A torrid start to recruiting the class of 2018 has Northwestern’s class among the Top 10 in national rankings. Behind this recruiting rise has been Pat Fitzgerald and his staff’s ability to dominate the state of Illinois.
Carol Stream native Greg Newsome announced his commitment to Northwestern on Monday afternoon, effectively putting a bow on what has been an unprecedented in-state recruiting class. The Wildcats extended an offer to nine recruits within Illinois; six of them made verbal commitments to Northwestern. The three that got away are Notre Dame commit WR Micah Jones, Wisconsin commit LB Jack Sanborn, and Virginia Tech commit QB Quincy Patterson (Northwestern has a QB commit in Jason Whittaker).
With no more offers currently extended to Illinois recruits, Newsome may be Northwestern’s final in-state commit for the 2018 class. Perhaps what has been most impressive about this dominance is how swift it happened. In the span of 30 days, Pat Fitzgerald has the best Illinois recruiting class of his 11-year career.
It all got started with OL Charles Schmidt of Libertyville (No. 20 in Illinois), who committed on March 5. He was followed by Charlie Mangieri of Dunlap (No. 14) when the superback committed on March 8. Two days later, fellow superback and Winnetka native Brian Kaiser (No. 17) announced, and a few hours after that, defensive end Devin O’Rourke of Frankfort (No. 1 in Illinois) committed. OG Wyatt Blake of Crystal Lake (No. 6) chose Northwestern on March 17, and Newsome (No. 8) capped the scorching month-long recruiting stretch on April 3.
Six commits is the most Fitzgerald has gotten out of Illinois since he had six in 2008, although that group had an average composite score of .8345, compared to this year’s .8588. The Wildcats have just two in-state commits for the 2017 class, Jace James and Cameron Ruiz, while Riley Lees and Eric Eshoo are the only Illinois natives for 2016. In 2014, Northwestern earned commitments from three of Illinois’ Top 10 (Parrker Westphal, Justin Jackson, and Clayton Thorson), but six of Illinois’ top 20 is something Northwestern hasn’t done under Pat Fitzgerald.
This in-state recruiting dominance has been coupled with the University of Illinois’ failures. Lovie Smith has extended 106 offers, per 247, and has earned only one commitment. To be fair, the Fighting Illini have only offered two of Northwestern’s commits, but they have extended ten offers to Illinois natives. Barring any decommitments, it’s safe to say that Fitzgerald has won this year’s in-state recruiting battle.
With plenty of time left in this year’s recruiting period, it’s exciting to see Northwestern’s class off to such a hot start. Northwestern currently sits among the nation’s best in class rankings, and that’s a direct result of its in-state recruiting prowess.
This has clearly been an emphasis of Fitzgerald and his staff, as the program has run with the #Homegrown hashtag on Twitter and sent tweets like this.
It’s cheesy, but if Northwestern can continue to build on this in-state recruiting momentum in the coming years, it’s worth it.