It's been more than two months now since Northwestern slumped to defeat against Illinois, and thus slumped to another bowl-less 5-7 season. Since then, for many, football has drifted away into hibernation until at least spring, if not summer. But every year on the first Wednesday in February, football pokes its head out. That day is National Signing Day.
Signing Day is a weird phenomenon, because for most schools--Northwestern included--much of the work has already been done. Pat Fitzgerald and his staff have toiled behind the scenes for over a year to put together a 2015 recruiting class. Hundreds of hours and phone calls and letters have gone into the process. And finally, on Signing Day, it all comes together. The puzzle is complete.
Signing Day is a celebration of all those hours, all that work. It's also a day of perennial optimism. Upon the shoulders of the "young men" that signed National Letters of Intent today rests immeasurable hope. And that, above all, is why everybody loves signing day.
So without further ado, here is what you need to know about the class upon which all that hope rests. Meet Northwestern football's recruiting class of 2015:
By the Numbers
- After signing 15 players last year, Northwestern's 2015 class is 20-deep. It features four wide receivers, four defensive backs, three linebackers, three offensive linemen, three defensive linemen, one "athlete," one running back and one quarterback.
- On the eve of Signing Day, Northwestern's class was ranked 49th in the country by 247 Sports, 47th by Scout, and 50th by Rivals. By comparison, NU's 2014 class was ranked 47th, 59th and 68th respectively.
- According to most recruiting sites, Northwestern's class doesn't include any four- or five-star recruits. According to 247, the class comprises 19 three-stars and one two-star. Last year's class had four four-star prospects--Parker Westphal, Clayton Thorson, Garrett Dickerson and Justin Jackson.
- The most heavily represented state is Illinois (5). Other states from which multiple signees hail are Maryland (2), California (2), Ohio (2), Georgia (2) and Texas (2).
How the class came together
- Northwestern's first commit was Nathan Fox, who gave Pat Fitzgerald his pledge back on April 11 of 2014. That kickstarted a run of seven commitments in five days, although only five of the seven would eventually honor their commitment.
- Ten more future Wildcats committed during the months of May, June and July. The biggest day was June 24, when Fitzgerald picked up pledges from three wide receivers in a span of 12 hours.
- However, as has become the norm these days, Northwestern wasn't able to hold onto all the players they were originally counting on. Four-star twins Andrew and David Dowell, the crown jewels of the class, de-committed in late July. More recently, with signing day less than a week away, Zach Allen flipped to Boston College and Grant Perry flipped to Michigan.
What makes the class unique
- The nearly unanimous top player in the class is defensive tackle Jordan Thompson, who had an offer from Notre Dame and other top schools.
- As mentioned above, the class includes at least four wide receivers, and it's a diverse group. Jelani Roberts is a 5-foot-7 speedster; Flynn Nagel is a crafty 5-foot-11 slot guy; Cameron Green, the most highly-rated of the four, is a 6-foot-2 all-around wideout; and Charlie Fessler, at 6-foot-4, is long and athletic.
- There are two pairs of high school teammates in the class. Roberts and cornerback Alonzo Mayo played together at the Gilman School in Maryland, and quarterback Lloyd Yates and offensive lineman Adam Lemke-Bell both attended Oak Park and River Forest High School in Chicagoland.
- Several of the 20 players have connections to Northwestern, and none is more direct than that of linebacker Tommy Vitale, whose brother, Dan, is a senior superback on the team.
- Although he won't show up on our profile page because he won't be on scholarship, Fitzgerald recruited kicker Mason Weissenhofer as a preferred walk-on. Click here if you love kicking videos!
- Here are our live updates from Signing Day, with tweets and pictures from the newest Wildcats as they sign their National Letters of Intent.
- Want to know more about the individual players? If they weren't mentioned above, you can check out an individual profile for each of the 20 here.
- Fitzgerald will hold his annual Signing Day press conference at 11:30 CT in Chicago. We'll have live updates here. You can also play Singing Day Presser Bingo.
- SB Nation will have a live recruiting show beginning at noon CT. After Fitzgerald's press conference is over, you'll be able to watch the show on our site.
- Our Josh Rosenblat put together a cool map of where Northwestern's recruits come from. It's been updated to include this year's class.
- Have any questions about Signing Day that we haven't covered? Ask and get them answered here.