Football recruiting notebook: Local players commit to Illinois, Northwestern, Georgia and Stanford

Years ago, Cameron Brooks, Tysean Griffin and Andre Lovett got their start in football as teammates with the Calumet City Thunderbolts youth program.

Next year, they’ll be reunited in Champaign, wearing the orange and blue of Illinois.

Brooks, a rising senior defensive lineman at Homewood-Flossmoor, is the latest ex-Thunderbolt to commit to Illinois. He joins Lovett, a rising senior safety at Eisenhower who committed to the Illini in March, and Griffin, a wide receiver from Morgan Park who is a rising sophomore at Illinois.

“It’s come full circle,” Brooks said of getting back together with Lovett and Brooks. “Definitely, it is comforting when you know who’s going through it with you.”

Brooks is Illinois’ ninth commitment in the class of 2025 and the fourth in-state recruit. The others are Lovett, Mount Zion receiver Brayden Trimble and Andrew offensive lineman Michael McDonough.

A consensus three-star prospect who is 31st among Illinois rising seniors in the 247Sports composite rankings, Brooks has double-digit offers that include Indiana, Iowa, Kansas and Kansas State.

What set Illinois apart?

“It was just that they’ve been consistent,” he said. “They were the first school to offer me around this time last year.”

With many college programs building rosters through the portal, Brooks liked Illinois’ focus on him as a high-school prospect.

“Everything they said they were going to do, they did,” he said.
Just as important, he doesn’t see Illini coach Bret Bielema or his assistants going anywhere.

“I feel I can be under a good coaching staff without any turnover,” Brooks said. “I don’t have to worry about people being fired.”

He also doesn’t have to worry about his college choice anymore, allowing him to focus on summer work and his last season at H-F.

“The [recruiting] process has been a blessing,” Brooks said. “At the same time, it gets stressful at times.”

Brooks is going into his fourth season as a defensive lineman after playing linebacker before high school. He’s always been on the defensive side of the ball, which he sees as a good fit.

“I feel like it takes more effort,” he said. “You gotta trust the guy next to you. It’s really about teamwork, making the offense have problems, doing anything I can do to disrupt the game — attack the quarterback, pressure the quarterback.”

To prepare for his senior season, Brooks has bulked up from about 265 pounds last season to around 285 or 290 on his 6-3 frame.

“I’ll be playing a lot more interior [line] this year,” he said.

He’ll do that for an H-F team looking to improve after going 5-5 and losing to eventual Class 8A semifinalist York in a playoff opener.

“I think we’re going to turn a lot of heads this year,” Brooks said. “Seventeen of our starters return, [we had] a lot of underclassmen with no varsity experience playing last year.”

Talyn Taylor to Georgia

Geneva receiver Talyn Taylor, a four-star prospect who is No. 3 in Illinois and No. 71 nationally in the 247Sports composite rankings, has committed to Georgia.
“He just has something to him,” national recruiting analyst Clint Cosgrove said. “He can run, he’s got great ball skills and phenomenal route-running ability.

Niki Dugandzic, the top kicker in the country, commits to Northwestern

You can’t say New Trier’s Niki Dugandzic didn’t make an informed decision when he recently committed to Northwestern.

“They’ve been recruiting me a long time,” the rising senior said. “The first time I ever set foot on campus was two years ago during one of their summer camps. I really liked everything about it.”

The nation’s No. 1 kicker and punter in the Chris Sailer Kicking rankings has been on the Evanston campus so many times that it’s a source of kidding by Northwestern’s coaches.

“They give me jokes [like], ‘You can give a tour now of the place,’” Dugandzic said.

Specialists don’t often get this kind of interest this early in the recruiting process, especially in the portal era.

But the 6-5, 215-pounder, who also is Illinois’ No. 44 prospect in his class in the 247Sports composite rankings, is the complete package. He’s good enough in the classroom to pick up a pair of Ivy League offers from Cornell and Harvard, and he’s good enough on the field to earn SEC offers from Kentucky and Mississippi.

His powerful leg is already the stuff of legend at New Trier, like the time his kickoff at Maine South cleared the end zone and thumped off a drum in the Hawks’ marching band.

As a junior, he had 41 punts for a 41.9-yard average, putting 17 kicks inside the 20. And 31 of his 32 kickoffs went for touchbacks.

Dugandzic’s recruiting took off during the recent open period.

“I think I had about 20-25 schools coming in,” he said. “I had about eight workouts, some of them with up to three schools there. I got a [first] SEC offer; that probably triggered some other schools.”

But he found the right fit close to home.

“I knew Northwestern would be the place for me,” he said. “It’s a great school. It really had everything I wanted.”

Gabe Kaminski picks Stanford

Gabe Kaminski, the defensive leader of Nazareth’s defending Class 5A champions, has committed to Stanford.

Kaminski had 131 tackles, 16.5 sacks and 41 tackles for losses for the Roadrunners as a junior.

The state’s No. 11 player in the class of 2025 in the 247Sports composite rankings was especially dominant in a 38-20 win against Joliet Catholic in the state final. He finished with 15 tackles, 1.5 sacks, four tackles for loss and an interception that he returned 32 yards.

“He’s been a stud since his freshman year,” national recruiting analyst Clint Cosgrove said of the 6-3, 215-pound edge rusher. “Strong, high motor.

“He does have some size. He’s tough. He can play multiple places across the line. … For Stanford, that’s a big-time get.”

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