Football notebook: Nazareth’s Ryan Keeler updates recruitment, Marian’s Taj Lawson commits to NIU and more

Ryan Keeler knows what he wants, but he’s not sure when he’s going to get it.

SHARE Football notebook: Nazareth’s Ryan Keeler updates recruitment, Marian’s Taj Lawson commits to NIU and more
Nazareth’s Ryan Keeler (99) works through a drill during a Roadrunners’ practice.

Nazareth’s Ryan Keeler (99) works through a drill during a Roadrunners’ practice.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Ryan Keeler knows what he wants, but he’s not sure when he’s going to get it.

The Nazareth junior is one of Illinois’ top prospects in the class of 2021, as evidenced by his 32 major-college scholarshipoffers. He’s a three-star prospect in 247Sports’ composite ratings, ranked No.16 in Illinois and No. 35 nationally among strong-side defensive ends.

His list of offers includes nine from Big Ten schools, two from the Pac-12 and Ole Miss and Kentucky from the SEC.

Keeler’s plan was to pick a school soon, but the shutdown of in-person recruiting becauseof the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrenchinto that.

“I wenton a few visits,” said Keeler, ticking off Minnesota, Nebraska, LSU, Arkansas State, Mississippi and Southern Mississippi. “In May, I was planning on taking my official visits.

“That pushed back my commitment date. I was trying to commit sometime in June, but that won’t be possible.”

Whilehis timeline is uncertain, Keeler’s three criteria for picking a collegeare settled.

Whatare they?

“The fit — how I fit in withthe coaches, the [other] players, the scheme. No. 2, I don’t want to just be used for football. I want them to care for me [as a person and an athlete]. Third is education. I want a good degree. Life after football is important.”

For now, Keeler’s life is wake up, do homework and then work out. Not being around his teammates daily has given the 6-5, 240-pounder a fresh perspective.

“It made me realize how grateful I am for everything I have,” he said.

That includes the opportunity to play football at a Power Five school.

“It’s just a blessing,” Keeler said. “It’s been my dream since I was a little kid. I always thought I’d end up playing college football, but not at this level.”

Cut to the chase

Marist offensive lineman Pat Coogan ended the mystery on Wednesday, announcing his commitment to Notre Dame in a Twitter post.

In his mind, it was already a foregone conclusion.

“I honestly didn’t think I would decide so early but I knew I was ready,” said Coogan, who is No. 14 in Illinois and 45th nationally among offensive guards in 247Sports’ composite rankings. “I knew I was going to commit to ND following my [official visit] in June, so I figured, why wait?

“I’m very confident in my decision and excited for what’s to come.”

Coogan, a 6-5, 295-pounder, had 28 offers, including defending national champ LSU and Ohio Dtate. He’s the second local member of Notre Dame’s 2021 class along with Bolingbrook safety Justin Walters.

Heading to DeKalb

Junior running back Taj Lawson, who helped spur Marian Catholic’s turnaround season, committed to Northern Illinois this week.

The5-10, 160-pounder ran for 1,293 yards and 22 touchdowns last season as Marian won the CCL/ESCC Red and earned its first IHSA playoff berth since 2010. Lawson was the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year.

Lawson’s 24 total touchdowns last season were No. 2 all-time in program history. He has 31 career touchdowns heading into his senior season.

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