After a quiet period in the first half of June, Northwestern’s 2014 recruiting has suddenly picked up again. The Wildcats picked up their 12th commitment for the class of 2014 on Monday, and the list of potential targets for the final three spots in this class just got a little clearer. Check out information on NU’s newest commit and more recruiting tidbits below, and as always, make sure to stay updated with our 2014 recruiting board.

Hall becomes commit No. 12

Northwestern added its 12th commitment for the class of 2014 yesterday with the addition of outside linebacker Nathan Hall. Hall, the brother of current NU safety Jimmy Hall, was recently offered by Pat Fitzgerald and his staff, and he jumped on that offer quickly. This commitment also gives the Wildcats an outside linebacker — they were looking for one, but the recruitments of other OLB targets Brandon Lee and Noah Furbush are still up in the air, and they figure to remain that way for awhile.

Hall hasn’t received as much hype as some of NU’s other 2014 recruits, but he’s an athletic player who fits the mold the Wildcats look for in their linebackers. More from our breakdown of what Hall brings to the table:

Nathan Hall is considered a wide receiver or safety by many of the recruiting services, but will play outside linebacker at NU. In that respect, he fits the Wildcats’ mold.

“We’re trying to bring in big safeties who play linebacker, and we’re trying to bring in really, really athletic safeties who play safety,” Pat Fitzgerald said this spring.

NU has a track record of switching players from safety to linebacker, most recently with Joseph Jones, who came in as a safety, redshirted last year and is expected to see time at outside linebacker this season. Nathan Hall will come in as an outside linebacker and should play there exclusively, so his path is different from his brother’s or Jones’. However, he fits the same mold as those players, and in that respect, he’s a good pickup for NU and looks like a good fit for the Wildcats’ system.

With three spots left in this class, the focus now shifts to defensive end and the secondary. Some players to watch out for: DB Ron Robinson, DB Ladarius Wiley, DB Parrker Westphal, DE Noah Westerfield, DE Grant Blankenship, DE Bobby Okereke and DE Garrett Dickerson.

NU not looking for a middle linebacker

Every recruiting class has certain positional priorities. Some years, a team will target defensive ends, quarterbacks and wide receivers. Others will amass depth at different spots.

There are few holes remaining in Northwestern’s 2014 class – every morsel of evidence, from the outsider’s perspective and based off direct intel from Northwestern’s own recruits, points to a hard cap of 15 – and few scholarship spots available, full stop. One position you can cross off the list: Middle linebacker. How can I be so sure? Well, I can’t. But unless linebackers coach Randy Bates fed 2014 Belleville, Illinois LB Tori Millender one big fat fib at Sunday’s minicamp in Evanston, it appears the Wildcats won’t be adding a middle ‘backer in this year’s recruiting cycle.

If they were, Millender believes he would have received a scholarship offer right on the spot.

“He said they weren’t recruiting middle linebackers this year,” Millender said Sunday.

It was a disappointing end to a long workout for Millender (and, most likely, an hopefully expectant recruiting relationship with NU), who currently holds offers from Purdue, Eastern Michigan and Arkansas State, and looked forward to the possibility of earning a Wildcats offer this weekend. In his mind, it was a matter of timing – not of his individual playing merits – that kept Northwestern at bay.

“It’s disappointing,” he said.

The final three spots of Northwestern’s 2014 class could be filled by any number of positions. Defensive end, defensive back and superback are apparent targets, but until we officially cross the conclusive signing day threshold, every possibility is officially on the table — besides middle linebacker.

Wiley has NU on top

We’ve gone nearly two months without hearing from 2014 DB Ladarius Wiley, and it was fair to wonder – after the convincing appraisal he gave of his recruitment with Northwestern – whether he still felt the same way. Turns out, Wiley hasn’t changed one bit, nor has Northwestern’s status as his number one school.

“Yes sir everything is still the same,” he wrote in a message last night when asked if he still viewed the Wildcats as his top choice. He also clarified when he might be on campus this summer.

“I’ve been trying to arrange one during our dead period which starts after next week.”

Defensive back is a position Northwestern would very much like to add to before it closes the door on its 2014 class. Three spots remain, and both Corona (CA) DB Ron Robinson and Wiley are strong candidates to become commitment No. 13 sometime over this summer.

  • Mark Wheaton

    Minor point, but QB is never a position of focus. Ideally NU would recruit one QB every year so that there are 4-5 scholarship QB’s on the roster. This enables effective practices without burning out any one QB’s arm, the opportunity to say to a kid “you’re it, we won’t sign anyone else” and a pipeline of candidates.

    • Kevin Trahan

      You’re right, but we don’t really refute that anywhere. Most years, NU will only take one QB, though there are some teams that feel the need to target multiple QBs in some years.

  • gocatsgo2003

    1) You’ll almost never see Fitz and Bates recruit a true middle linebacker — they’ll always recruit guys slated for OLB and move players inside as their playing style and physical development dictate. The problem with recruiting players who are slated to play Mike from day one is that their positional versatility is very limited (e.g. they are typically not athletic enough to transition to Sam or Will while making minimal special teams contributions and you’re stuck with a subpar player if things don’t work out).
    2) I suspect that it’s a “race to campus” between Wiley and Robinson, as both seem candidates to commit after taking a visit. With that DB spot filled, the coaches will likely take one DE and one “best available” type player to round out the class.
    At that point, I foresee the coaches calling up Dickerson, Furbush, Okereke, Blankenship, and the other DE candidates to make clear there’s one scholarship available for DEs and then turn around and call Westphal and say there’s one scholarship available period. That kind of recruiting leverage is crucial to a strong finish to a recruiting class.

    • Kevin Trahan

      1) You’re correct, especially since there aren’t a lot of players who are true middle linebackers in high school, because schools tend to think they aren’t versatile (and not quick). However, lots of times coaches will take guys who they think they could eventually move to the middle.
      2) Don’t forget about Westerfield. He’s very high on NU and visiting at the beginning of July. There’s the potential for Westerfield, Wiley and Robinson to take all three remaining spots by mid-July. That might be too early for guys like Dickerson, Furbush, Okereke and Blankenship to decide. Of course, maybe one of them will surprise everyone and decide early on, but it seems like Westerfield, Wiley and Robinson are closer to deciding than the others.

      • gocatsgo2003

        2a) I don’t get the feeling that Westerfield is actually all that interested, especially given that the coaches want him at DE (and there’s virtually no chance of playing LB now that Hall and Queiro have those spots filled).

        2b) I don’t know whether the coaches would take both Robinson and Wiley at this point as both are definite safety prospects. I get the feeling that the coaches have started to recruit bigger corners that can be moved to safety if needed (akin to recruiting high school safeties to play LB). Guys like Kyle Queiro and Jordan Thomas fit the mold here, in addition to the possibility that Godwin Igwebuike ends up at safety and Henry and Brown already at the position. Shoot, even Ibraheim Campbell has two more years of eligibility left, so I can see why the coaches would take corners before safeties.
        That’s my long-winded way to say that I think the coaches call Westphal in the period between Robinson and Wiley’s visits to say: “we have one spot left for a DB and a guy coming in in two weeks who’s likely to commit. We can’t make you make a decision, but once the scholarship is taken it’s taken.” Robinson and Wiley could both very well end up in Evanston, but I think they would prefer to get Westphal in one of those spots.

        • Kevin Trahan

          1) Westerfield is actually interested. Trust us on that one. That doesn’t mean he necessarily ends up at NU, but he’s certainly interested. We’ll know more after he visits (July 1).
          2) Regardless of who the coaches prefer, it’s not likely that Westphal makes a decision before Wiley. Possible? Yes, but not likely. That’s why we say getting Robinson and Wiley is the most likely scenario.

  • OCcat2010

    Great coverage guys. This website has been awesome during recruiting season!

    Hoping for Westphal but he seems like a guy who picks an established program instead of a program on the rise.

    Either way this is one exciting class. Can’t wait to see how these guys turn out when the coaching staff gets their hands on them.

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