Jordan Thompson Jared Thomas Joe Gaziano Trent Goens Nathan Fox Simba Short John Moten Cameron Green Adam Lemke-Bell Tommy Vitale Montre Hartage Flynn Nagel Charlie Fessler Trae Williams Jelani Roberts Alonzo Mayo Steven Reese Andrew Otterman Lloyd Yates Jacob Murray
Following a relatively quiet offseason, Northwestern's football program will welcome members of its 2015 recruiting class to the program on Feb. 4 for National Signing Day. Even with de-commitments from some of the Wildcats' top targets, Pat Fitzgerald and co. still managed to put together a solid class. As of now, Northwestern's crop of new talent ranks 47th nationally, according to 247 Sports, the same rank they had last year. We'll be putting out player capsules like these in the lead up to National Signing Day so you can learn more about this new bunch of Wildcats.
Position: Defensive End
Hometown: Westwood, Mass.
High School: Xaverian Brothers
247 Composite Ranking: ★★★ (.8643)
National Rank: 564
Position Rank: 31
State Rank: 1
Other offers: Boston College, Rutgers, UMass
MORE: 247 Profile | Hudl | Twitter
Joe Gaziano has a list of accomplishments the length of your arm. In his last season at Xaverian Brothers High School, he locked up a state championship, won ESPNBoston’s Mr. Football Award (the first given to a primarily defensive player in its history), was a USA Today All-USA Second Team selection, and, the number that sticks out, was ranked as the No. 1 overall recruit in the state of Massachusetts. Overall, not a bad haul for the young man.
Gaziano was offered by Northwestern in February of 2014, visited a month later, then verbally committed in April. Gaziano is reportedly interested in going pre-med, and in an interview with Nick Medline and Scout.com, said "[Northwestern] set themselves apart because of what Coach Fitz is preaching and what happens after football." Gaziano checks just about every box for what Northwestern looks for in recruits.
At 6-foot-4 (or 6-foot-3, depending on which site you look at), and 230 pounds (or 245 according to his Hudl account), Gaziano has the height coaches love to see in the trenches, and a build that can pack on a lot more weight. He gets off the blocks quick and loves going for the speed rush around the tackle tasked with blocking him. You can see in a lot of those highlights that Gaziano starts off really wide, giving him a chance to better use that speed. It’s hard to imagine him just relying on speed alone at the next level, but with time and 20-30 more pounds, there’s no reason that Gaziano can’t become an all-around threat. Plus he has hands! Look at that touchdown catch!
Northwestern’s deepest position might be defensive end. With Deonte Gibson, Dean Lowry, Ifeadi Odenigbo, and Xavier Washington all coming back next year, it’s hard to imagine Gaziano getting on the field during his first year on campus, but that might not be a bad thing. Just as Ifeadi Odenigbo came in a little too small to play defensive end, Gaziano too is going to have to hit the weight room hard before becoming a legitimate Big Ten defensive lineman. He'll likely redshirt, and once Lowry and Gibson leave, there should definitely be openings on the edges of the front four.
Gaziano comes from a state not exactly known for its football prowess. Even as the number one recruit in the state, he is still just a three star recruit on nearly every recruiting site. Wildcat fans can either see that as disrespect for Massachusetts high school football, or reason to be concerned. It’s still impressive that NU was able to go into Boston and pull him away from BC, who netted 7 of the top 11 Massachusetts recruits.
The hope for Gaziano is that he can pack on some weight and become an every down lineman, like Deonte Gibson. Even if he doesn't, his twitter feed may be the best NU has seen since Bo Cisek.
First time buying a scratch ticket after my 18th birthday and I didn't even get carded...— Joe Gaziano (@meanJoeBiden) October 13, 2014
#tmlt not even mad because I just won $500— Joe Gaziano (@meanJoeBiden) October 13, 2014
You might not need to know the name Gaziano in 2015, but don’t be surprised if he’s getting some snaps in 2016.