Phillips grad among local players making an impact this college football season.

By Mike Clark Dec 30, 2020, 12:39pm CST

Alabama football doesn’t recruit the Chicago area very often.

When Phillips’ Jahleel Billingsley signed with the Crimson Tide after the 2018 season, he was the first local player to join the Alabama program since Young defensive tackle Micah Johnson in 1997.

Tide coaches have to be happy they made the effort to recruit Billingsley, who played in nine games as a true freshman last season and is making an impact for the nation’s top-ranked team as a sophomore.

He’s made two starts at tight end and played in 10 of Alabama’s 11 games heading into the College Football Playoff semifinals.

‘Bama coaches named Billingsley the team’s offensive player of the week after he caught three passes for 78 yards against Kentucky.

He has 12 catches for 221 yards and two touchdowns, and showed his versatility in last week’s SEC championship game win over Florida by returning three kickoffs for 66 yards.

Tide coach Nick Saban likes what he’s seen of Billingsley, having this to say during a press conference last month:

“Jahleel is kind of coming into his own a little bit as a tight end. He’s a very good receiver. I think having some success in the last couple of games (against Kentucky and Auburn) has probably helped his confidence a little bit. And he’s definitely somebody who we feel can make plays for us on offense, and we need to try to utilize him every way that we can.”

Here’s a look at some other local players making news around college football this pandemic season:

Chris Elmore, Syracuse

The Orange went 1-10 but were able to play a full schedule, which coach Dino Babers said wouldn’t have happened without Elmore’s team-first attitude.

The senior from Phillips moved from fullback to offensive guard for nine games because of injuries. Moving around is nothing new for Elmore, who also has been a tight end and defensive tackle for Syracuse.

“Chris Elmore is so unselfish,” Babers said during a press conference last month. “We would not have been able to finish the season without him. It would have been 11 no-contests without Chris. I can’t thank him enough for the unselfish act he did in keeping us afloat and keeping us running through these games.”

“I’m a 6-foot-nothing guy who hasn’t played o-line in a million (years),” Elmore told the AP. “It was just like, ‘I don’t know, but I’ll do it for the team and I’ll give it my best.’ ”

Greg Newsome II, Northwestern

Newsome, who played at Glenbard North as a sophomore and junior before finishing his prep career at IMG Academy in Florida, announced Monday on Twitter he’s leaving the Wildcats after three seasons to enter the NFL draft.

He led the Big Ten with nine pass breakups and was named first-team all-conference by both coaches and media. He won’t play for NU against Auburn in the Citrus Bowl after suffering a groin injury in the Big Ten championship game loss to Ohio State, Yahoo! Sports reported.

Peter Skoronski, Northwestern

A lot of players are happy just to get on the field as true freshmen. Skowronski, a left tackle from Maine South, did much more. He started from day one for the Big Ten West champs and was voted second- and third-team all-conference by the media and coaches, respectively.

This week, The Athletic named him a first-team freshman All-American,

Tuf Borland, Ohio State

Like every other NCAA fall athlete, Borland could come back for another season if he preferred. But a year after graduating with a degree in human development and family science and with four full seasons of college experience, the linebacker from Bolingbrook is headed to the NFL draft.

First he’ll head to Mobile, Alabama, next month for the Senior Bowl. The game’s executive director, Jim Nagy, recently praised him on Twitter as “one of the most improved players from junior tape we’ve evaluated this fall. Rarely see this kind of late-career jump from a guy (who) entered his senior season with 34 starts.”

Jack Sanborn, Wisconsin

Named third-team all-conference by the media and honorable mention all-conference by coaches, the junior linebacker from Lake Zurich has 25 tackles in the Badgers’ six games. His best game was against Northwestern with 10 tackles, one tackle for loss and one sack.

Mariano Sori-Marin, Minnesota

The junior linebacker from Providence was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after getting a career-high 18 tackles in a win over Nebraska on Dec. 12. Sori-Marin led the Gophers (3-4) with 55 tackles, 14 more than runner-up Tyler Nubin, a sophomore defensive back from St Charles North.

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