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.
College: Michigan State
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Other local athletes
Here are more local athletes suiting up at the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level this season.
Jake Brodner, jr. OL, Glenbard West
Zack Mahoney, so. QB, Lyons Township
• American Athletic Conference
Franklin Bruscianelli, jr. LB, Montini
• Big Ten
Pat Flavin, sr. OL, Benet
Luke Nelson, jr. P, Lyons Township
Jim Nudera, sr. TE, York
Cameron Tucker, sr. RB, Nazareth
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
Jaleel Johnson, jr. DL, Montini
Brad Anlauf, sr. WR, Hinsdale Central
Ian Bunting, so. TE, Hinsdale Central
Brian Allen, so. OL, Hinsdale Central
Andrew Harte, so. K, Montini
Jacob Huff, fr. DB, Bolingbrook
Julian Huff, fr. LB, Bolingbrook
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
Mike Maduko, so. DB, Montini
Tommy Schutt, sr. DL, Glenbard West
Dylan Thompson, fr. DL, Montini
Javon Turner, so. WR, Downers Grove South
Will Colmery, fr. OL, Nazareth
Grant Ellington, sr. LS, La Grange
Thad Armstrong, jr. QB, Wheaton Warrenville South
David Edwards, fr. TE, Downers Grove North
• Big 12
Kyle Pullia, jr. OL, Fenwick
Jake Lemming, so. WR, Lemont
Kyle Bosch, jr. OL, St. Francis
• Mid-America Conference
Jarrid Lloyd, so. OL, Benet
Armani McNulty, fr. DB, Bolingbrook
Jacob White, fr. LB, Hinsdale Central
Greg Hohenstein, jr. LS, Wheaton Warrenville South
Anthony Farinella, sr. K, Downers Grove South
Louis Grigoletti, fr. OL, Riverside Brookfield
Malysha Flanders, fr. WR, Glenbard East
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
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
Richard Olekanma, so. LB, Downers Grove North
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
Kellen Cleveland, jr. DL, Wheaton North
James Butler, so. RB, St. Francis
Kevin Jackson, fr. S, Nazareth
Rafe Kiely, sr. C, Wheaton North
Antonio Morrison, sr. LB, Bolingbrook
Nick Monaghan, sr. OL, Downers Grove South
Hayden Lekacz, so. K, Glenbard West
Nathan Marcus, so. TE, Glenbard West
Scott Daly, sr. LS, Downers Grove South
Micah Dew-Treadway, fr. LB, Bolingbrook
Patrick Mazza, jr. DL, Glenbard West