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Northwestern 2017 commitment update: Defense

The top-rated recruits of the class did not disappoint.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

After looking at the offense yesterday, we turn our focus to the defensive prospects headed to Evanston in 2017. According to 247’s rankings, four of the Wildcats’ top five commitments come from the defensive side of the ball.

DL Earnest Brown (Denton Ryan, Texas)

The jewel of the recruiting class, Brown chose Northwestern over Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa and a plethora of other big names in March. And even after some worry that he might head to the Buckeye State, he has remained solid in his commitment to Pat Fitzgerald. Brown is up for the 2016 WFAA Defensive Player of the Year (Go vote!) and was named a U.S. Army All-American. He’ll participate in the prestigious game on Jan. 7. He was also a District 5-5A All-District first-teamer and defensive MVP. He was honorable mention all-state as well. His team lost a heartbreaker in the state semifinal. Brown accrued double-digit sacks this season, and his burst off the line and variety of pass-rushing moves helped him add plenty of tackles for losses as well. He projects as a defensive end in college.

DL Sam Miller (Stratford, Texas)

The younger brother of current true freshman defensive lineman Alex, Sam committed in January. He not has some great pre-game handshakes, but they’re not nearly as impressive as his stats (101 tackles, 9 sacks, 10 TFL), nor his highlight tape:

DL Trevor Kent (Pittsburg, Kansas)

Kent committed in March one day after Earnest Brown and was on hand to watch Northwestern double up Illinois and win the HAT. He was an honorable mention All-Kansas at the 5A level from the Wichita Eagle and the Topeka Capital-Journal. He was also a first-teamer in the All-Southeast Kansas League. His team fell in the state playoff opener. Here are his junior year highlights, in which he’s just too big and too fast for opposing teams.

LB Peter McIntyre (ST. John’s Jesuit, Ohio)

McIntyre broke his leg in mid-September. Here are his junior year highlights:

LB Blake Gallagher (St. Sebastian’s, Massachusetts)

Gallagher, Northwestern’s most highly-rated linebacker, was a member of the Boston Herald all-scholastic team. He recently visited with Coach Fitzgerald and superbacks coach Bob Heffner. Gallagher’s film is really impressive — he plays downhil with a lot of speed, and he tackles well.

CB Cameron Ruiz (Lakes Community, Illinois)

Ruiz, who was pretty much an unknown at the time of his commitment, has an awesome story. He was named to News-Sun all-area team as a running back, where he posted over 1500 total yards and 17 touchdowns. He also made the Lake County all-area team. Defensively, he racked up 50 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recover. From the Daily Herald:

Also a star on the track scene, he made the 6A all-state team as well, perhaps his biggest accomplishment. He can fly.

S Austin Hiller (Lake Travis, Texas)

Hiller was recently interviewed by Time Warner Cable in Austin and will play for a state championship on Saturday. A team captain and Class 6A all-state honorable mention performer, his team will take on Westlake for the 6A championship. Hiller can really lower the boom, and he shows some ability to take interceptions all the way back. Watch the first three plays of his highlight tape and you’ll be really impressed.

S J.R. Pace (Woodward Academy, Georgia)

Pace committed in May with one of the greatest commitment videos ever.

He might have some trouble keeping the name “The Franchise,” but there’s no doubt about Pace’s ability. He comes from Woodward Academy, a school that has produced a ton of NFL and other professional sports talent, and he picked Northwestern over a bevy of Power 5 schools.

Also, the fire videos don’t stop.

S Bryce Jackson (Guyer, Texas)

Out of the same area as Earnest Brown, Jackson committed in April. He was an all-state honorable mention at the 6A level and first team District 6-6A. Jackson had 89 tackles, four passes defended and two interceptions.