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Northwestern football Signing Day profiles 2016: DL Jake Saunders

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The Ohio product is one of three Class of 2016 defensive linemen

Photo: Hudl

QUICK HITS

POSITION: Defensive tackle
HEIGHT: 6-3
WEIGHT: 285
HOMETOWN: Loveland, Ohio
HIGH SCHOOL: Loveland High School
247 COMPOSITE RATING: ★★★ (.8467)
NATIONAL RANK: 923
POSITION RANK: 56
STATE RANK: 39
OTHER OFFERS: Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Miami (OH), Oregon St., Pittsburgh, Purdue, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Wisconsin
MORE: 247 ProfileHudlTwitter (worth the click)

BACKGROUND

Saunders committed to the Wildcats back in June, choosing Northwestern over a long list of other offers and becoming the 13th member of the class of 2016. Over the past season, Saunders garnered first team All-District and special mention All-State honors while being named an Ohio Division II football "Fall All Star" by Cincinnati.com. For reference, fellow class of 2016 member Jeremy Larkin was named Player of the Year in the same division.

Make no mistake about it: Saunders is one big guy, especially at the high school level. But he also shows good burst off the ball, the ability to play well in space and good closing speed — watch him track down the quarterback at around the 2:20 mark of the video. Saunders is an overpowering player at the high school level, but his speed allowed Loveland to play him at linebacker too, where he shows the ability to diagnose the play and play downhill. Additionally, these are just his junior year highlights (his senior year hasn't been uploaded), so he has developed since this video.

Outlook

Northwestern has very good depth on the defensive line despite losing starting ends Dean Lowry and Deonte Gibson. Lots of that depth is relatively young, too: next year's group will feature returning nine underclassmen. In the middle, Tyler Lancaster, Jordan Thompson and Greg Kuhar will likely see most of the snaps in the middle in 2016, and into the long-term future, guys like Ben Oxley, Trent Goens, Joe Gaziano, Fred Wyatt and Thompson all plan to be important pieces along the line. That's not to say Saunders won't ever see the field, but he might have to wait a couple of years to join the rotation. Nevertheless, he's a good prospect, and with proper coaching and time spent in the weight room bulking up to closer to 300 pounds, he could become a starter down the road.