Chicago suburbs have become a hotbed for QB development

The Chicago area has become a hub for developing college quarterbacks.

No. 2-ranked Michigan has J.J. McCarthy (Nazareth), currently the betting favorite to win the Heisman. The No. 1 team in FCS, South Dakota State, starts Mark Gronowski (Neuqua Valley), who led the Jackrabbits to last year's national title.

Payton Thorne (Naperville Central) moved from Michigan State to Auburn. Athan Kaliakmanis (Antioch) has started every game for Minnesota.

After transferring from TCU to Cal, Sam Jackson (Naperville Central) has won all three games he started this season for the Golden Bears. Ben Bryant (Lyons) is playing at Northwestern after stints at Cincinnati and Eastern Michigan. Matt Morrissey (Montini) is starting at Western Illinois. There are many more local QBs in Division 3 and NAIA.

Improved preparation is one way to explain the surge. Most of these players can be traced to either renowned quarterback trainer Jeff Christensen, who holds weekly clinics across the suburbs, or the Naperville-based Midwest Boom 7 on 7 program.

Christensen helped mold two QBs currently on the Las Vegas Raiders roster, Jimmy Garappolo (Rolling Meadows) and Aidan O'Connell (Stevenson). Christensen's former business partner Greg Holcomb trained McCarthy.

In 2018, Gronowski led BOOM to a national title at IMG Academy. The championship game victory was against Cam Newton's Atlanta-based squad, which had current Oregon signalcaller Bo Nix at QB. There are other competitive 7 on 7 programs thriving in the area as well.

Maybe it's time to retire the old argument it's too windy in the Midwest to use a pass-oriented offense.

A sign to quit:

The Big Ten has another headache on its hands with leaks about an investigation into Michigan deciphering opponents' sideline signals. Now, stealing signals in itself is not prohibited. Staff members are not allowed to scout games in person.

This situation has been framed as a staffer possibly using freelancers to shoot cellphone videos of upcoming opponents, which may or may not fall into a gray area of the rule book.

Here's a related argument: If college football teams have the means to put waterfalls in locker rooms and flat screen TVs in every locker, why aren't they using electronic sideline communication, putting radios in helmets like the NFL has done for a few decades?

College sidelines have long been cluttered with large signs, giant curtains and dummy signalcallers in an effort to throw off opposing teams. Often times those props block spectators' view of games.

Why this hasn't happened in college is unclear, but money is obviously not the reason. This whole issue could go away by next weekend.

Sob story for Redbirds:

Daniel Sobkowicz (Rolling Meadows) set career-highs with 11 receptions, 170 yards and 3 touchdowns on Saturday, but Illinois State lost at Youngstown State 41-38 on a field goal at the buzzer. One interesting part of that result is Youngstown beat then-undefeated Southern Illinois 31-3 on Oct. 7.

The Salukis (5-2) lost to top-ranked South Dakota State last weekend, but are still ranked No. 12 in FCS. Illinois State (4-3) and Eastern Illinois (5-3) can stay in playoff contention with a strong finish. For the second time in three weeks, EIU went for a 2-point conversion and the win in overtime. The Panthers didn't make it against UT-Martin on Oct. 7, but beat Bryant Saturday with a QB sneak.

Local player of the week:

Filling in for RB Jhe'Quay Chretin, Jonathan Alstott (Kaneland) rushed for 159 yards to lead No. 11 Aurora past Wisconsin Lutheran in Division 3.

Results-based top 5:

1. Ohio State, 2. Florida State, 3. Washington; 4. Oklahoma, 5. Texas.

Interesting game of the week:

The Pac-12 continues to go out with a flourish. Oregon at Utah is this week's top matchup of ranked opponents.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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