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Who's That Wildcat? DT Tyler Lancaster

Name: Tyler Lancaster
Position: Defensive Tackle
High School: Plainfield East High School (Illinois)
Other offers: Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan

What he’s saying

From Rivals.com:

"They were my No. 1 school," he said. "It's one hour away from home, it's a Big Ten school, and it has high academics. If every other school in the country offered, I think I would still choose Northwestern." 

The Scouting Report

From ESPN Recruiting Nation:

“Lancaster combines the quickness and playing strength needed to succeed as a run and pass blocker; has the size and athleticism for the center position at the major level of competition. It appears his frame is capable of supporting additional bulk over time. Does a very good job handling the shotgun span accurately. We see a prospect with the flexibility, balance and agility needed to play on his feet in space; demonstrates he can operate in a tight box while also adjusting his feet to handle quick change of direction movement when playing on an island." 

What’s the hype?

It might shock you to learn that the No. 6 center registered in Rivals’ recruiting database for 2013 committed to Northwestern…..and is planning to switch positions. Lancaster was evaluated as an offensive line prospect throughout his high school years, because that’s largely what he was. He joined Northwestern fully cognizant of the Wildcats’ relative thinness along the defensive line, and after exchanging thoughts with coaches, Lancaster appears to have agreed to playing defensive tackle.

Don’t let his late position choice fool you – Lancaster is well equipped to join the Wildcats’ defensive tackle contingent. His size (6’3’’, 275 pounds, according to Nusports.com) is something of a concern, but that’s nothing an intensive college weight training program and block meal planning can’t amend in a year’s time. Lancaster was a ferocious blocker at the point of attack while being named first-team All State at Plainfield East high school.

In three years of varsity football, he never gave up a single sack. Lancaster can bring that same trench mentality to the other side of the line and his extensive knowledge of not just blocking techniques but O-line protections and coordination in general will give him a mental edge in transitioning to defense.

What about next year? 

If you’re a Northwestern fan, there aren’t very many personnel concerns heading into this season. Cornerback is a little thin. The offensive line is replacing three starters. Losing a reliable possession receiver like Demetrius Fields hurts. All of those minor issues are worrisome in various measure, but none are nearly as pressing as defensive tackle, where stalwart Brian Arnfelt’s graduation leaves Will Hampton, Sean McEvily, Chance Carter and a score of new faces you’ve probably never heard from since signing day.

The Wildcats will need to shore up the D-tackle spot in preseason camp, and Lancaster may be able to aid that effort as early as this season. Let’s step back for a second: I’m not suggesting Lancaster will play in 2013. Contingencies and value judgments tend to get spun as matter of fact proclamations in this space. But what I am saying is (what Lloyd Christmas is saying) is there’s a chance. Because of the insecurity and lack of depth at the position, having another active body to add to the back of the depth chart wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Lancaster’s height and weight could preclude any possibility of eschewing his redshirt season, and he’s still in the midst of completing a transition to not only a different position, but a different macro-strategic objective (point scoring vs. point prevention), so for now it’s best to hold off on any predictions until Lancaster joins his teammates in preseason camp.

What about the future?

Playing next year would be an accelerated window for Lancaster. More realistically, he will sit this season out while adding mass and cementing the nuances of his position switch on scout team. The extra reps in non-pressure situations will allow him to develop freely and comfortably without making the same mistakes he’d otherwise commit in costly game situations. Look for Lancaster to suit up in 2014. This season is more about development and ingratiation.