by Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)
Northwestern added a commitment from dual-threat quarterback Clayton Thorson on Sunday Night, making him the second commit in the Wildcats' 2014 class, in addition to three-star safety Jordan Thomas. The commitment was first reported by Beth Long, who you should all follow on Twitter at @Beth_Long for Midwest recruiting news. Here's the first piece in our "Take a Seat" series, where we look at each incoming NU commit and analyze what it means for the program. As always, check our recruiting board for continually updated football recruiting info.
Name: Clayton Thorson
School: Wheaton North (IL)
Other offers: Boston College, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Ole Miss, NC State, Northern Illinois, Penn State, Syracuse
Profiles: Scout, Rivals, ESPN
What's the Hype?
Pat Fitzgerald could probably get used to this four-star quarterback thing, especially when it comes to getting players from the Chicago area. Thorson is a three-star recruit according to Scout and a four-star according to Rivals, and he's listed as the 234th-ranked overall player in the nation in the Rivals 250. He's also listed as an ESPN "Watch List" quarterback.
A lot of other teams wanted Thorson. Not only did he turn down Illinois, Iowa and Penn State — that used to be pretty rare — he also turned down Ole Miss, which has been a juggernaut in recruiting as of late. Like I said, star ratings don't make a player great, but it sure helps the perception of the NU program when it's able to get a player who is this highly rated, and one who turned down numerous other "name" schools. It's the second year in a row the Wildcats have gotten a highly-ranked quarterback from the Chicago area, as NU picked up four-star QB Matt Alviti from Maine South in the class of 2013. That's big, especially when it comes to perception.
But what about style of play? Thorson is widely considered a dual-threat quarterback, but ESPN lists him as a pocket passer. That shows his versatility. While he can make plays with his feet and has good athleticism, he also can just as easily stand in the pocket and pick defenses apart. But if you watch his tape, you'll see that he's also very capable of running the read option in NU's offense. He's 6-foot-4 and reports running a 4.6-40 yard dash. So he's more of a Trevor Siemian or Mike Kafka body type, who's probably more comfortable running than either of those guys (especially Siemian). But even though he'll get to run, he'll also likely have a higher percentage of pass plays than Kain Colter. He can also play wide receiver if needed.
There are a lot of different ways Thorson can fit into NU's offense, and that's what makes him such a solid recruit. He's a perfect fit for the Wildcats' system, because he has the skill set to do everything that's asked of a spread quarterback — spreading the field with both his arm and his legs.
The Alviti Factor
It's not a bad problem to have, but NU could easily have two very capable on its roster once Trevor Siemian leaves. Alviti will (likely) be a redshirt sophomore then, while Thorson will have been on campus for one year. If Thorson and Alviti both redshirt — that certainly looks like the most likely option for NU — then Thorson will be just one year behind Alviti. That got some people worried.
NU clearly isn't opposed to playing two different quarterbacks when they can offer different things. It's tough to see how things will translate to the college level, but Thorson's skill set probably offers more of the "total package" than either Colter or Siemian. Thorson is also capable of switching to wide receiver — or a wide receiver/QB hybrid like Minnesota's MarQueis Gray was — if the coaches want. Without either Alviti or Thorson having stepped foot on campus yet, it's impossible to predict how things will play out. However, NU certainly is willing to mix things up, and the coaching staff will likely find a way for each to have a contributing role in the offense when they play together.
Other QBs for 2014?
In addition to Thorson, NU had offered three-star Chris Durkin and four-star Deshone Kizer for 2014, and both were still considering NU. Kizer recently added offers from Alabama and LSU, and while he still had the Wildcats in his top six, NU obviously faced an uphill battle there. Durkin, on the other hand, had NU "at the top of his list," according to Scout, and other reports said he had the Wildcats in his top three.
With Alviti coming in 2013 and Thorson coming in 2014, that means things will be crowded at QB for the Wildcats, and Durkin and Kizer aren't likely to commit to NU. Durkin certainly was high on the Wildcats — he had NU in his top three with Michigan State and Toldeo — so maybe he'll be up for the challenge, but he's also very interested in MSU, which will probably be the "favorite" of his potential landing spots after the Thorson news.