Jake Herbert didn't win a medal, which is the bad news, but the good news is, holy crap, there's less than three weeks until football! I actually have some serious catching up to do on these posts b/c I'm not good at math and didn't realize it until just now. But I'll do it! I swear!
No. 21, Kyle Prater, sophomore, wide receiver
Who he be: Woah! Kyle Prater! He's a football player who the people who watch 16-year olds and judge how good they are at football playing said was really, really, really good at football! Some people said he was the best player in the country, others said he was merely the best wide receiver in the country, others just said he was very good at football, but everybody agreed he was totally a good football player. This led to him being recruited out of high school by Alabama (woah!) Auburn (hey!) Oklahoma (dang!) Tennessee (yipes!) Michigan (jeepers!) Notre Dame (eww!) Missouri (yo!) and Illinois (hahahahah who were they kidding) and USC (gee whillikers!), where he eventually committed. Northwestern, of course, was not on this list, because landing a five-star recruit against the giants of college football was a practical impossibility, even if Prater did go to Proviso West, just a couple of miles outside of Chicago. I mean, I've been looking at Rivals pages of Northwestern players out the wazoo doing this countdown, and did you realize five-star recruits even have different Rivals pages? They have, like, scouting reports and stuff and sections we don't even know about.
However, Prater's USC career didn't plot out as planned: while fellow top-10 recruit Robert Woods led his team in receptions as a true freshman and was all-American as a sophomore, Prater redshirted his freshman year and was hampered by injuries throughout both of his seasons, only playing sparingly and recording one career reception for six yards. Some combination of family issues and not wanting to be around Lane Kiffin anymore caused Prater to want to transfer closer to home, and he chose Northwestern in a coup for NU. Thanks to the work of NU's compliance department, Prater was granted a waiver to play this season, rather than sit out, due to undisclosed - for good reason - personal circumstances that caused him to want to play close to home.
Wide receiver porn:
High school highlights are boring. This is against USC's secondary. And man, he makes it look so easy.
What immediately stands out is that Prater has three things on 99 percent of college wide receivers: first, size. There simply aren't many 6-foot-5 wide outs out there, and that's not even taking into account his wingspan, which is also seemingly larger than normal. Next, his hands. Yo! Did you see all those one-handers! Ridiculous catching ability. And third, just his ability to get his body into position to catch balls. All this makes him an A++ receiver for jump balls and plays such as this. He's not ridiculously fast, which is why I don't think he'll be an all-conference player right off the bat, but those skills mean he'll definitely be a good player.
What does Prater mean to Northwestern?: This is a sort of interesting question.
First of all, I don't expect Prater to change the dynamic of Northwestern football right off the bat. He's a great player, but it's not like you add a wide-out and you're a Big Ten champion all of a sudden. He'll obviously be a good player and help Northwestern win some ball games.
But what's more important, I think, is what Prater means in terms of 'cruitin. Prater is one of the best player to come out of Chicagoland in recent memory, and he ended up at Northwestern. If he has a decent career at NU, wins some football games, and - most importantly - makes the NFL, preferably with a high draft pick, he sets a precedent for talented Illinois recruits that Northwestern is a potential destination. That would be big, possibly bigger than ahything Prater can do on the field.
Looking forward: The best thing about Prater winning his waiver from the NCAA is that Northwestern will get three, not two years of Kyle Prater after he transferred. He should start right away. I assumed NU would see him at an outside spot, because, c'mon, but as MountainTiger pointed out the other day, the latest depth chart has him inside. Drake Dunsmore, but insanely talented? Prater should be NU's leading wideout this year. Like I said, though, he won't be insanely ridiculous - like, don't expect two touchdowns a game - but he'll be good. He came to NU early to get the playbook down, so I'm not worried about that, plus, he's rooming with Kain Colter, which is cool.