by Chris Johnson (@chrisdjohnsonn)
Hometown: Forney, Texas
Star rating: Two-star, NR
Ht/Wt: 6-0, 170 pounds
Other offers: Air Force, Kansas St., Navy, Louisiana Monroe, Navy, Washington State, North Texas
What’s to like
The addition of Buckley, the 21st player of Northwestern’s 2012 class, flew somewhat under the radar, overshadowed by USC transfer Kyle Prater announcing his move to NU on the same weekend. More likely than not, You’ll see immediate results from Prater—he’s probably the better long-term investment, too. But Buckley is a promising talent, a player whose late emergence on the recruiting scene signals a bright future in the college game. As a senior North Forney (TX) high school, Buckley, playing mostly as a dual-threat quarterback, rushed for 1,352 yards and 25 touchdowns while throwing for 923 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s not a polished pocket passer, nor does he possess the arm strength to succeed as a college quarterback at a BCS school, but offensive coordinator Mick McCall will find ways to maximize his unique skill set.
The plan is for Buckley to play running back at NU. Which, all things considered, makes sense. Buckley was a dangerous playmaker in high school, a run-first quarterback who frequently broke contain in the pocket for huge plays. That explosive running style could work at running back, though it remains to be seen how Buckley will respond to the physical pounding involved with running between the tackles, where mammoth defensive tackles look to punish ball carriers every chance they get. It’s still running, sure, but it’s a far cry from the improvisational downfield scampers he rattled off from the pocket in high school. Defenses weren’t necessarily ready for Buckley’s instinctual downfield playmaking. When he’s lining up in an I-formation, running the ball off tackle, defenses—the likes of which he hasn’t seen in high school—will be geared up to halt his progress.
From a pure playmaking standpoint, Buckley is dangerous with the ball in any capacity. He may never develop into an effective conventional tailback, but he could he used on slip screens, tosses and trick plays. Dual-threat quarterbacks can function in a variety of ways, from unique formations to flea-flickers to jump-passes. Buckley is elusive and deceptively quick, a savvy runner who—even at 6-0, 170 pounds—is tough to bring down. If McCall can find ways to get him the ball in space, Buckley will make plays. He’s the type of player that, despite not having a rigidly defined role, elevates your team on a macro level. Get him the ball—throw, run, toss or otherwise—in space Buckley will be productive. Simple as that.
Prospects for next season
It’s hard to argue with Buckley’s pure playmaking ability, but he needs a redshirt year before making his Wildcats debut. A developmental year will allow Buckley to settle into a comfortable role, learn the playbook and continue the positive momentum built in the lead-up to his commitment and throughout the summer months, all while adding at least 10-15 pounds of muscle to his slight frame. If Buckley plans to play running back, he’ll need to transform his physique accordingly.
For me, Buckley would fit better as a slot receiver, functioning in much the same way Kain Colter last season did when he wasn’t playing quarterback. Buckley is too diverse and too skilled for a confined role like tailback; he’s no one-trick pony. As a pass-catcher, he’s better positioned to get the ball in space and make plays once there. Who knows, Buckley could be used as a pistol/Wildcat-type trick play quarterback. Whether it’s running, throwing or passing, Buckley is the type of player that—regardless of how it gets there—you know you’re better off if he has the ball in his hands. However it plays out, you won’t see him on the field this year. Buckley is an immensely talented player. Once coaches learn to how to deploy his talents in a manner conducive to his unique skill set, Buckley will thrive.
What he’s saying
“They’re very professional business men,” Buckley said of Northwestern’s coaching staff before committing in January . “They mean well, they represent the school well, and I can tell they mean what they say.”
What they’re saying
“If his hands and route running skills can be developed this guy now becomes a multiple threat and headache for defensive coordinators.”—ESPN Scouting Report.