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Recruiting notebook: St. Rita’s Kaleb Brown makes a splash, Illini offer Dontrell Jackson Jr.

Kaleb Brown has yet to play a regular-season varsity game, but the sophomore has already made a name for himself nationally.

St. Rita sophomore Kaleb Brown has offers from three Big Ten teams despite not having played a regular-season varsity game.
St. Rita sophomore Kaleb Brown has offers from three Big Ten teams despite not having played a regular-season varsity game.
Mike Clark/For the Sun-Times

Kaleb Brown has yet to play a regular-season varsity football game, but the St. Rita sophomore is wasting no time in making a splash on the national stage.

Brown already has offers from Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Kansas. And over the weekend, the 5-foot-11, 183-pounder turned heads with a big reception from Midwest BOOM Football teammate J.J. McCarthy of Nazareth at a 7-on-7 event in Florida.

“Kaleb’s catch was insane to everyone at IMG Nationals,” McCarthy said. “But those of us that know him realize this is just everyday work for him. He practices one hard right, one hand left, one hand behind back. Never seen anything like it.”

Brown was promoted to the St. Rita varsity for the Prep Bowl playoffs and made an immediate impact, returning a kickoff for a touchdown against Marmion and scoring three TDs against De La Salle.

“As you saw last year, he’s a dynamic kid with the ball in his hands,” Mustangs coach Todd Kuska said of Brown, who can line up at receiver or running back. “(And) he’s gotten bigger and stronger and faster.”

The latter was on display this spring when Brown, who had not run track before January, won three state medals at the Class 2A state finals in Charleston. He was fourth in the 100 meters at 10,84 seconds, took eighth in the 200 and anchored the Mustangs’ runner-up 800 relay team.

It made for a hectic spring of juggling track practice and meets with weekend 7-on-7 events. But Brown believes adding track to his resume helped him get better in his primary sport.

“Yes, it did,” he said. “It gave me more explosion. They taught me how to run the right way, the little things like opening up my arms.”

Brown’s football skill set already is well developed.

“I first saw Kaleb at the BOOM Football Camp in January and he immediately jumped off the field,” Rivals Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt said. “You usually do not see receivers with playmaking skills that refined at such a young age, but Brown was doing things there that were more impressive than all the underclassmen at the event.”

Rising sophomores don’t usually get this kind of attention either. Kuska said no other Mustang in his tenure has had this kind of buzz this early. But Brown and junior receiver Henry Wilson, who picked up an offer from Boston College last week, give St. Rita a pair of big-time prospects.

“I plan to just let the (recruiting) process play out,” Brown said.

If the last few months are any indication, it should be interesting.

Illini interest

Another sophomore on the rise is Marist quarterback Dontrell Jackson Jr., who picked up his first offer last week, from Illinois.

Jackson was on the way home from a 7-on-7 when he got an urgent message to call RedHawks coach Ron Dawczak. A few minutes later, the 5-11, 183-pounder was on the phone with Illini coach Lovie Smith.

“He was telling me about the culture at the University of Illinois,” Jackson said. “I was very excited. This summer, I was hoping for offers. It made me even happier that it was our hometown team. ... Getting this offer, it tells me I’m doing something right.”

Montini’s Nate Muersch (21) catches a pass for a touchdown against Loyola
Montini’s Nate Muersch (21) catches a pass for a touchdown against Loyola
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

More to Miami

Miami of Ohio continues to make inroads in Illinois, picking up its third and fourth recruits in the Class of 2020 from the state. This month, the RedHawks have picked up commitments from Montini wide receiver Nate Muersch and Benet defensive end Jacob Snell.

Miami had landed Crystal Lake South offensive guard Dominic Collado in May and Granite City athlete Freddy Edwards in February.