At the top of the newly released Rivals.com Illinois top 30, four of the top seven players on are on the defensive side of the ball. Sure playmakers like Chicago Robeson receiver Brandon Green and Chicago Simeon athlete Jack Ramsey are special, but it's all about the defense in Illinois for the class of 2008 and that trend starts at the top with Rivals100 linebacker Steven Filer of Chicago Mount Carmel.
"My awareness on the field is my strength," Filer, who is 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, said. "Coming into my sophomore year I was young and didn't know as much. Now I'm going to be a senior and I'm going to be a leader for the team. I'm hoping to get us back to the state championships."
In 2006, Filer had 87 tackles and eight sacks in 14 games. His play has been enough to earn him scholarship offers from national powers like Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin and countless others. He's also ranked as the No. 34 player overall and the No. 2 inside linebacker in the nation to go along with being ranked as the top player in Illinois.
Defensive tackle Garrett Goebel of Lombard (Ill.) Montini Catholic is the state's No. 2 player.
The 6-foot-5, 264-pound defensive tackle is one of the most menacing forces in the Midwest. Goebel won the Illinois Class AA heavyweight wrestling champion as a junior, and he's ranked as a four-star prospect and among the top 250 players in the nation. Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Arizona State, Illinois, Iowa, Miami and others have offered him scholarships, but he's reduced his list recently to the Wolverines, the Irish and Buckeyes.
"He has great size and abilities," Goebel's high school coach, Chris Andriano said. "He's a very mobile and athletic kid for his size. He also has plenty of room to grow and will easily be a 300 pound plus kid in college while still maintaining his overall mobility and foot speed."
It's no surprise that another defender is at No. 3 on the list. That's where Chicago St. Rita defensive end Darius Fleming is ranked at. Fleming made 104 tackles, 14 for loss and added nine sacks for the defending Class 7A state champion Mustangs in 2006. Fleming had his pick of schools, but ended up selecting Notre Dame back on April 21.
Woodstock (Ill.) Marian Central Catholic defensive tackle Sean Cwynar is No. 4 on the list. The 6-foot-4, 284-poudner is also a Notre Dame commitment. He pledged to the Irish back on March 6, turning down offers from Purdue, Virginia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota.
Rounding out the top five is Lemont, Ill., offensive tackle Graham Pocic. The nation's No. 31 offensive tackle impressed this spring at the NIKE Training Camp and has blown up with national offers from schools like Illinois, Michigan, Florida, Florida State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Tennessee.
In-state schools Illinois and Northwestern are well represented in the top 30. Along with Ramsey at No. 7, the Illini have pledges from linebacker Nate Palmer at No. 14 and offensive lineman Jeffery Allen at No. 21. The Wildcats have two big offensive line pledges from Brian Mulroe at No. 8 and Jeff Radek at No. 18.