Looks Like University Of Illinois - Lere Oladipo
Not even gonna lie. His score on the composite rankings says he's the fourth-best player in this class so far, but I think he's the best (and most important) player we've landed so far. Let me count the reasons why.
1. He's a defensive end.
With five seniors on the defensive line this year, here are the scholarship players at defensive end for next season:
Henry McGrew (JR)
Sean Adesanya (JR)
Brandon Jones (rs-FR)
...and that's it. Brandon Jones is a true freshman this year who needs a lot of work in the weight room, so I don't think he'll be ready for next year. Which means we either bring in a few junior college defensive ends or we find some freshmen who might be able to play right away. Hey look, a freshman who might be able to play right away!
OK, that's stretching things. Almost no true freshman are ready to play defensive end right away. There are probably less than five across all of college football each year. But there are those who are close to ready, and I think Oladipo fits in that category.
That thing the coaches told you about "if you come here you'll be able to play right away"? They weren't lying, kid. Get ready.
2. We held off Michigan State for an Illinois defensive lineman.
If you haven't noticed, the last few years, Michigan State has been dominating us in Chicago. Specifically, they've been stealing all of our defensive linemen. Josh King and Mike Panasiuk last year. Raequon Williams the year before that. This year, it's Jacub Panasiuk, Mike's younger brother. If you're a defensive lineman in Chicago, you've been heading to East Lansing.
Which is why it's such a big deal to land Oladipo. When he was on his visit to Michigan State back in May, a few Crystal Ball votes started popping for Oladipo to MSU. There it was - yet another in-state defensive lineman headed north. But then it didn't happen. And Oladipo visited Penn State, and I feared another verbal, but it didn't happen.
He said he wanted to commit before his senior season, and he did just that, 25 hours before his first game. He considered MSU, he considered PSU, he flipped through all of the other offers... and he picked Illinois. It happened.
3. He was the last best available in-state player.
It was unfair to Lovie how quickly the class of 2017 verballed-up in the state. By early May, well over half of the in-state blue-chippers had chosen a school. As of today, if you look at the top-20 in state, only Jeff Thomas (#2 in the state) has not made his selection (and that might be a "schools are waiting to see test scores and transcripts" thing more than anything else). The first day of senior year is here and nearly every P5-level player in the state is committed.
So with Oladipo being the last available player (as of right now I'm not sure I consider Thomas "available"), it was all the more important that Lovie put on last stamp on the state. Next year, no other schools will have a head start and Lovie has a fair shot at everyone. This year, Oladipo was the last chance to make a statement and, well, statement made.
4. He's really good at football
I'm not just saying he's my favorite player in the class because of the things listed above. He also looks really good on film. You want your defensive linemen to explode at the snap, and Lere explodes. See for yourself:
Which brings us to Tom Cruises. Oladipo isn't a four-star in any of the services (although his offer list would suggest he's close to that level). But the lack of a four-star has never stopped me from handing out four Cruises before. Position of need, athlete who could play early, in state win, tell Michigan State and Penn State to get bent - this is our state. Yeah, that's four Cruises.
Olalere Oladipo - Four Tom Cruises