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Recruiting Update: 8/6

For the first time in nearly three weeks, Northwestern added another recruit to its 2013 class, which now counts 16 members. Cincinnati product Keith Watkins gave his verbal pledge Saturday after a recent campus visit in which he made a strong connection with coach Pat Fitzgerald. While his primary position in high school was running back, Watkins said he committed as a defensive back. Moeller (OH) high school coach John Rodenberg described Watkins as “..a shutdown corner, he’s a 4.4 kid…” . Watkins and his family felt NU offered the best package of football and academics, not to mention a great location. He held offers from Minnesota, West Virginia, Iowa, Cincinnati, Boston College Arizona State, and a few other programs.

Here are some video highlights from Watkins’ junior season:

Another nice pickup for Fitzgerald and Staff in Watkins, who looks like a potential starter at cornerback. This is NU’s 6th defensive commitment of the class, with safety Kyle Quiero, cornerback Matt Harris, defensive end Eric Joraskie and linebackers Brett Walsh and Anthony Walker rounding out the group. The Wildcats have moved into second place in the 2013 Big Ten prospect race with their 16 commitments, tied with Iowa, Illinois and Ohio State. They still trail Michigan (22). NU’s 2.63 average star ranking ranks ninth in the conference, ahead of Purdue (2.57), Minnesota (2.40) and Indiana (2.33).

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)

Keith Watkins—three-star DB, Cincinnati (OH)

(Player profiles available here)

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With 16 commits in tow and preseason camp beginning today, it’s clear Fitzgerald and staff emphasized wrapping up the bulk of their work on the 2013 class before the fall. That’s a strategy that makes sense. After all, quality recruiting is in large part what allows programs to succeed on the field during those crucial autumn months. The coaching staff can enter preseason preparation knowing they have but a few commitments to secure before putting a bow on this class, which is no doubt a more sensible approach than scrambling for players on the eve of Signing day.

In its earliest stages, the class had plenty of offensive talent, but failed to account for the other side of the ball, the one that’s doomed the Wildcats in recent years: defense. The last three commitments—Walker, Walsh and Watkins—seem like talented, athletic defensive players with plenty of upside. It’ll be interesting to see which area of the field will be addressed next, though with only one defensive lineman committed—DT Eric Joraskie—it would only make sense to add another player in the trenches.