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: Outside Linebacker
HOMETOWN: Wheaton, IL
HIGH SCHOOL: Wheaton Warrenville South
247 COMPOSITE RATING: ★★★ (.8503)
NATIONAL RANK: 872
POSITION RANK: 52
STATE RANK: 19
OTHER OFFERS: Syracuse, Northern Illinois, Toledo, Western Michigan.
MORE: 247 Profile | Hudl | Twitter
Northwestern was a natural fit for Tommy Vitale, as his brother Dan Vitale is a superback entering his senior year who's been a major part of the program. His hometown of Wheaton is also less than an hour away, traffic permitting. Tommy has been committed to Northwestern since April, so it's safe to assume that he knew that he did indeed want to follow in his brother's footsteps and wasted no time in giving Northwestern his word.
Vitale hasn't followed in his brother's footsteps on the field though. While Dan is a superback, Tommy opted for the other side of the ball, and is an outside linebacker--one who's relatively quick and appears to have good football instincts. He's aggressive and tackles hard when he does get to the football. It's hard to watch this video and not think of Dan; the two look uncannily similar in a football uniform. Vitale's strength seems to be his tackling and ability to get into the backfield. However, as always, the transition to playing against bigger and stronger opponents is something he'll have to overcome.
The linebacker position is one of Northwestern's biggest question marks going into next season. Both starting outside linebackers from Opening Day 2014 are no longer with the program--Collin Ellis retired from football midway through last year and Chi Chi Ariguzo has graduated. Some expect Traveon Henry to move back to his outside linebacker spot, leaving one starting outside linebacking spot up for grabs. Drew Smith is the favorite to get that job, but the sheer lack of outside linebackers might force Vitale to play in a season in which he probably should redshirt. If he can add 10 or 15 pounds to his frame, he could find his way onto the active roster and maybe, just maybe, find his way onto the field in third-down or passing situations.