Clarity carried the day in Sam Coverdale’s recruitment. That’s the way he wanted it from the beginning, and the way it turned out in the end.
The other programs on his list, you see, had various flaws Coverdale just couldn’t get around. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer scared him off with a particularly unsettling team speech about violence and domestic abuse. Vanderbilt was just too hot, and their recruiting tactics were, let’s just say, curious. Stanford posed a travel issue; Coverdale wants his parents to be able to see his games.
The fewest warts, and the school with by far the most clear and candidly direct recruiting approach, was Northwestern.
“They’re respectful, they’re straightforward, they always let you know what’s going on,” Coverdale described of Northwestern’s coaching staff. The Wildcats were so honest, in fact, that Coverdale knew all along the gritty details of the dangers of stretching out his decision-making process. Coaches made sure to keep him updated on scholarship availability, and after fellow classmates Brad North and tackle Blake King gave their verbal commitments, Coverdale received a phone call informing him the Wildcats had one spot left along the offensive line.
“It sped things up, because I knew I was one phone call away from not being able to play here,” he said.
When he finally did make his commitment in early June, Coverdale knew he was making the right decision. The Wildcats were the only one of Coverdale’s top choices to remain steadfastly resolute every step of the way, giving no mixed signals at any point, and Coverdale, like Pat Fitzgerald, is a “blunt” guy – so his choice made the most possible sense.
“I’m not about flash. That’s not really important to me,” he said.
In the months after giving his verbal nod of approval, Coverdale sat back and watched his soon-to-be program – every single game, mind you – have one of its most successful seasons in school history, including winning a bowl game for the first time in over 60 years.
The Wildcats have Coverdale, and the rest of the 2013 class, rearing to get started on what they hope is another double-digit win season. Coverdale plans to report to campus for weight lifting sessions and summer school in June, an optional period Coverdale believes can help he and his teammates get an early jump on preseason preparations. "I'm just excited to get down there," he said.
Two moments about last season won’t leave Coverdale’s mind. The first came during Michigan game, wherein Roy Roundtree’s miraculously devastating late fourth-quarter hail mary catch led to an eventual Wolverines overtime victory, and foist upon Coverdale – who was entertaining his toddler neighbors during the game – the impossible task of reigning in his fury. “I couldn’t scream or anything, but that was awful,” he said.
The other was the Wildcats’ one-point loss to Nebraska, a contest Coverdale attended but declined a typical recruiting visit rite of passage: the post-game locker-room sit-in.
“I didn’t want to go in there after they lost,” he said. “I wouldn’t want anyone in my locker room.”
This season, Coverdale believes the lessons learned from three close losses will help the Wildcats build on their 10-win campaign. Even if he does wind up redshirting, which is the basic expectation, particularly for players like Coverdale whose admitted biggest weakness right now is “overall strength,” the 6’7’’ 270-pound tackle is is eager to compete and stake an early claim on the tackle depth chart.
A year away from first-team reps would allow him to hit a college weight room with the mandate of trying to improve his physical condition to the point where he can compete for playing time in an exceedingly deep offensive line rotation next fall.
He wants that competition, but Coverdale also wants everything to be clear, to be “blunt.” That natural mindset guided his college choice, and Coverdale couldn’t be happier with the end result.
“It all just came together perfectly,” Coverdale said of committing to Northwestern last year. “It felt right.”
Summer appointment is just around the corner, and after that, preseason workouts. Coverdale and, as we learned, perhaps the entirety of the 2013 class, will be on campus as early as June.
The message is fairly obvious: the newest Wildcats, Coverdale included, want to make this season as special as possible.