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Mid-August Northwestern Wildcats football recruiting update: more offensive linemen on the way?

Who are the Wildcats’ top priorities as we hit the season opener?

Northwestern v Illinois Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It’s mid-August and the past few weeks have been relatively quiet on the football recruiting front. Since our last recruiting update, the only big news has been the commitment of three-star wide receiver Kyric McGowan. Northwestern was originally left off of the Dalton product’s top three, but McGowan reconsidered, visited, and chose the Wildcats over Duke, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State. Ironically, Northwestern has beaten each of those teams in the last four seasons.

With McGowan’s commitment, the 2017 class is up to 18, leaving room for less than a handful of commits remaining in all likelihood. What we know is that Northwestern is set at quarterback. Pat Fitzgerald likes to take one per class, and Andrew Marty became the one after he committed in April. However, there are a couple positions of uncertainty on the rest of the offense.

The obvious piece missing from this class is a running back, but it’s far from a necessity. Northwestern is as deep as it gets at running back. By the time the 2017 recruiting class comes in, the Wildcats will have another year of Justin Jackson, two more of Auston Anderson, three of John Moten, and four of Jeremy Larkin and Jesse Brown (Larkin will absolutely redshirt as he recovers from surgery, Brown will likely redshirt as well). That said, Kentucky commit Bryant Koback seems to be a possibility. He remains committed but has since received offers from Indiana, Cincinnati, Boston College, Purdue, Virginia, Syracuse, as well as Northwestern. Fitzgerald would love to poach him from the SEC.

Another area that needs some additions is on the offensive line. Ethan Wiederkehr is the lone tackle commit, and Fitzgerald has previously shown a tendency to take two tackle commits in each class (he’s done so five of the past six classes). The obvious target is Buena Park native Ryan Nelson, who holds offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Colorado, Iowa State, Nebraska, Oregon State, Utah, and Washington State. He’s taking visits to Arizona and Virginia according to Rivals, and it would be great to get him in Evanston for a campus visit.

Another target is three-star athlete Scott Nelson. He included Northwestern among his final five schools, along with Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. The Wildcats were his first offer, but it seems like the Detroit native is destined to stay in-state, per 247’s Crystal Ball.

It wouldn’t be a surprise for one of the final spots to address the defensive side of the ball. Two years ago, Northwestern rounded out its 2015 class with current starting cornerback Montre Hartage. The Wildcats have Cameron Ruiz and Bryce Jackson at defensive back already (as well as safeties JR Pace and Austin Hiller), but have recently offered Elijah Hicks and Tyriq Hardimon. However, Hicks just picked up offers from USC and Notre Dame, while Hardimon has a pretty impressive list of offers as well.

Linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath is another option for Northwestern, and he’s releasing his top five very soon. He holds offers from Boston College, Cal, Oregon, Utah, Vanderbilt, and Washington State, as well as a whole bunch of non-power conference schools, so it will be interesting to see if Northwestern makes his list.

At this point, Northwestern looks to have addressed its glaring needs, especially by locking up the talented McGowan. Fitzgerald and his staff should be looking to fill out the class with potentially another offensive linemen, and then the best available player(s) he can get.

This class has been quite an impressive one for Pat Fitzgerald, as he’s starting to reap the rewards of a 10-win season. 247 ranks it 31st in the country, and with a couple of spots left and Northwestern in the running for some highly-touted guys, the class of 2017 hasn’t reached its ceiling quite yet.