Northwestern picked up its 13th commitment for the class of 2014 on Monday, landing a verbal pledge from defensive end Noah Westerfield. Westerfield, a three-star prospect from Texas, chose NU over offers from Boise State and SMU, among others. He's one of several defensive ends that the Wildcats targeted in this class, and he's an important pickup to fill a need at that position. Check out or full breakdown below, and as always, stay updated on NU's full recruiting picture with our 2014 recruiting board.
Westerfield doesn't have any highlights on YouTube, so we don't have any to embed. However, he has some available on his Hudl page.
School: Wakeland (TX)
Other offers: Boise State, Duke, Fresno State, Navy, New Mexico, SMU
Profiles: Scout, Rivals, ESPN
What's the Hype?
Westerfield has an interesting story regarding his Northwestern recruitment. Normally, it's the coaches that reach out to the players, but this time, Westerfield was the one who reached out to Pat Fitzgerald and this staff. Chris Johnson had more on how the process went down back in May:
Parsing elite recruits’ school options is, even for the most discerning recruiting folk among us, a disorienting process. 2014 Frisco, Texas, Defensive end Noah Westerfield made the whole ordeal patently obvious. He contacted Northwestern, and no one else.
The response from Wildcats coaches, running backs coach Matt MacPherson in particular, was glowing. MacPherson quickly passed Westerfield’s game tape along to Pat Fitzgerald and the rest of the coaching staff, and before long Northwestern had coach Marty Long was visiting Westerfield at Wakeland High School. Westerfield talked with Long Tuesday and had nothing but positive feedback to report.
“It went great,” he said. “We talked for a brief moment and he accepted my test scores and said he would get that process going soon.”
Westerfield doesn't have as much hype as some of NU's other 2014 commitments, but as anyone who follows recruiting knows, that doesn't really matter. His hype built throughout the entire process and his recruitment certainly was on the rise over the past few months. Most importantly, he gives the Wildcats a defensive end, a position they have been targeting heavily, particularly as the class started to fill up. There's still a chance for another defensive end to join the class, but Westerfield seemed like the most likely one to commit from the beginning, so it was an important commitment for NU to secure.
Where He Fits In
Westerfield considered playing either defensive end or outside linebacker in college, and for awhile he seemed to be leaning toward the latter — so much so that he actually called Pat Fitzgerald to make sure he could still fit into NU's system as a defensive end. That could have been a deal-breaker in his recruitment, but he figured things out with Fitzgerald:
“I want to play outside ‘backer,” he said in a text message. “And I think they want me as a DE, so I need to talk to the coaches about my fit in the defense.”
The confusion, according to Westerfield, has been reduced to a non-issue, now that he and Fitzgerald traded thoughts and settled on the idea that rushing the passer, Westerfield’s biggest strength, is the fundamental responsibility Fitzgerald sees Westerfield assuming on NU’s defense. Fitzgerald did mention the possibility of Westerfield playing outside linebacker, but said defensive end in a 4-3 scheme – which would allow Westerfield to rush the passer and, using last season’s Gator Bowl interception return from Quentin Williams as a prime example, drop into coverage on occasion – is the position he sees Westerfield playing as a Wildcat.
“It’s pretty clear now,” Westerfield said. “I just want to rush the passer, and now I know I’ll be able to do that here.”
The Quentin Williams comparison is an interesting one. Westerfield is one inch shorter than Williams and 50 pounds lighter, but the point was likely more to show how versatile NU needs its defensive ends to be, rather than to compare both players. Westerfield will undoubtedly put on a good amount of weight in college, but he's not an overpowering defensive end. Rather, he's an athletic, versatile player who can rush the passer, but also drop back in coverage when needed. In that respect, he's more of an Ifeadi Odenigbo kind of player, as opposed to guys like Tyler Scott and Dean Lowry. Once he puts on some more weight, he'll have the potential to be an impact player with big-play ability, both in coverage and in pass-rushing situations.