If Northwestern does not receive a verbal commitment from three-star linebacker Brandon Lee, there are a few alternatives the Wildcats could pursue at the position. Some of them, including three-star Nile Sykes, are free agents, so to speak, not having made verbal commitments.
Another player Northwestern is monitoring is Richard Olekanma, a two-star linebacker who committed to Toledo in June. Olekanma was in contact with running backs coach Matt MacPherson before making his commitment to the Rockets, but said Northwestern could not offer him because they didn’t have any tape of him at outside linebacker (Olekanma had been playing wide receiver). Rather than waiting to send out film of himself playing linebacker, Olekanma decided to commit to Toledo, in part because he wanted to focus on his senior season.
“I really liked Toledo,” he said Sunday. “And then at that point, I wanted to focus on our high school team and get the college thing out of the way.”
After missing the first two games of the season with an ankle injury, Olekanma, now playing linebacker, has drawn renewed interest from Big Ten schools, Northwestern included. Olekanma has not heard from Wildcats coaches directly. One of his trainers at “Core 6 Athletes,” a training program for high school football players in the Chicago Area, has served as an intermediary of sorts, relaying the message that a Northwestern coach has attended one of his high school games and is eager to review his film.
While Olekanma maintains he is happy with his commitment to Toledo, he said an offer from Northwestern would force him to reevaluate his options.
“It would force to really look at where I want to play in the next few years,” he said. “Because of how good of a school Northwestern is.”
Asked whether, in a vacuum, he would prefer to play Big Ten football or MAC football, Olekanma said the former. He has been impressed with Northwestern’s rise in the Big Ten of late, and mentioned the Wildcats’ close loss to Ohio State Saturday night as an indication the Wildcats are an improving program. Olekanma also said he would enjoy the luxury of having his parents attend all of his home games.
“It’s a great education and the football team has been on the rise,” he said. “It’s very close to home, so my parents would be able to see me play.”
Olekanma reiterated that he is “solid” to Toledo, and that he is “very happy” with his commitment. Northwestern has given no indication it will extend a scholarship offer, just that it is interested in reviewing his linebacker tape.
In late August, Vontae Diggs, Olekanma’s friend and high school teammate, decommitted from Toledo because he wanted to explore other options. Olekanma recently said Diggs’ decommitment will not affect his recruitment.
With signing day still four months away, Olekanma has time to reconsider his commitment if other scholarship offers arise, although he said he would like to finish his recruiting process by the beginning of December.
“It [an offer from Northwestern] would change things, because signing day is a few months away,” Olekanma said. “It would give me time to evaluate choices – give me something to think about.”
Listed at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Olekanma, a native of Nigeria, possesses great straight line speed and quickness. He was recently clocked at 4.56 in the 40-yard dash.
The last player to commit to Northwestern was two-star defensive end Noah Westerfield, in early July. The Wildcats are believed to have two scholarship spots remaining in their 2014 class.
School: Downers Grove North
Position: Outside linebacker
Other offers: Toledo, Southern Illinois
Notes: committed to Toledo, said Northwestern offer might cause him to reconsider.