CHICAGO - Leave it to the Windy City to blow up with one of the biggest and best Rivals.com Junior Days ever held.
More than 220 players from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and other parts of the country made their way to Naperville North High School on Saturday to learn more about the recruiting process.
Rivals.com recruiting analyst Tim O'Halloran said he was extremely pleased with the turnout not only with the amount of players but with the quality of players. He was also excited about the message the players received from Joe Hornback, the keynote speaker for Rivals.com Junior Days.
"I thought it was very successful," O'Halloran, who covers the state of Illinois for Rivals.com and EdgyTim.com. "It seems like the turnout keeps growing every year. It's one of the events I enjoy the most because it's a chance to help players and parents get perspective about the recruiting process from us.
"The feedback is always positive, and everybody said they learned a lot. This was the sixth year that we've done this event in Illinois, and it just gets better and better."
Along with a talk from Velocity Sports Performance experts about improving their game before they reach college, players in attendance learned about every aspect of the recruiting process.
Hornback's talk takes players from when they receive their first letter from a college, to the spring evaluation period, through the official visit process and ultimately to making a final decision.
The talk, which he has been doing for Rivals.com for six years now, hit home with many of the players at the event - even the ones that are already getting plenty of college attention.
"I couldn't believe how helpful the event was," Chicago Morgan Park defensive back Marcus Thomas (5-foot-11, 157 pounds) said.
"I really found the talk about how to handle the calls from the college coaches important. I've already gotten to get to know some of the coaches, but now I have some really good questions that I can ask the coaches when they can call in May."
Chicago King lineman Miles Stroter, who measured in at 6-foot-5 and 329 pounds, said he learned he has to take the recruiting process seriously.
"If you're not prepared and just let the process come to you, you'll get overwhelmed," Stroter, who is one of the top players in Illinois with an offer from Illinois and heavy interest from many national programs, said. "The coach gave us some really helpful advice.
"I've been getting asked to go to a lot of camps and know I know which camps I should go to or shouldn't go to. If I had missed this, then I would have been lost."
Passing the test While film is always the ultimate determination of what type of Division I prospect a player is, many coaches first look at how a prospect looks. Does he pass the eyeball test or not? And there were quite a few players that stood out in that department on Saturday.
Ann Arbor (Mich.) Pioneer star Cameron Joplin definitely looked the part measuring in at 6-foot-4 and 247 pounds. It's easy to see from the way Joplin looked why he's been invited to junior day events at almost every Big 10 school.
Another impressive looking player was Marquis Singleton of Decatur St. Theresa. Singleton, who said he projects at defensive end or tight end, looked great coming in at 6-foot-4 ? and 226 pounds. Chicago St. Rita's Matt Conrath, also looked great at 6-7 ? and 238 pounds.
You don't always have to be tall to look the part, and that's exactly the case with Wheaton Warrensville South athlete Dan Dierking. While he is only 5-foot-9 and 178 pounds, he definitely looks the part of a scrappy running back that is well toned and is tough as nails.
Still there were plenty of big guys at the event.
Naperville Neuqua Valley offensive tackle Robert Fisher was a solid 6-5 and 325 pounds. Quincy Notre Dame Jack Cornell Jr. looked lean, despite measuring 6-5 and 296 pounds.
Defensive end Martez Wilson of Chicago Simeon was one of the biggest surprises. Wilson, who said he just picked up an offer from Northern Illinois late last week, was incredible looking at 6-3 ? and 228 pounds.
Tyler Doering, the younger brother of former blue-chip offensive lineman Dan Doering, was 6-3 ? and 281 pounds. North Chicago defensive tackle Darius Scott came in at 6-3 ? and 369 pounds.