Negative recruiting is an unavoidable fact of any highly regarded prospect’s college-sampling cycle. Coaches bash other programs, sometimes completely untruthfully, in attempts to eliminate potential competitors, carelessly violating every level of existing common coaching courtesy and copping to a cutthroat recruiting venom that doesn’t pay any mind to one simple fact: the players notice. Noah Westerfield noticed.
When he spoke to Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald Tuesday night, Westerfield was immediately greeted by a wholly understanding and liberal approach from the NU coach – Fitzgerald not only didn’t apply undue pressure on Westerfield’s decision-making process, he openly encouraged the 6’4’’, 220-pound defensive end from Frisco, Tex. to explore any and every option before making any rash decisions.
“He’s in it for me,” Westerfield said Tuesday, emphasizing Fitzgerald’s sincerity throughout their relationship. “He wants me to go look at other schools and make the right decisions. I appreciate that.”
Those other schools, or the most relatively important grouping, reads as follows: SMU, Boise State. Westerfield currently holds nine scholarship offers, including NU, and considers the Wildcats and Mustangs his top two schools at the moment, with Boise a close second.
In late April, Westerfield praised Northwestern’s combination of outstanding academic reputation, favorable Chicagoland location and coaching staff. He longed for a scholarship offer from the Wildcats, got one a few weeks later, and then, all of a sudden, a strange and disconcerting feeling set in. Westerfield didn’t know if he fit into the Wildcats’ plans.
“I want to play outside ‘backer,” he said in a text message. “And I think they want me as a DE, so I need to talk to the coaches about my fit in the defense.”
The confusion, according to Westerfield, has been reduced to a non-issue, now that he and Fitzgerald traded thoughts and settled on the idea that rushing the passer, Westerfield’s biggest strength, is the fundamental responsibility Fitzgerald sees Westerfield assuming on NU’s defense. Fitzgerald did mention the possibility of Westerfield playing outside linebacker, but said defensive end in a 4-3 scheme – which would allow Westerfield to rush the passer and, using last season’s Gator Bowl interception return from Quentin Williams as a prime example, drop into coverage on occasion – is the position he sees Westerfield playing as a Wildcat.
“It’s pretty clear now,” Westerfield said. “I just want to rush the passer, and now I know I’ll be able to do that here.”
With or without Fitzgerald’s sincere encouragement to visit other programs, Westerfield plans to wait until early July (at the earliest) to make a decision. Westerfield will visit his Grandmother, who lives on the South Side of Chicago, on July 1 and plans to go on a campus tour sometime around that date.
Until then, per Fitzgerald’s urging, Westerfield plans to look around at his growing list of interested programs (he specifically mentioned Boise State) and fine-tuning his physical condition and pass-rushing skills.