Northwestern got its sixth commitment of the 2014 class last night from offensive tackle Tommy Doles, who announced the commitment as the first tweet from his newly created Twitter account. Doles is a three-star recruit from Grand Rapids, Mich., who had Michigan, Iowa State, Air Force and Army offers. Check out more about Doles and other recruits on our 2014 football recruiting board.
What's the Hype?
Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of conversation over who Northwestern's next commit might be. Doles never came up in the conversations. That's because back in January he declared that Michigan was his leader, and since it's rare that NU takes Michigan kids from the Wolverines, his NU recruitment fell off the radar a little bit. He did visit in early March, but there still wasn't much hype surrounding his recruitment, at least from an NU standpoint. However, he's now a Wildcat, and he turned down some pretty solid offers for that opportunity.
There's still the question of what happened with Michigan. Recently, the Wolverines picked up a commitment from offensive tackle Juwan Bushell-Beaty, and according to Michigan Rivals writer Andy Reid, UM doesn't plan on taking too many more linemen in this class, so that could have played into Doles' decision. It's tough to say what exactly caused Reid's change of heart over the past few months, but regardless, things played in NU's favor, as the Wildcats picked up a solid offensive lineman. Doles is a three-star recruit, and with some development, projects to be a solid Big Ten player down the road. NU's offensive line recruiting has been very solid in the past few classes, and Doles will be yet another member of an impressive core that's being built.
Where Does He Fit In?
The typical route for offensive linemen is to redshirt their first season, since that position, more than any other, demands a lot more physically in college than it does in high school. Considering Doles' size — 6-foot-5, 240 pounds — he will definitely need to bulk up in order to be a successful Big Ten tackle, and a redshirt year will provide him the opportunity to do this. That means he won't be in consideration to get playing time until at least the 2015 season, and that's a bit too far away to try to project his starting potential. Besides, a lot can change by then. Doles may have the frame to play tackle, but some schools recruited him as a guard, so there's always that possibility if Pat Fitzgerald decides that is where he can be the most helpful.
We mentioned it above, but the offensive line depth that NU has build up over the past few seasons is pretty impressive. It started with the 2011 class, which had offensive tackles Jack Konopka and Shane Mertz, and offensive guards Matt Frazier and Geoff Mogus, all of whom could start this season — Konopka played at superback as a true freshman, while the others redshirted. The 2012 class had four-star guard Adam DePietro, who will push for a starting spot, and it also had Eric Olson, Kenton Playko and Ian Park, who will all see time as backups this year after redshirting as true freshmen. It's tough to judge the 2013 class, since they've yet to be on campus. However, Sam Coverdale, Tyler Lancaster, Brad North and Blake King all are solid recruits who can continue to help build a solid core on the offensive line. Considering how well NU has recruited on the line, this could be the Wildcats' deepest unit for a few years to come, and Doles is yet another solid addition to provide more talent to an already deep group.