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. Next up is Illinois.
Northwestern is a national program — that's what happens when you have a small alumni base that is spread all over the country — but as Pat Fitzgerald says, the Wildcats always want to start and end their recruiting in Chicago. Every assistant coach has a recruiting area in the city and the suburbs in an effort to keep the best players home. NU might not be the flagship state university in Illinois, but it's still based in Illinois, so it's no surprise that more Wildcats players come from Illinois than any other state. It's also necessary if NU wants to be consistently competitive.
The downstate area and the city are important, but it's the suburbs that NU must be able to dominate. We wrote in May that NU must be able to beat out fellow Big Ten programs for schools in 'The Glenbard Belt" — Wheaton, Naperville, Downers Grove, Lombard, Carol Stream, etc. — to have any chance of being a consistent top-flight Big Ten program. In the past couple years, the Wildcats have done a much better job of wining over Glenbard Belt players from schools like Iowa, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Now comes the hard, but necessary part: turning the area into a recruiting stronghold.
Current Players from Illinois
Hayden Baker (Trout Valley, Ill.), P.J. Carollo (Lake Bluff), Chance Carter (Evanston), Doug Diedrick (Woodridge), Matt Frazier (Bourbonnais), Tim Hanrahan (Frankfort), Eric Hauser (Lake Barrington), Pat Hickey (Chicago), Joseph Jones (Plano), Malin Jones (Naperville), Jack Konopka (Inverness), Dean Lowry (Rockford), Matt Micucci (Lake Zurich), Michael Odom (Naperville), Mike Panico (Libertyville), Alex Pieterzak (Burr Ridge), Kyle Prater (Maywood), C.J. Robbins (Peru), Troy Sheppard (Joliet), Mark Szott (Naperville), Mike Trumpy (Wheaton), Dan Vitale (Wheaton), Jarrell Williams (Robbins), Matt Alviti (Park Ridge), Tommy Fuessel (Frankfort), Matt Harris (LaGrange), Blake King (Minooka), Tyler Lancaster (Plainfield)
Not surprisingly, many of Northwestern's walk-ons come from Illinois, so don't be shocked if there are some players on this list that you have never heard of. However, some of the Wildcats' best players also hail from the Land of Lincoln. Jack Konopka, Chance Carter, Matt Frazier, Dan Vitale and Dean Lowry are all fighting for or guaranteed starting roles, while Kyle Prater, Malin Jones, Joseph Jones and Mike Trumpy are all solid players, and Prater could jump into the mix for starting consideration this season with a strong fall camp.
There's no positional split here — it's a very diverse group. There's the potential for two starting offensive linemen to come from Illinois, along with two starting defensive linemen. However, there's the chance for a lot of Illinois representation on the offensive line in the future. Blake King and Tyler Lancaster both come in as promising recruits, and they'll join an already deep unit. The 2013 class, in general, could be NU's best crop of new freshmen from Illinois in recent years.
2014 and Beyond
The Glenbard Belt? Northwestern has that covered in 2014. The Wildcats have picked up commitments from four-star quarterback Clayton Thorson of Wheaton North and four-star running back Justin Jackson of Glenbard North so far. They've also gotten offensive lineman Blake Hance from downstate Jacksonville, Ill. Perhaps the most significant part of this recruiting class is that the Wildcats got at least two of the three players they wanted from the suburbs. As we said above, that's essential if they want to be consistently competitive.
There's also the chance for NU to land one for Illinoisan in 2014: four-star cornerback Parrker Westphal. NU has some stiff competition for Westphal — namely Michigan, Ohio State and Florida — but he lists the Wildcats as one of his favorites, and it appears they have a decent chance with him. That would be the cherry on top of an already stellar 2014 recruiting class.