It didn’t take long for three-star quarterback Jason Whittaker to realize that Northwestern was the place he wanted to spend four to five of the best years of his life.
The Rockford, Michigan product committed on Saturday during a visit to Evanston, just two weeks after receiving an offer. Whittaker’s recruitment had just started to pick up after receiving his first three power conference offers in the span of a week (Northwestern, Iowa State, and Indiana). It was both the school and the football program that helped make Whittaker become the ever-important first commit of the 2018 recruiting class.
“It's the perfect balance of academics and athletics,” Whittaker told Inside NU. “Coach Fitz and his staff are so genuine and honest with me, I wouldn't want to play for anyone else than Coach Fitz.”
Whittaker surprised the head coach with a commitment on Saturday right before practice had started, which was met with much jumping, hollering, and hugging.
“The way everyone reacted towards my decision, with excitement and genuine joy, it did nothing but reaffirm me that I made the best decision of my life,” he told Scout on Sunday.
The Northwestern coaching staff, the group of nine coaches who represent the greatest coaching continuity in the country, will wrap up its sixth consecutive together at the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 28.
The passing offense that was nearly non-existent last season emerged this season under the growth of Clayton Thorson, who threw for nearly twice as many yards, three times as many touchdowns, and fewer interceptions despite throwing the ball 150 times more than he did his freshman year. The emergence of Thorson and player development helped sell Whittaker on the program.
“I feel that the style of offense at Northwestern, is the offense that fits me best,” Whittaker told Inside NU. “Coach McCall does a great job with the development of his players, and I trust he will do the same with me.”
Whittaker, a 6-foot-4 pro-style quarterback, will enroll at Northwestern during Thorson’s senior year. He runs primarily wing-T offensive schemes at Rockford High School, but mentioned that his coach is trying to open the playbook up more for him with regards to pass plays. That’s not his only hope for his senior year.
“The goal for my senior year is to obviously make it to the state championship game Thanksgiving weekend,” Whittaker told Inside NU. “But really just taking it one day at a time. If we win each day with our attitude and our effort, then it will pay off tremendously on Friday nights.”
The Rockford, Michigan native also plans to make the three-and-a-half-hour drive to Evanston as much as he can next season, both for spring ball and for as many games as he can make it to.
“They (the players) are highly respectful and every time I was there, they welcomed me into their family,” Whittaker, who stayed with freshmen wide receivers Riley Lees and Bennett Skowronek on his visit, said. “They are definitely the people I want to surround myself with for the next four to five years.”
Getting a quarterback early in the class is important as Fitzgerald looks to continue to bring talent to the offensive side of the ball. Whittaker is rated the 18th-best pro-style quarterback in his class nationwide and 9th-best recruit in Michigan by 247 Sports. Rivals has Whittaker as its 11th-best quarterback in his class nationwide and 5th in the state. His junior tape showcases a very mobile, athletic quarterback with a strong and accurate arm. Perhaps the most impressive trait of the junior quarterback is his ability to throw on the run.
As for becoming the first commitment of the 2018 recruiting class, Whittaker understands its significance and is embracing its importance.
“I'm honored and blessed to be able to be the first guy in my class,” he said. “I can't wait to start building up this class of 2018 for the Northwestern Wildcats!”