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.
Pat Fitzgerald knew he needed receivers in his 2015 recruiting class. Late in June, he got his first one when Fessler chose Northwestern over Nebraska and a host of non-power five schools. Eventually, three other wideouts would join the Cathedral Prep product in NU's class--two on that same Monday in June--but Fessler still fills a specific niche that none of the other three will: he's a huge target. Cameron Green has size (6-foot-2), but with Kyle Prater departing this year and Christian Jones saying goodbye to Evanston after next season, Northwestern and offensive coordinator Mick McCall needed somebody like Fessler.
Fessler isn't just big. He isn't just tall. He's also long and is deceptively athletic. He's not quick, but he moves smoothly--Fessler also plays basketball--and his straight line speed is probably better than most 6-foot-4 football players. He runs his routes gracefully, and clearly can go up and get a jump ball in traffic. However, his route-running is a little unpolished, and at the next level he could struggle to get separation.
His highlight reel is nice, but don't get carried away with it. He'll be facing an entirely different level of athlete in college, and he won't be able to just blow by defensive backs with his average speed. You likely won't see NU running any screens to him either.
Northwestern needs help at receiver, and it needs help sooner rather than later. That much is clear, and that means Fessler should at least have an opportunity to impress over the summer. However, he might be third in the pecking order among freshman wideouts behind Green and Grant Perry. Green was the biggest get of the three and had the best offer list, and Perry was just named a first-team high school All-American by Scout. But the classes of 2013 and 2014 aren't exactly stacked at wide receiver, so Fessler could be a significant contributor on offense as early as his second or third year in Evanston.
Whether or not Fessler's career is a successful one might actually depend largely on how he is used, and on how Northwestern's offense evolves while he is in school. Until the latter half of last season, McCall wasn't able to get the most out of Kyle Prater, another tall, rangy target. And in general, the offensive trends are worrying from a wide receiver production standpoint. Guys like Prater were used a lot over the middle though. If the offense opens up, there could be room for Fessler to flourish as a true threat on the outside.