by Chris Johnson (@ChrisDJohnsonn)
If Ben Oxley does not give his verbal allegiance to Northwestern within the next few months, he will have undergone a change of heart.
“Northwestern is my number one school,” the 6’6’’, 260-pound lineman from Avon Lake, Ohio, said. “It’s been that way for a long time.”
Since attending Northwestern’s home win against Indiana in September, Oxley has remained in constant contact with offensive line coach Adam Cushing and head coach Pat Fitzgerald. His experience on campus heightened his already strong interest in the Wildcats, but the attraction to NU began sometime after his sophomore season at Avon Lake High School.
When Fitzgerald leaked word to Avon Lake coach Larry Laird of an intended scholarship offer during a February visit, Oxley was elated. “I was pumped,” he said. The offer was a realized dream for Oxley, who says he values the academics, coaching staff and the architectural beauty of Northwestern’s campus.
“You really can’t compete with Northwestern academics,” he said. “I love the coaching staff, I love coach Fitzgerald.”
Another bonus for Oxley, who relishes the potential balance between a distinct “Midwestern feel” and the hustle-bustle lifestyle of nearby Chicago, is that his older brother works in the city. Having a comfortable familiar presence adds to the overall welcoming warmth he feels when he steps on campus.
“The people you meet here, there’s something about them,” he said. “You get that nice homecoming, midwestern feel.”
There is no planned decision date for Oxley, who has also received interest from Illinois, Michigan State and Louisville, among others. A rough timeline puts his college choice somewhere in the neighborhood of late spring or early summer. His range of options is so narrowly focused, so purple, that he has already thrown around the idea of committing on his April 5-6 overnight visit.
"I could see myself making a decision then," he said.
Offensive tackle is Oxley’s preferred position – his prototype frame and quick feet are man-made for Big Ten football. Northwestern coaches see things differently. They want Oxley to span his horizons and work on both sides of the ball.
“They told me they want me at offensive or defensive line,” he said. “I see myself as more of an offensive lineman but I love playing on both sides of the ball.”
The Wildcats have compiled a strong foundation of line talent over the past two seasons. Sam Coverdale (2013), Tyler Lancaster (2013), Eric Joraskie (2013) and Adam DePietro (2012) only scratch the surface of the trench haul Northwestern has reeled in on the recruiting trail.
Asked what it would mean to join the Wildcats’ deep and versatile pool of line talent,” Oxley replied, “I’ve always enjoyed the brotherhood that the offensive and defensive line brings. To be a part of one of those groups would be an honor.”
To turn said “honor” into reality, Oxley needs to take the leap with his number one school. There is a strong indication he will do just that.