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Recruiting Update: 7/23

by Chris Johnson (@chrisdjohnsonn)

Looks like Pat Fitzgerald wants to get the bulk of his recruiting done before the season starts. He kept up the pace this week by adding two players to the class of 2013, linebackers Brett Walsh and Anthony Walker. Walsh and Walker committed Tuesday, hours apart from each other. This marks only the fourth and fifth defensive pledges of 2013, with safety Kyle Queiro, cornerback Matt Harris and defensive end Eric Joraskie rounding out the group.

There’s little doubt Walker is one of the more decorated commits of this class. He held offers from Bowling Green, Buffalo, Florida International, Navy, Minnesota and Purdue, but drew interest from several SEC programs, including Georgia and LSU. Walker played safety and linebacker in high school, but is expected to play exclusively at linebacker at NU. Walker said he was sold on NU’s academic reputation as well as coach Fitzgerald’s demeanor and the way he treats his players. It’s way too early to make any predictions about next year’s team, but Walker may be one of the few true freshmen to make an immediate impact in 2013.

Later in the day, Walsh phoned Fitzgerald to make it official, after fearing he might lose out on NU’s offer. Walsh led Monrovia with 192 tackles last season and comprised a potent linebacker tandem with George Frazier, who recently committed to Colorado. Walsh held offers from Fresno State, Nevada, South Dakota and UNLV and received interest from Boise State, Boston College, Wake Forest, Yale and Boise State, among others. At 6-2, 215 pounds, he’s slightly bigger than Walker (6-1, 210 pounds), but it appears he may need some more time to develop, physically and mentally, before he becomes an impact player at NU.

The new additions bring the class to 15 players, which ties Illinois and Ohio State for the third most commitments in the Big Ten, behind just Michigan (22) and Iowa (16). While NU has kept pace in numbers with its league counterparts, its 2.60 average star rating (according to Scout. Com) ranks third to last, tied with Minnesota. The star-rating breakdown for NU’s 2013 class is as follows: one four-star, seven three-stars, and seven two-stars.

The 2013 Class, as it stands today:

Matthew Alviti–four-star QB, Park Ridge (IL)

Sam Coverdale–three-star OT, Chagrin Falls (OH)

Brad North–three-star OG, Allen (TX)

Kyle Quiero–three-star WR/S, Oradell (NJ)

Blake King–three-star OG, Minooka (IL)

Eric Joraskie–three-star DT, Mount Carmel (PA)

Tyler Lancaster–two-star OG, Plainfield (IL)

Hunter Niswander–K/P, Peninsula (OH)

Xavier Menifield–two-star RB, Chatsworth (CA)

Macan Wilson–two-star WR, Houston (TX)

Warren Long—three-star RB, Union City (CA)

Matt Harris—two-star CB/WR, La Grange (IL)

Jayme Taylor—two-star TE, The Woodlands (TX)

Anthony Walker—three-star OLB, Miami (FL)

Brett Walsh—two-star OLB, Monrovia (CA)

(Player profiles available here)

Two nice pickups this week for NU, who have put together an impressive but offensively lopsided class so far. Walker and Walsh are talented players with bright futures with body types and skill sets well-suited to Fitzgerald’s favored small-and-quick linebacker mold. This year’s linebacking corps—Damien Proby, David Nwabuisi and Chi Chi Ariguzo—exist near the bottom of the typical linebacker size spectrum, but boast plenty of speed and range, which is an effective counter for the high-tempo spread offense fad taking root in the Big Ten of late. Walsh and Walker small but athletic linebackers, at least as far as I can tell from watching tape, so it stands to reason they would blend in quite well and sustain the speed and quickness in NU’s linebacker corps.

Fitzgerald and staff continue to ramp up the recruiting momentum this summer, with no signs of slowing down as we approach preseason camp. The 2013 class is filled with quality talent, from Walker to Alviti to North, and while is doesn’t match up, on paper at least, with the likes of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, it’s certainly a step in the right direction and a continuation of last year’s stellar class. Fitzgerald over the past two or three years has not only established NU as a destination program for elite talent, but sold the program on its uniqueness in providing both academic rigor and competitive power conference football. There are few schools that bridge the academic-athletic gap quite like NU, and that’s become a huge selling point for top recruits. High admission standards will always remain a hindrance to luring top talent, but academic prestige and an established track record in post-football career preparation, two features frequently cited by NU commits, have clearly become effective recruiting tools.

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After landing two recruits, three-star guards Jaren Sina and Nate Taphorn, in consecutive weeks, Bill Carmody didn’t follow suit this week, and so the 2013 class remains at two. While there were no new additions, one of NU’s commits is taking the right steps toward proving he’s the type of program-changing talent that NU needs to get over the NCAA Tournament hump. Sina is quickly establishing himself as one of the nation’s top point guard prospects. This week, he was the leading scorer of National Conference at the Hoop Group Elite Team Camp. Taphorn also did his part on the AAU circuit this weekend, submitting an impressive performance at the Under Armour NY2LA Summer Jam tournament.

One of the biggest basketball events on the college hoops recruiting calendar, the Nike Peach Jam, took place over the weekend in Augusta, SC. The Peach Jam serves as the championship round of the Elite Youth Basketball League circuit, with 24 teams granted admission by virtue of their performance in four regular season EYBL events. Carmody was reportedly on hand to survey some of the nation’s best high school talent and get a closer look at a few NU prospects. Two of NU’s main 2013 targets, three-star small forward Alvin Ellis and three-star guard Jaylon Tate, participated in the event with Meanstreets (IL). Sina also played with his AAU team, Team Final (NJ). Both Tate and Ellis would make nice additions to an already impressive 2013 class.

For Carmody, landing Sina was about the foundation, about staking a foothold in the national college hoops recruiting landscape with a truly elite player. With Sina in tow, top talents like Ellis and Tate have clear, tangible evidence of NU’s rising likability in recruiting circles. It’s unclear where these two will ultimately end up, but Carmody, by landing Sina and Taphorn, has established a borderline talent level in the 2013 class far higher than anything we’ve seen in his tenure. Tate, Ellis and other top recruits can now more than ever legitimately envision at least some measure of credibility for NU as an elite, tournament-worthy program going forward.