornerback.

Alexander visited Purdue, Michigan, Iowa State and Illinois during the spring and was impressed with each visit. He enjoyed visiting Iowa State and Illinois the most, enjoying how in-depth he could get with an Iowa State player while enjoying the environment at Illinois.

“I love the coaches around and I love the energy, the energy from the coaches, some of the players when I talked to them, they all gave good things,” Alexander said of Illinois.

Alexander will want to commit by the end of the summer before his senior season starts. He’ll make his first official visit to Kansas on June 9-11 and then his second to Illinois June 23-25.

When he does decide, Alexander will join a coaching staff that can make him the best player he can be.

“I’m looking for a coach who can take me to the next level, give me an opportunity at the next level, who can develop me as a player,” Alexander said. “More like a defense that suits me so that I can show off my talents.”

St. Francis’ Alessio Milivojevic continue to earn interest

St. Francis quarterback Alessio Milivojevic continues to gain interest from schools as he gets closer to making a decision.

Illinois’ top 2024 quarterback prospect has earned offers from Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Marshall, Illinois State, Colgate, Ole Miss and Nebraska, while some more MAC, Ivy League and Power Five programs have reached out to him and come to Wheaton to watch him throw.

“Having all these schools coming in, you want to show all of them the same attention because you don’t know who’s going to be there at the end, who’s going to be your final choice,” Milivojevic said. “It’s about your fit. You want to show all of them the same respect.”

Milivojevic is a three-star prospect according to 247Sports and Rivals, the 28th-best in Illinois according to 247Sports and 30th by Rivals. Colgate was the latest to offer on April 1. He’s visited Marshall, North Dakota State, Bowling Green, Miami (Ohio), Eastern Michigan, Ball State and Illinois this spring.

Milivojevic has looked for what makes each school different and how he clicks with the coaching staff.

“It’s how do you mold with the coaches, do you like their coaching style, do they like you as a player, can you see yourself being away from home all those months and staying there?” Milivojevic said.

He’ll take official visits to Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green some time in the coming months and Milivojevic wants to make a decision by late June, early July.

“It just motivates me to see other people committing, just to worry about myself and making sure that I’m still working,” Milivojevic said. “Having all these schools, making sure I’m showing them all the best work that I can give them on the field.”

Knights’ KJ Parker building relationships

IC Catholic’s KJ Parker has enjoyed building relationships with different coaches as he continues to earn more interest from schools.

“It’s always a blessing to receive different offers from coaches and be able to talk to coaches,” Parker said. “It shows you the different bonds and connections you can have with people.”

Buffalo was the latest to offer on April 3 and he’s also talked to Kansas State and Illinois. Wisconsin, Iowa, Iowa State, Northern Illinois, Marshall, Cincininnati, Western Michigan, Ohio, Old Dominion have all also offered the junior athlete prospect.

Parker earned Metro Suburban Blue Player of the Year honors after finishing with 1,082 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns on 37 catches while also making 39 tackles, two interceptions and one fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. He helped the Knights win a Class 3A state title this past fall.

Both 247Sports and Rivals rank Parker as a three-star prospect at No. 18 in the state.

Parker has visited Iowa and Illinois. He built a strong connection with the Hawkeye staff because his defensive coach Matt Bowen played at Iowa and he’s enjoyed the relationship they’ve built.

“The connection has always been there and it felt even better to get on campus, talk to the receiver coach, talk to the head coach,” Parker said. “I loved the connection and community around Iowa.”

Parker will make official visits to Iowa and Cincinnati in June and he hopes to commit some time in June. He’ll commit to a schools where he feels a strong connection.

“I’m just looking for that brotherhood and to love the community,” Parker said.

Fenwick’s Nate Marshall adjusting to fast-paced recruitment

Nate Marshall is starting to get used to the rush of recruiting.

Marshall, a sophomore prospect from Fenwick , holds 17 offers from Notre Dame, Michigan, Illinois, Penn State, Purdue, Miami, Louisville, Iowa, Tennessee, Colorado, Rutgers, Syracuse, Iowa State, Ball State, Western Michigan, Cincinnati and Kent State and he’s in constant communication with coaches as he lives out his childhood dream.

“Of course it still feels surreal,” Marshall said. “I still can’t believe that I have an opportunity to compete at the next level especially at my age.”

Marshall put the state on notice during his sophomore season when he was named the CCL/ESCC White Defensive Player of the Year. He visited Illinois, Purdue, Notre Dame and Iowa over his spring break and enjoyed his first unofficial visits of his recruitment. Illinois’ coaches made the strongest impression to start things off.

“That was my favorite because of the coaches, the people around the campus,” Marshall said of Illinois.

Marshall is still trying to figure out his summer schedule but he’s motivated to work harder and improve.

“All these offers just tell me that the work is paying off,” Marshall said. “That I should keep working hard so I can get to where I want to be and need to be.”

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.