Recruiting season is in full swing, so our next series — recruiting pipeline check-ins — will focus on where Northwestern’s recruits are coming in. The Wildcats have built strong pipelines from Texas, California, Ohio, New Jersey and Illinois, and we’ll run through each one to let you know NU’s future plans for each pipeline. Our final state is Ohio.
Over the last couple decades, there has been a well-documented shift of talent moving south. However, Ohio remains one of the most preeminent football states in the country, and that's evidenced by the fact that the SEC still tries to raid the state. Even with the demand from the SEC and traditional powers like Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame, there is still plenty of talent in Ohio to go around, and Northwestern has done a good job of finding some underrated players there through the years.
However, it isn't just the underrated stars that NU targets. The Wildcats have pulled some top players from the state in recent years, including Ifeadi Odenigbo, who was rated the top player in the Midwest in 2012. NU also isn't limited to just one area in the state. The strongholds are obviously Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus, but the Wildcats have gotten players from mid-size towns all around Ohio, and the last few classes have shown just how important that pipeline has been.
Current Players from Ohio
Chi Chi Ariguzo (Gahanna, OH), C.J. Bryant (Gahanna), Sam Coverdale (Chagrin Falls), Deonte Gibson (Lakewood), Chris Gradone (Cincinnati), Jimmy Hall (Toledo), Godwin Igwebuike (Pickerington), Zak Kucera (Chesterland), Greg Kuhar (Concord Township), Marcus McShepard (University Heights), Geoff Mogus (Lorain), Hunter Niswander (Peninsula), Ifeadi Odenigbo (Centerville), Kenton Playko (Lewis Center), Jaylen Prater (Hamden), Tyler Scott (Warren), Drew Smith (Cincinnati), Nick VanHoose (Urbana), Keith Watkins (Cincinnati)
It's pretty incredible how much talent on this roster comes from Ohio. For the most part, the players NU has gotten from the state in recent years have turned out to be excellent additions. The obvious best player of the group is Tyler Scott, who is arguably the best player on the team and should receive plenty of consideration for first team All-Big Ten honors. However, the rest of the "Ohio" roster is littered with possible future stars.
Nick VanHoose has the potential to be a four-year starter at NU and he figures to be the Wildcats' best corner again this year. Drew Smith has breakout potential this year, and he's a name to watch as NU's "linebacker of the future." Linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo broke out last year and he'll be a staple on what should be one of NU's best linebacker corps since Pat Fitzgerald was a player. Deonte Gibson, Geoff Mogus, Jimmy Hall and C.J. Bryant will also play significant roles on the team, and Gibson and Mogus could end up starting.
Then there are the young guys. It's never a guarantee that young talent will pan out, but the Wildcats have so much of it in this group that some of them are bound to. Redshirt freshmen Ifeadi Odenigbo, Greg Kuhar and Kenton Playko both have bright futures, while incoming freshmen Godwin Igwebuike, Keith Watkins, Hunter Niswander, Sam Coverdale and Marcus McShepard all had glowing reviews coming out of high school. This could be a special group for years to come.
2014 and Beyond
Barring something unforeseen, Northwestern seems to be done recruiting Ohio in 2014. However, in a class of just 15 — 13 so far — the Wildcats have pulled three players from the state — Ben Oxley, Dareian Watkins and Nathan Hall. Watkins is the most highly-touted recruit of the group, choosing NU over Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan State and a number of others. He's a playmaker who should be a great asset at receiver for the Wildcats.
Watkins' new teammates, Ben Oxley and Nathan Hall, weren't as highly-touted recruits, but both bring something interesting to the table. Oxley has typically been an offensive lineman, but he'll switch to the defensive side of the ball when he gets to school. Hall, the brother of current Wildcat Jimmy Hall, got a late offer from NU, but he jumped on it right away. He's an athletic player who some schools saw as a safety, but he'll play linebacker in college, which should fit NU's system well.