Before ever hearing anything about scholarship offers or class size or any of the other small details prospects are typically informed of by college coaches, Alec Murphy elected to visit Northwestern’s campus four times, and he’s grown more attracted to the Wildcats with each passing trip. The latest occasion came this summer, while attending coach Pat Fitzgerald’s Chicagoland Showcase recruiting camp.
And apparently, four visits weren’t enough to sate his interest in the Wildcats. Murphy plans to make a return trip as soon as this fall.
“I like that it’s the suburbs of a big city,” Murphy said Sunday of Northwestern’s Evanston campus. “I just think the campus is really beautiful."
The package of quality academics and an improving football product make Northwestern, at this early stage of his recruitment, one of his favorite schools. Missouri, Arkansas and Mississippi State are the other programs he holds in high regard, though he has yet to receive a scholarship offers from any of them, and plans to visit plenty of other schools before even beginning to consider whittling down his choices. Notre Dame, Georgia, Florida State, Michigan State, Nebraska and Alabama are among some of the other schools that have expressed a desire to track Murphy’s performance.
But his genuine interest in Northwestern is unmistakable, even as Murphy just begins to scratch the initial stages of his college search process. He reached out to defensive end Noah Westerfield, Northwestern’s most recent 2014 commit, to applaud his decision, and offer some insight as to why the Wildcats have emerged as one of his top schools.
“The coaching staff is amazing, and just really nice,” he said. “Their football program, I really do like it.”
Since working out in front of Northwestern running backs coach Matt MacPherson, who Murphy reported was riding a scooter around campus after suffering an injury to his lower extremity (I’d think we’d all like some confirmation on this), Murphy has conducted football workouts* specifically to address a point MacPherson made while watching him struggle through drills: catching passes.
“Since then, all I’ve done is work on my catching,” he said. “I’ve improved my catching because I really want to be recruited by them.”
Most national recruiting services have the same general opinion about Northwestern’s 2014 recruiting class: it’s really good, arguably the best of Fitzgerald’s tenure. Murphy hasn’t followed the Wildcats’ recruiting intently enough to know about all of NU’s commitments in 2014, but he does know about the running backs Northwestern secured verbal commitments from, and the impression he gets – that the Wildcats attract really talented players at his position – makes him think even more highly of a potential future at Northwestern.
The general momentum of the program, coming off a 10-win season and its first bowl win in more than six decades, is another data point in a growing list of positive checkmarks. Murphy doesn’t need stats to validate that sentiment; his experience touring facilities and meeting players on campus was proof enough that the Wildcats are not only winning football games, but developing culture necessary to become a sustained winner several years down the road.
“I can just tell,” he said. “Just by stepping into the locker room, what they’ve done and what they’re going to do. They have lots of momentum and lots of positive energy. That’s one big thing I look for.”
There will be plenty of time to discuss Murphy’s prospective fit in Northwestern’s 2015 recruiting plans, and the likelihood of him becoming a part of the Wildcats’ promising future at the running back position. The biggest thing on his mind right now is maintaining a strong relationship with coaches and returning to campus this fall for a home game.
His recruitment is just beginning to take shape, and already, Murphy is giving off strong indications he would like to be considered a part of Northwestern’s 2015 scholarship offer plans.
The Wildcats might well reciprocate his interest sometime over the next year.
*(One interesting note from Murphy’s last visit was the idea that NU coaches instructed Murphy to train both as a linebacker and a running back. They want him to be flexible enough to play on either side of the ball, according to Murphy. This order could merely be to ascertain Murphy’s best positional fit, or perhaps the Wildcats genuinely do envision a future where Murphy lines up on offense and defense. The former seems more likely.)
School: Nixa (MO)
Schools With Interest: Arkansas, California, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Michigan State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Western Michigan
Profiles: Rivals, Scout, 24/7
Notes: Met with NU coaches and spoke highly of that experience, according to Scout (subscriber only)