In the rush of Northwestern’s relatively early pile-on of verbal commitments in 2014, looking ahead to how the Wildcats might fill out the last of their 15 spots was a natural inclination. Everybody was quick to throw out their final candidates (including, ahem, us), but while doing so we may have forgotten one critically important thing: signing day is still more than six months away. As much as verbal commitments have trended earlier over the past half-decade, some high school players still prefer to string out their decisions deep into their senior seasons. Or maybe they don’t have the resources to visit all the schools they want to unofficially, and need to use official visits in the fall to survey every possible option. The reasons vary. The message does not: recruiting runs year-round. Not every player is ready to finalize his college choice before his senior season.
This is common knowledge. When thinking about how Pat Fitzgerald and his staff will put the finishing touches on Northwestern’s 2014 class specifically, it’s important to observe patience, refrain from drawing too many hard conclusions too early in the process (guilty as charged) and generally take the long view when gauging if/when players may or may not commit. Today we look at some of Northwestern’s top targets at the moment, and lucky for us, many of them are grouped in one specific area of the country. My plan is to take you through a little rundown of some of NU’s West Coast targets. Onward:
The biggest advantage Northwestern has in Wiley’s recruitment is its expedience in recognition. The Wildcats were Wiley’s first “big offer," and he still has the Wildcats as his unqualified leader. Interest from top Pac-12 programs, including USC and Stanford, could compromise NU’s grip on the Cathedral (Los Angeles) defensive back, a talented prospect at a position of need (Wiley could play cornerback or safety; NU is looking at him more as a safety). Ironically enough, Northwestern’s location could end up helping the Wildcats in their pursuit of Wiley – his mom is encouraging Wiley to leave California so she has a convenient travel location. “She’d prefer I not stay here,” Wiley told InsideNU in April. Wiley plans to visit NU within the next few weeks.
School: Los Angeles, Cathedral (CA)
Other offers: California, Cal Poly, Fresno State
Profiles: Scout, Rivals, ESPN
Notes: Told us NU is his No. 1 as of now; Nice article on Wiley's excitement over a Big Ten offer, from Rivals; Also receiving interest from Nebraska, Michigan and UCLA, among others
It wasn’t that long ago Robinson was considered one of Northwestern’s likeliest final commitments in 2014, with a verbal pledge expected on his June visit. Robinson received a UCLA offer last week, which not only pushed the Wildcats down a notch on his list of schools, but also changed NU’s entire DB focus for this class. Robinson maintains he will probably still make a visit in July, but the Bruins are his clear leaders right now, and unless his Evanston visit convinces him otherwise, it’s hard to see how the Wildcats could jump UCLA before he commits.
The situation surrounding Soesman’s recruitment could prolong the resolution of Northwestern’s 2014 class far longer than anyone might have predicted just a few weeks ago. Soesman picked up an NU offer after Robinson moved UCLA above the Wildcats, and immediately put the Wildcats in his top two. If he commits to Northwestern, it won’t be until the fall, when he plans to make an official visit to Evanston. In the meantime, Stanford and UCLA are intensifying their discussions with Soesman; if either school offers, both would have the advantage of being able to host him for unofficial visits.
School: Clovis, Buchanan (CA)
Other offers: Arizona State, Fresno State, Houston, Oregon State, San Jose State, Washington State
Profiles: Scout, Rivals, ESPN
Notes: Received offer on June 25 and has NU in his top two with Oregon State
No offer on the table quite yet, but if Northwestern’s other defensive end/linebacker/tweener prospects direct their attractions elsewhere, Emesibe could be a player to watch over the next few months. He currently holds several Pac-12 offers and has an older brother, Melvin Emesibe, who plays running back at UCLA. A Bruins offer could end Emesibe’s recruitment (and potential interest in Northwestern) rather quickly.
School: Oak Hills (CA)
Profiles: Scout , Rivals, ESPN
Other offers: Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado State, San Diego State, Washington State, Yale
Notes: Has been in contact with Northwestern, Oregon Boise State
Academic prestige is Northwestern’s biggest selling point for Okereke, who holds a 4.47 GPA and told InsideNU earlier this month, “It would definitely be nice to get a cushy job in Chicago.” The Wildcats have met their academic equal in the hot pursuit for Okereke’s services: Stanford offered last week after he impressed coaches at a camp. With their combination of scholarly renown and surging football momentum, the Cardinal appear to have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Okereke practically confirmed Stanford’s No. 1 status in a story with CardinalSportsReport.com last week. When discussing his group of favorites (USC, Cal, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Washington, Oregon, Stanford), Okereke said he would “put them [Stanford] at the top of that list […]”
School: Foothill (CA)
Other offers: Arizona State, Boise State, California, Colorado, Stanford, Harvard, Oregon, USC, Vanderbilt, Washington
Profiles: Rivals, Scout, ESPN
Notes: Will chop down list to four or five by end of June; Said he would like to visit Northwestern sometime this summer; Has the Wildcats in his top seven,according to Wildcat Report (subscriber only)
When he revealed his top five (Boise State, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Oregon, Vanderbilt) a few weeks back, Northwestern looked like a long shot to land the three-star defensive end out of Corona (California). After receiving an offer from USC, any lingering chance NU might have had at swaying Johnson is fading fast. Like a couple of the players on this list, Johnson could soon become a lost cause in NU’s 2014 recruiting priorities. He recently sat down with USCFootball. com, and basically praised every aspect of USC’s program: “USC is where the elite football players go," said Johnson. "Of course there is that, plus it is close to my mom and close to home, so they can come see me play." Johnson expects to make a decision this summer.
School: Corona Centennial (CA)
Other offers: Boise State, Notre Dame, Oregon, Vanderbilt, Arizona, USC, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Fresno State, Idaho, Miami (FL), Oregon State, San Diego State, TCU, Utah, UTEP, Washington State
Profiles: Rivals, Scout, ESPN
Notes: NU has strong competition for him, but Wildcats are in his top 6.
The 2014 recruiting class has three spots remaining, and some of the players you see above might make the cut. Maybe none of them will. At this stage of the recruiting calendar, not to bash you over the head with a rehashed preamble, but I can't stress this point enough. Time has not yet run out on the 2014 clock. Northwestern still has time to evaluate, reevaluate, discover, host and offer new prospects between now and signing day. The West Coast picture looks bleaker than it did a few weeks ago, but Northwestern remains a prime option for a couple of these players. Recruiting is a fluid entity, and there is no more relevant case in point than Northwestern’s batch of West Coast targets.