Northwestern Recruiting Class Can Persevere
By Joe Coughlin
Nowadays, recruiting classes in June mean about as much as a Chicago Cubs' lead in the sixth inning.
There's no real loyalty in the recruiting game anymore and a verbal commitment is like a lukewarm "sure." It can change to "nevermind" at any time, as soon as another coach promises a bit more. But there is a old-timer in this new-school game and that's the academic power, the specialty school with much more to give.
Northwestern is filling that role admirably so far in 2014. As the Wildcats suck up recruits from all over the country, they have flaunted two main things: football success and academic success. The former is a recent development and unstable in nature, but the latter is constant; it's not going anywhere.
Other complements include a coach — Pat Fitzgerald — that's becoming a national talking point, a state-of-the-art lakefront facility in development and superstar players like Venric Mark and Kain Colter. Those ingredients have cooked up 11 high-end recruits in a top-20 recruiting class (No. 17 by Rivals.com) that has the potential to not only hold, but climb the ranks as others fall and the Wildcats add a few more talents.
These recruits have come from Michigan, Ohio and Texas (yes, Texas!) to get more than a couple years of Division-I football. They've chosen Northwestern for something more, a multi-dimensional experience. To leave the 'Cats would be turning back on what the recruit said he wanted, making him a liar and even a poser. If that's the case, a decision to go to Northwestern probably wouldn't have been made in the first place.
Of Northwestern's 11 2014 recruits, eight are on the offensive end, including two "athletes," three are four-star picks and the rest are three-star talents. Northwestern is expected to pick up four more recruits to finish with 15. The Cats have an offer to a defensive back from California who visited and are close to two other four-stars, according to Rivals.com.
What's more impressive is that Northwestern has ripped talent away from some prestigious programs. Running back Auston Anderson is from Plano, Texas, and despite a lifelong dream of playing for Mack Brown, he chose NU: "It was my childhood dream to wear the orange and white, but Northwestern has everything I needed and wanted," he told reporters after he signed with the 'Cats, who he chose over the Longhorns, TCU, Stanford, UCLA and Nebraska.
Northwestern also beat out Big Ten rival Michigan for offensive lineman Tommy Doyles, out of Michigan, and three SEC schools (Missouri, Miss. State and Vanderbilt) for Blake Hence, out of central Illinois. Other recruits hail from Kansas, Ohio and New Jersey. These are talents Northwestern didn't have a shot at as soon as three years ago.
But things have changed. In a landscaped filled with flimsy handshakes, Northwestern's is strong. Its recruiting class is following suit.