We just did a recruiting roundup last Thursday, but it's been a busy weekend for NU football recruiting, so we'll give you yet another update on what's been happening. As always, but sure to check our 2014 football recruiting board for updates throughout the year.
Northwestern picked up its sixth commitment of the 2014 class from Michigan offensive lineman Tommy Doles. Doles has been recruited as both a guard and a tackle, and at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, he has to put a lot of weight on his frame before he's ready for a Big Ten field. Doles committed via Twitter on Friday.
For my first "tweet" I'd like to say that I officially committed to play football at Northwestern University! #
— tommy doles (@TommyDoles) May 4, 2013
Doles' recruitment was an interesting one. He declared Michigan as his favorite school in January, so he fell of the radar for a lot of NU followers. The Wolverines recently got a commitment from another offensive lineman, and according to writer Andy Reid of TheWolverine.com, UM doesn't have many more offensive line slots open for this class. That could have been a factor in Doles' commitment to NU. Regardless, it's a win for the Wildcats as they look to build on recent offensive line recruiting success.
The big recruiting news on Monday was the addition of four-star receiver Dareian Watkins of Galion, Ohio. Watkins had pegged Northwestern as one of his top schools for awhile, and most people believed he was down to NU and Michigan State. Once Watkins chose the Wildcats, becoming their seventh commit for 2014, an interesting discussion started — does this class have the potential to be NU's best ever? It's certainly shaping up that way. NU already has two four-star recruits and a host of talented three star players who turned down some impressive offers — Tennessee, Nebraska and Michigan among them — to become a Wildcat. There are even more possibilities on the board who list NU as their top school, including four-star running back Justin Jackson and three-star running back Auston Anderson, who has a Texas offer. If NU's recruiting continues on this path, this will be a pretty unprecedented class heading to Evanston in 2014.
But on to Watkins... When he visited NU, he thought his role could possibly be similar to Tony Jones' current role:
"He runs a 4.53-second 40-yard dash and noted the success of NU’s current speedy receiver, Tony Jones. However, unlike Jones and Vault, Watkins has a big frame. He’s 6-foot-2, and his combination of size and speed makes him a great target, and it’s why he was so highly sought after as a recruit."
Top recruits are never guaranteed to have success in college, but Watkins is clearly a talented player that a number of schools wanted. If he's as good as advertised, the Wildcats will have a very versatile receiver on their hands when he gets to Evanston.
Davison to follow Watkins to NU?
An interesting sub-story to Watkins' commitment is the recruitment of 2015 athlete LaCario Davison. Davison lives with Watkins' family and refers to Dareian as his "brother." When the two visited in March, Davison was immediately sold on Northwestern, and while he hasn't been offered a scholarship yet, he said he was "dead set" on NU.
Not much has changed two months later. Davison still has NU as his No. 1 school — ahead of a "next four" of Michigan State, Indiana, Louisville and Illinois — and while he doesn't have any offers yet, he has a lot of Big Ten interest. He speaks with Pat Fitzgerald on occasion:
“He [Fitzgerald] just tells me to keep my grades up and keep the good work up,” Davison said. “He said he’d like to have me, but there are no promises.”
Davison is recovering from an ACL tear, but he figures to have Big Ten interest if he can come back strong from his injury. Watkins had a glowing endorsement of Davison in an interview with TheOzone.net:
"Cario is 6-1, 190 can run and hit like (Troy) Polamalu. We call him Polamalu because he plays like him and looks like him. Cario is just getting started with recruiting."
Jackson has NU at No. 1
We wrote last week that Northwestern might have lucked out that Vanderbilt received a commitment from another running back, because that could be a deterrent for NU target Justin Jackson, who is choosing between NU, Vanderbilt and Iowa. The Wildcats have been Jackson's No. 1 for awhile, but he's become increasingly intrigued with the Commodores and the Hawkeyes. However, he reiterated that NU has a pretty good edge:
“Northwestern is out in front,” he said Friday. “That’s pretty clear right now.”
Jackson is a four-star, so he's naturally attracting a lot of attention. He just picked up an offer from Mississippi State and noted that while he does have NU at the top of his list, "there's a lot to consider." One of the things to consider is NU's offense. Typically, the spread and the option are things that attract the recruits that the Wildcats go after, but Jackson had some concerns about it:
Since Northwestern became the second school to offer Jackson last June, the Wildcats have undergone semi-revolutionary shift in offensive operation. They installed an option package, used it to great effect and, based on how consistently productive it was last season, are more than likely planning on making it a featured staple of the offense.
That means Jackson would potentially join the Wildcats having to learn a completely unfamiliar package. “I’ve never been in that type of offense,” he said. Fears of bad fit or problematic scheme-to-skills adaptability were quickly erased by running backs coach Matt MacPherson’s informative sit-down with Jackson, wherein MacPherson clearly delineated Jackson’s envisioned role in the offense and eased whatever fears he may have had about running into problems learning the option-read.
“That made me more comfortable,” he said. “It [the option] would be an adventure, but it intrigues me. Definitely.”
Ultimately, though, Jackson still sees NU as a fit, and that's mainly because of the people.
“You get this family attraction walking around and meeting people there. That’s just how I felt personally, and I didn’t get that feeling everywhere else I’ve been.”
There's no timeline for Jackson's commitment.
Westerfield gets NU offer
As far as recruiting goes, Noah Westerfield is a strange case. Most of the time, the schools are the ones reaching out to the players, but in Westerfield's case it was the reverse — he reached out to NU. The Wildcat coaches liked what they saw and got in tough. We wrote about Westerfield's story last week, and he said he was very close to an offer. That offer came Saturday night.
#Northwestern has offered 2014 DE Noah Westerfield (@noahjdiwest) Our story: bit.ly/10Qjvik
— Inside Northwestern (@insidenu) May 5, 2013
Before the offer came, Westerfield listed NU as one of his top three schools, along with SMU and New Mexico. He's also drawing interest from Oklahoma State, Baylor, Boise State and LSU.
Jashon Cornell gets NU offer
Pat Fitzgerald isn't too keen on giving out offers to kids too early on in their careers, but he handed one out to current sophomore and 2015 recruit Jashon Cornell over the weekend. Cornell, a defensive end/linebacker from Minnesota, is one of the top-ranked recruits in the 2015 class and figures to have a lot of offers by the time his commitment is over. Obviously, he's nowhere near ready to decide on a school or rank his finalists, but he visited NU in March and had some interesting things to say. We picked out the best quotes:
"I really liked the jerseys," said Cornell following an unofficial visit to Evanston last weekend with his mother.
“Academics is really important to me,” he said. “I’m planning on majoring in business and law, and I can definitely do that here.”
Specifically, Cornell raved about the possibility of embarking on an internship in Chicago after his sophomore season, where a personal mentor would guide him through a trial at a business firm in the city. He frequently cited Chicago, and all its employment and diversionary opportunities, as one of the most attractive features of Northwestern – how it would allow him to pursue his academic goals while enjoying the benefits of a big city lifestyle.
“Being in downtown Chicago would be great,” he said. “It’s one of the top cities in the country. The campus is really nice, too.”
Again, don't take too much from this. Cornell is a long way from picking a school and NU will have some tough competition, but he had some nice things to say about the school and clearly hasn't ruled the Wildcats out.