When three highly-coveted superback prospects from the state of Illinois (Nic Weishar, Ian Bunting and Daniel Helm) committed to three schools not named Northwestern last week, a nickname was born. Terrible Tuesday, was the phrase of operation, and at the time, it seemed sort of silly.
Losing three in-state superbacks hurts, sure, but the recruiting process doesn’t end in April, and there are more than enough variously skilled prospects at the position who would jump at the chance to play for the Wildcats. Northwestern may have found its answer in Matt Sokol – a 6’5’’, 226-pound high school quarterback with excellent speed, football insincts and, what one Rivals.com scout called, “hands of glue.”
He was on campus for Northwestern’s modified spring “scrimmage” last month. One of the first things he noticed, besides the bat-spinning, hot-dog eating schadenfreude that took place after the game, was the athleticism and versatility of the players at his position.
“They all seemed really athletic,” Sokol said. “They were splitting out, catching lots of routes. They were almost like hybrid of tight ends, running backs and receivers.”
The wealth of responsibility at superback is something Sokol embraces. Conventional tight are typically dealt a larger blocking load, and Sokol is admittedly open to the mundaneness of trench pass protection, but the offensive potential at superback – the splitting out and route-running and dizzying hybrid versatility he mentioned – is an intriguing concept.
In the end, whether catching passes or no, Sokol has one overriding principle guiding his recruitment: get to the Big Ten. He’s always wanted to play in the Midwest’s premier conference, which makes the Wildcats – along with Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State and Minnesota, other conference foes that have reached out to Sokol – an appealing option.
“That’s always been a big goal,” he said. “It’s a dream and I feel like I’m capable of playing in the Big Ten.”
He described his interest from Northwestern coaches as “humbling,” and in the coming weeks, it could get a lot more serious than that. Northwestern running backs coach coach Matt MacPherson reached out to Sokol a few weeks ago, and the two have remained in contact since. Sokol made tentative plans to meet with either MacPherson or superbacks coach Bob Heffner in the near future.
With three offers (Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green) currently on the table, Sokol hopes to make a decision sometime this summer. Before that happens, Sokol plans to attend Northwestern’s “one-days” in June, a camp for prospective recruits. That would seem like an obvious opportunity for Sokol to move one step closer to landing his first Big Ten offer.
If the Wildcats do extend him that opportunity, Sokol would have a difficult decision to make. “Northwestern is very high on my list,” he said.
One point Sokol won’t budge on: when he does commit, it will be the type of unrelenting bond coach Pat Fitzgerald rams home each and every time he mentions his philosophy on recruiting. “I don’t do soft commitments” – that’s the way Fitzgerald sees it, and Sokol feels exactly the same way.
“I’m going to stick with my commitment. I don’t plan on decommitting, so before I make a decision I want to know I’m 100 percent sure.”
Fitz-speak wise, Sokol isn’t “terrible” at all. If his football skills measure up to his approach on verbal commitments, the idea of a “terrible Tuesday” will go away more rapidly than its hastily crafted inception.