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Sports

Area football players set to shine at Division I college level in 2015

Linemen on award watch list, record-setting kicker and talented defenders just a few to keep an eye on; comprehensive list of D-I players

The college football season is about to officially begin as teams soon will be reporting for preseason practices ahead of the season kickoff. Several players from area high schools will be hitting the field and making an impact for programs across the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision landscape. Here are a few players to keep an eye on this season.

Jack Allen

College: Michigan State

Year: Senior

High school: Hinsdale Central

Impact: Allen enters his fourth year as a starter on the Spartans’ offensive line after redshirting in 2011. As a junior, the 6-foot, 2-inch, 295-pounder was selected as a first-team All-American by USA Today and also was named one of six finalists for the Rimington Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding center. Allen didn’t allow a sack all season and figures to be a mainstay on the line this season.

Rob Bain

College: Illinois

Year: Junior

High school: Bolingbrook

Impact: Part of Bolingbrook’s state championship team in 2011, Bain has played a bigger role for the Illini each season after taking a redshirt season in 2012. The 2014 season was Bain’s most productive yet. The defensive lineman played in all 13 games, starting seven, and finished the season with 29 total tackles, including four for loss and one sack. In his first career start against Purdue, he recorded six tackles. He will be looking to build off that production this fall.

Johnny Caspers

College: Stanford

Year: Senior

High school: Glenbard West

Impact: This 6-foot-4, 297-pound guard heads into his senior campaign this fall as a vital cog on the offensive line. Caspers played in 13 games in 2014, starting 12 of them, and was a Pac-12 All-Academic second-team selection. He also saw action in 14 games as a sophomore and again was a Pac-12 All-Academic second-team pick. Based on his successful 2014, Caspers figures to be a big key to Stanford’s success this fall.

Vontae Diggs

College: UConn

Year: Sophomore

High school: Downers Grove North

Impact: Diggs got his feet wet at the collegiate level in 2014, playing in all 12 games for the Huskies as a true freshman. Seeing time as both a linebacker and on special teams, the 6-foot, 2-inch, 215-pounder finished with 10 tackles on the season, including a season-high four tackles against SMU on Dec. 6. Diggs could have a major impact on the Huskies’ defense this season.

Jake Elliott

College: Memphis

Year: Junior

High school: Lyons Township

Impact: Elliott enters this fall already ranked eighth all-time at Memphis with 192 career points. He also holds the program record for longest field goal made after kicking a 56-yarder against South Florida as a freshman. During his first two years, the junior had connected on all 81 of his point-after tries while making 37-of-50 field goals. The Tigers went 10-3 last season, going to a bowl game for the first time since 2008 and winning a bowl for the first time since 2005.

Clayton Fejedelem

College: Illinois

Year: Senior

High school: Lemont

Impact: After starting his collegiate football career at St. Xavier University, an NAIA school in Chicago, Fejedelem walked on at Illinois in the spring of 2013 and took a redshirt season that fall, then broke out with a productive 2014 season. He played in all 13 games and finished the season with 51 total tackles, two pass breakups and a fumble recovery against Ohio State. He could be a major piece in the defensive secondary this season.

Matthew Harris

College: Northwestern

Year: Junior

High school: Lyons Township

Impact: Harris started all 12 games last fall at cornerback and finished in a tie for 13th in the Big Ten with nine pass breakups. He was third on the Wildcats in tackles with 70 [58 solos and 12 assists] and notched interceptions against Illinois and Michigan while forcing a pair of fumbles. The junior was also an Academic All-Big Ten selection and could be an even bigger force for the Wildcats this fall.

Justin Jackson

College: Northwestern

Year: Sophomore

High school: Glenbard North

Impact: This running back burst onto the collegiate scene as a true freshman and earned Honorable Mention All-Big Ten accolades in 2014. Jackson became the 16th player in program history to record a 1,000-yard rushing season, finishing with 1,187 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also caught 22 passes for 201 yards and an additional score and is looking to be just as productive this fall.

Ethan Pocic

College: LSU

Year: Junior

High school: Lemont

Impact: This junior is ticketed to start at center for the Tigers this fall and has been named to the Rimington Award Watch List, which is an award given to the most outstanding center in NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision. Pocic started all 12 games as a sophomore in 2014, playing both center and right guard. The 6-foot-7, 300-pounder also played in six contests as a freshman.

Dan Vitale

College: Northwestern

Year: Senior

High school: Wheaton Warrenville South

Impact: Vitale enters the final season of what has turned out to be an outstanding college career. After entering the lineup as a true freshman in 2012, Vitale has started all 12 games at superback in each of the past two years. As a junior, Vitale was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick after being second on Northwestern with 40 catches for 402 yards and two touchdowns and could be a key offensive player this season.

Jordan Walsh

School: Iowa

Year: Senior

High school: Glenbard West

Impact: A veteran on the offensive line for the Hawkeyes, this Glenbard West graduate is set to begin his senior season. Walsh played in 12 games a year ago with 10 starts at right guard. The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder started all 13 contests as a sophomore and also played in seven games as a freshman after redshirting in 2011.

Jordan Westerkamp

College: Nebraska

Year: Junior

High school: Montini

Impact: After catching 20 passes for 283 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2013, Westerkamp saw his numbers more than double last fall. The wide receiver played in all 13 games for the Huskers and was second on the team with 44 receptions for 747 yards and five touchdowns. The junior is also a two-time Academic All-Big Ten pick.

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Other local athletes

Here are more local athletes suiting up at the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level this season.

• ACC

Duke

Jake Brodner, jr. OL, Glenbard West

Syracuse

Zack Mahoney, so. QB, Lyons Township

• American Athletic Conference

Cincinnati

Franklin Bruscianelli, jr. LB, Montini

• Big Ten

Illinois

Pat Flavin, sr. OL, Benet

Luke Nelson, jr. P, Lyons Township

Jim Nudera, sr. TE, York

Cameron Tucker, sr. RB, Nazareth

Indiana

Ben Bach, so. DB, Wheaton Warrenville South

Nick Campos, jr. P, Wheaton Warrenville South

Nile Sykes, fr. LB, Montini

Leon Thornton III, fr. WR, Montini

Iowa

Jaleel Johnson, jr. DL, Montini

Michigan

Brad Anlauf, sr. WR, Hinsdale Central

Ian Bunting, so. TE, Hinsdale Central

Michigan State

Brian Allen, so. OL, Hinsdale Central

Minnesota

Andrew Harte, so. K, Montini

Jacob Huff, fr. DB, Bolingbrook

Julian Huff, fr. LB, Bolingbrook

Northwestern

Mark Gorogianis, so. WR, Montini

Flynn Nagel, fr. WR, Lemont

Clayton Thorson, fr. QB, Wheaton North

Tommy Vitale, fr. Wheaton Warrenville South

Parrker Westphal, fr. DB, Bolingbrook

Ohio State

Mike Maduko, so. DB, Montini

Tommy Schutt, sr. DL, Glenbard West

Dylan Thompson, fr. DL, Montini

Penn State

Javon Turner, so. WR, Downers Grove South

Purdue

Will Colmery, fr. OL, Nazareth

Grant Ellington, sr. LS, La Grange

Wisconsin

Thad Armstrong, jr. QB, Wheaton Warrenville South

David Edwards, fr. TE, Downers Grove North

• Big 12

Kansas

Kyle Pullia, jr. OL, Fenwick

Iowa State

Jake Lemming, so. WR, Lemont

West Virginia

Kyle Bosch, jr. OL, St. Francis

• Mid-America Conference

Ball State

Jarrid Lloyd, so. OL, Benet

Armani McNulty, fr. DB, Bolingbrook

Jacob White, fr. LB, Hinsdale Central

Bowling Green

Greg Hohenstein, jr. LS, Wheaton Warrenville South

Anthony Farinella, sr. K, Downers Grove South

Central Michigan

Louis Grigoletti, fr. OL, Riverside Brookfield

Eastern Michigan

Malysha Flanders, fr. WR, Glenbard East

Miami

Quinn Calcagno, fr. DE, St. Francis

Kyle Kramer, fr. QB/P, Glenbard West

Leonard Ross, fr. RB, Lyons Township

Richard Schoen, fr. DB, Fenwick

Ryan Smith, so. TE, Fenwick

Northern Illinois

Ruben Dunbar, jr. DE, Glenbard West

Ryan Graham, fr. QB, Wheaton Warrenville South

Rasheen Lemon, sr. LB, Proviso West

Jamaal Payton, jr. LB, Proviso West

Mark Watson, fr. WR, Hinsdale South

Toledo

Richard Olekanma, so. LB, Downers Grove North

Western Michigan

Stephen Dennis, fr. WR, Montini

Jimmy Kepouras, fr. WR, Lemont

Robert Spillane, so. LB, Fenwick

Keishawn Watson, fr. WR, Wheaton Warrenville South

• Mountain West Conference

Air Force

Kellen Cleveland, jr. DL, Wheaton North

Nevada

James Butler, so. RB, St. Francis

Wyoming

Kevin Jackson, fr. S, Nazareth

Rafe Kiely, sr. C, Wheaton North

• SEC

Florida

Antonio Morrison, sr. LB, Bolingbrook

Missouri

Nick Monaghan, sr. OL, Downers Grove South

Vanderbilt

Hayden Lekacz, so. K, Glenbard West

Nathan Marcus, so. TE, Glenbard West

• Independents

Notre Dame

Scott Daly, sr. LS, Downers Grove South

Micah Dew-Treadway, fr. LB, Bolingbrook

Patrick Mazza, jr. DL, Glenbard West

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