by Chris Johnson (@ChrisDJohnsonn)
Name: Brett Walsh
Position: Outside linebacker/Safety
School: Monrovia High School (California)
Other offers: South Dakota State, Fresno State, Nevada, South Dakota, UNLV
The Scouting Report
From ESPN Recruiting Nation:
“Walsh is a smart, active football player with the instincts and nose for the ball that allows him to make plays from sideline to sideline. Has the height and athleticism for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition; will need to add bulk over time and it appears his frame is capable of supporting the weight.”
What he’s saying
“Northwestern, I feel like it’s more than just a school or a place to play football,” said Walsh. “When people talk about Northwestern, it’s the great academics. When I committed, it wasn’t huge on football. Now that they’ve had a great season, it’s the icing on the cake.”
What’s the hype?
In a world of complex spread offenses and five-wide receiver sets, speedy linebackers are more in-vogue than ever before. Pat Fitzgerald has long placed an emphasis on filling the LB ranks with quick and agile playmakers. Take this year’s projected starting three, for example – Damien Proby, Chi Chi Ariguzo and Drew Smith are all what we like to call sideline-so-sideline players, defined more by their speed than their strength or power.
The preferred linebacker mold makes a fantastic skills-to-physique fit for Walsh. Much like Ariguzo or Smith, Walsh is a rangy playmakers who runs down ball carriers and receivers big and small, offers terrific straightline speed and packs an underrated punch when tackling opponents. His bodily dimensions (6’1’’, 205-pounds) are short of ideal even for the Wildcats’ desired speedy OLB prototype, but Walsh can add mass over the next year and change, hopefully without losing any of his explosiveness or open-field playmaking ability.
What about next year?
Were Northwestern’s linebacker corps not already so well stocked – from the three starters mentioned above to Timmy Vernon to Collin Ellis to Joseph Jones to Eric Wilson and on down the line – Walsh might have a decent shot at playing as a true freshman. As it stands, his chances are minimal; there doesn’t seem to be any real reason to burn one year of valuable eligibility for Walsh to sit behind a group of capable contributors while stashed deep in the bowels of depth chart oblivion. Which is a complicated way of saying: Walsh will probably redshirt.
What about the future?
It is hard to imagine anyone breaking into this linebacker corps as a freshman, and Walsh – as discussed above – is no exception. Northwestern has recruited the linebacker position stronger than most in recent seasons, so Walsh will have ample competition as he seeks to fend off a host of capable competitors. There is a small possibility Walsh could switch to safety or nickleback, but if you take Jones and Wilson’s highschool-to-college position paths as a blueprint for similarly-sized safety recruits (both switched to linebacker when they arrived at NU), it is logical to assume Walsh is qualified, at least on the surface, to enter the mix at OLB.
There is no guarantee Walsh will ever become a first-team starter. That’s a scary good problem to have, when you think about it; if Walsh, as intriguing a prospect as exists in the 2013 class, is no sure bet to crack the starting rotation in a year a two, just imagine the quality of competition the Wildcats will line up in front of him. Suffice it to say that Walsh, provided he soaks in coordinator Mike Hankwitz’s defense during his presumed redshirt season and takes his weight room goals seriously, will have a shot to challenge for first-team reps. All of it will depend on how hard he stacks up relative to the competition at hand.