It seems like every time we do a recruiting update, there are a couple new commitments to talk about. Don't expect that to keep happening, as Northwestern only has a few spots left in the 2014 class. However, there are still some top targets out there who are strongly considering the Wildcats. We'll run through the week that was in NU recruiting, and for more updates, be sure to check our 2014 recruiting board regularly.
Northwestern's ninth commitment for the class of 2014 was one that most Wildcats fans had been waiting. Four-star running back Justin Jackson of Glenbard North High School in the Chicago suburbs had NU listed as his No. 1 school for awhile, and he finally pulled the trigger last week.
Jackson picked NU over Iowa, Vanderbilt and a host of others, and joins Clayton Thorson and Dareian Watkins as the third four-star in this class. He's considered a big back and a power runner, but he's deceptively quick for his size and has the ability to get to the edge. It will be interesting to see how he's used with NU's other backs — "big" runner Malin Jones and speedsters Stephen Buckley and Auston Anderson.
Initially, Jackson was hesitant about joining an offense that has placed so much emphasis on the option recently, since he's never run it before. However, he's met with the NU coaches many times and feels confident with the role he can play on the team:
"Coach McCall does an excellent job of changing the offense according to what players he has,” he said. “I’ve watched film with coach Mac [running backs coach Matt MacPherson] and the offense was a lot clearer to me.”
Northwestern got its tenth commitment of the 2014 class from Blake Hance, an offensive tackle who chose the Wildcats over Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois and others. Hance had been eyeing NU since he visited for the first time last July. An offer finally came on Tuesday and he committed Wednesday night:
“Honestly it was kind of my favorite all around,” he said. “It was basically my first real visit I took, back in July. I loved it; I loved everything about it, and every time I went back it got even better. So throughout the process I found myself comparing myself to Northwestern, so when they offered, I kind of jumped on it.”
Part of the reason an offer took so long to come was because Hance is a tight end in high school, but NU wanted him as an offensive tackle:
“The were only taking two offensive linemen and that I’ve never played offensive line before, and that’s what they wanted me as,” he said. “But I completely understand that it took them longer than other schools and I respect that they went throughout the process, and I’m glad I stuck throughout the process too.”
While it will be an adjustment for Hance to make the switch to offensive tackle at first and he'll have to put on weight, his background as a tight end could benefit him down the road. NU employs a lot of zone blocking schemes, which basically means that linemen have to be able to move upfield to block linebackers depending on the assignment. For this reason, the Wildcats prefer to have athletic linemen, rather than players who are really big but have trouble moving. There's precedent for the tight end to offensive tackle switch. Junior Jack Konopka came in as an offensive lineman, switched to superback as a freshman, then became the starting right tackle as a sophomore and will likely start at left tackle as a junior.
“I think with my athleticism, I think I’ll be able to transition into (offensive line) pretty well,” Hance said, “They said that they do a lot of zones and a lot of pulling and stuff like that, so I think my athleticism, and hopefully I can build the strength, and I think that will work out pretty well.”
- NU has about five spots left for its 2014 recruiting class, so we put together a list of who to watch in the coming months. (This came out before Hance committed and he's on this list, so ignore that).
- By our count, NU has beaten out 56 schools for its 10 commitments. Check out which schools have been the Wildcats' biggest victims.