The rise of the transfer portal in college football has been the bane of many high school prospects’ existence.
Most college coaches, impatient in a win-now world, jump at the chance to fill a roster spot with a proven college player rather than a prep prospect.
That’s bad news for high school players who aren’t four- or five-star prospects — which is obviously most of them.
But there are exceptions such as Glenbrook North long snapper Patrick Mahoney, whose recent commitment to Illinois actually was facilitated by the portal.
“Obviously, being a specialist, everything is kind of weird,” said Mahoney, a 6-2, 205-pound senior. “So I knew everything was going to happen pretty late.”
He was talking to schools anywhere from NCAA Division I to Division III, where he could double as an offensive lineman and long snapper. Then, fate dealt him a winning hand.
Greg Froelich, a special teams analyst at Illinois the past two seasons, left to become special teams coordinator and running backs coach at Charlotte. Going along with him via the portal was Illini long snapper Nico Crawford.
“So that kind of opened it up for me at Illinois and I reconnected with them after their bowl game,” Mahoney said. “It’s funny because the whole time I kind of felt like the transfer portal was gonna hurt me. But it ended up really helping me.”
What makes the scenario even better is Mahoney liked Champaign as a destination no matter what.
“Illinois was a place I wanted to go regardless of football,” he said. “My state school, I really like what their College of Media has to offer. As somebody who wants to be a broadcasting major, I think that their program is really enticing.”
He felt similarly about long snapping after taking over the job during his sophomore year at Glenbrook North when the incumbent was sidelined by injury. He went to a camp at Maine South in the spring of 2021 and had an epiphany: “That’s when I started working really hard towards — ‘I think this is my best option for playing elite level football.'”
Mahoney played basketball, baseball and football growing up. But he really fell in love with the latter sport when his dad Pat was athletic director at Loyola and Patrick was a ball boy for the Ramblers.
That’s also when he first starting long snapping at a camp. His teacher was John Shannon, the Loyola grad who went on to win the 2019 Patrick Mannelly Award as the nation’s top long snapper at Notre Dame.
Now Mahoney gets the chance to be a Power Five long snapper himself. And he owes it all to the portal.
Christian Bentancur picks Clemson
Marian Central tight end Christian Bentancur, the No. 3 junior in Illinois in the 247Sports composite rankings, committed to Clemson earlier this month.The Tigers rarely venture to Chicago to recruit. But Bentancur was too good not to chase, according to Rivals analyst Clint Cosgrove.”At the tight end position there’s so few guys that are of that elite caliber,” Cosgrove said of the 6-5, 240-pounder. “He’s got high level of athleticism and ball skills.”
Offers pile up for Marquise Lightfoot
Recruiting is heating up for Kenwood edge rusher Marquise Lightfoot, the No. 6 Illinois junior. The 6-5, 215-pounder recently added offers from Ohio State, Miami and Wisconsin.Cosgrove sees a high ceiling for Lightfoot as he gets bigger and stronger.”It’s kind of like watching a baby giraffe growing into that body,” Cosgrove said. “Great length, extremely athletic, great kid.”Lightfoot, whose stock rose after he won defensive MVP honors at an elite prospects in Atlanta, has more than 30 offers.”He’s a kid who could wind up being a five-star [prospect],” Cosgrove said.