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Northwestern football recruiting: An early look at top targets at positions of need in the 2019 class

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Where do the Wildcats need to reload in 2019?

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

With linebacker Bryce Gallagher’s commitment to Northwestern a few weeks ago — the first commit from the 2019 crop of recruits — the next recruiting cycle has officially commenced long before the February signing day for the class of 2018. I know, it’s early, but in an effort to get everyone’s mind off of Saturday’s loss to the cheese-folk up north, let’s examine the rest of the pending offers that Northwestern has on the table.

Quarterback:

So far, Pat Fitzgerald and co. have only offered pro-styled quarterbacks, and two of them have committed elsewhere. Not a great start in fulfilling Fitzgerald’s quota of one QB per recruiting class, but the remaining three look promising.

Max Duggan from Council Bluffs, Iowa — a four-star, according to 247’s composite rankings — has offers from five other Big Ten schools and throws a pretty solid deep ball. Duggan also sports an above average 40-time at 4.74 seconds for a quarterback.

Ryan Hilinski, a three-star from Orange, Calif., looks poised in the pocket as well. Mobility may be an issue here, but overall he looks to have the arm strength in the pocket and on the run to be a Power 5 starting quarterback.

Jacob Conover, ranked the 9th-best quarterback in the state of Arizona, is also being looked at, but the hometown Wildcats (the Tucson version) and the Alabama Crimson Tide (yeah, them) have already swooped in with their offers.

Wide Receiver:

Northwestern is chasing after two four-star wide outs: David Bell and Garrett Wilson. Bell is getting play from Notre Dame and Ohio State, so that one in particular is going to be tough, especially when he can make plays like the one in the video below. My personal favorite is at the 5:45 mark, where Bell makes a ridiculous over-the-shoulder catch, in stride, with his receiver draped all over him, for six.

Northwestern’s offer to Wilson is up against offers from Texas, Florida State, Tennessee and Wisconsin, among others, so that one is going to be a hard sell too. Like Bell, the kid makes plays. Check out the six-second mark of the video below, where Wilson shows off his agility and play-making ability, turning a simple slant route into a 79-yard touchdown pass.

Offensive Line:

Eight out of NU’s current 23 outstanding offers are for offensive linemen, and the coaching staff has been angling the current crop for a while now. It makes sense: by the time 2019 rolls around, none of the starters on the current o-line are slated to be in the program. The first offers to the class of 2019 went out as early as June of 2016, with Trevor Keegan getting the nod then and Will Putnam receiving the same letter in December. Northwestern hasn’t had a four-star recruit on its offensive line for as long as 247 has been around. Six of the offers sent are for four-star recruits, and if any one of them commits, he would immediately be the most highly touted OL this century.

Keegan is looking at slew of Big 10 teams—Michigan, Michigan State, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Purdue and Wisconsin—and is ranked as the second best offensive lineman in the state of Illinois. According to the incredibly arbitrary “crystal ball predictions” that 247 has for each prospect, there’s a 20 percent chance that Keegan picks Northwestern out of the bunch so… there’s hope?

Putnam seems to have some interest in Northwestern as well, but is also being chased after by the likes of Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan and LSU.

Other four-stars in the mix are Quinn Carroll, John Olmstead, Zeke Correll and Zach Carpenter. Carroll and Olmstead have what seems like every FBS team on their tails, so those two seem unlikely. Correll is being shopped by Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Minnesota and Carpenter has received offers from the likes of Cincinnati, Duke, UCLA, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt and Virginia.

Correll purportedly has — again, according to 247’s arbitrary analysis — “warm” interest in joining the Wildcats, but he apparently has “warm interest” in Kentucky, Ohio State and Wisconsin too, so, who knows.

Cornerback:

This is probably the position that needs the most nurturing here in Evanston. Though Montre Hartage and Trae Williams have done their fair share as starters at the cornerback position this season — and look poised to start again next fall — the team has only one other sophomore, one freshman and no 2018 commits that play the position. Two players have offers so far: Chris Steele and Cameron Mitchell. Steele, a former UCLA commit, is ranked as the second best CB in the nation and has offers from Stanford, Alabama, USC, LSU, Michigan and 22 other schools.

Okay, that might be a tough get.

Mitchell just has other offers from two MAC schools (Northern Illinois and Bowling Green) at the moment, so he looks to be the more realistic option at this position of need.