Welcome to the Monday Morning Roundup, a collection of noteworthy Northwestern-related news from the weekend. There wasn’t too much news, but we’ve got a little collection of updates for you.
Northwestern football is aiming high in the 2019 recruiting class, which again features plenty of in-state talent
Pat Fitzgerald and his staff have made plenty of headlines this spring with their success in compiling a strong 2018 recruiting class. The 13-member class still has a little ways to go, but Northwestern has already done most of its heavy lifting. The strong effort has been led by a resurgence in recruiting within state limits, as the Wildcats have dominated their rivals in Champaign in landing six strong prospects from Illinois, including the state’s top player, Devin O’Rourke.
With roughly two-thirds of the class in the bag, Fitzgerald and co. have begun to shift their attention more and more to the 2019 class. Northwestern has already offered 11 2019 prospects, nine of which are currently ranked as four-stars or higher by 247’s composite rankings.
Five of the 11 are offensive linemen, which makes sense considering at least four of Northwestern’s current projected starters on the O-line will be gone by the time the 2019 season rolls around. The two big names to watch are in-state tackles Trevor Keegan and Will Putnam, four-stars who hail from Crystal Lake and Chatham, respectively. Either one would be the best O-line recruit in program history; Northwestern has never landed a four-star offensive lineman. Unsurprisingly, Fitzgerald has been in pursuit of the duo for a while, giving Keegan his first college offer back in June 2016 and offering Putnam last December. Last Wednesday, the Wildcats extended their third offer to an in-state recruit, four-star tight end Logan Lee from tiny Orion, IL.
Another interesting prospect is Grant Gunnell, the second-ranked pro-style quarterback in the class who also happens to be the QB of 2018 wide receiver commit Jacob Jefferson at St. Pius X high school in Houston. With the recent success of Trevor Siemian and Clayton Thorson, can the Wildcats beat out the likes of Alabama, LSU and Florida State for Gunnell? Probably not, but we can dream.
Justin Jackson ranked as second-best running back in Big Ten by Land of 10, Clayton Thorson fifth-best quarterback
Big Ten sports site Land of 10 is running out their Summer Study Guide, and so far they’ve ranked the top 10 quarterback and running backs in the conference. Last week, they ranked Clayton Thorson fifth among Big Ten quarterbacks, behind Trace McSorley, JT Barrett, Wilton Speight and David Blough. The first two are certainly understandable, but one can make a case for Thorson being ranked as high as third, given that Speight was less productive than him last season and Blough led the nation with 21 interceptions. Ultimately, Thorson will need to prove he can be highly productive without Austin Carr to earn more national respect.
On Sunday, the site released their running back rankings, with Justin Jackson The Ballcarrier coming in second, trailing only Saquon Barkley. Penn State’s backfield tandem is going to be scary good again next season. Rounding out the top 5 are Akrum Wadley, Mike Weber and Rodney Smith. Jackson at two is fair. He’s had a longer career with more yardage, but Barkley’s 5.67 career yards per carry is well above Jackson’s 4.83 and the Penn State phenom is a much more dangerous receiver out of the backfield. Barkley is a legitimate Heisman contender this season, while Jackson will cede some carries to John Moten IV.
The article makes some interesting comments regarding Jackson’s potential to end up as not only Northwestern’s all-time leading rusher, but one of the top rushers in NCAA history. Jackson needs 2,277 yards to pass Donell Pumphrey on the all-time leaderboard. Assuming Northwestern could get to the Big Ten championship game, that would require just under 163 yards per game for 14 games. Jackson reached that mark just four times last season as he averaged 117 yards per game. So, that’s a definite longshot. Still, with another 1500-yard season, Jackson would find himself in the top 6, which would be pretty impressive. A fourth 1,000-yard season and he’d join Ron Dayne as the only Big Ten backs to accomplish that feat.
Nia Coffey is off to a slow start in her rookie season
Nia Coffey, the first Northwestern alum to ever play in the WNBA (Amy Jaeschke was drafted by the Chicago Sky in 2011 but never appeared in a game), is off to a slow start through the first three games of her career. Coffey was drafted No. 5 overall by the San Antonio Stars back in April. Joining the worst team in the league, Coffey has shot just 2-for-15 in a touch less than 12 minutes per game. In her debut, Coffey made her first WNBA field goal and pulled down 5 rebounds. Last Friday, she made 3 of 4 free throws and scored 5 points to go along with 3 rebounds. It seems like only a matter of time before the immensely talented Coffey starts making major contributions for the 0-3 Stars, though.
Pat Fitzgerald discusses his staff’s remarkable longevity
Northwestern returns its entire staff for a seventh straight season in 2017. No other program is doing so for even a fourth consecutive year. Fitzgerald commented on the topic last week, and parts of that interview are in this article from CoachingSearch.
“Well, loyalty. The guys have been terrific,” he said. “They’ve had opportunities, maybe positions if they investigated, didn’t fit them and their families.”
“I’m very thankful to our coaches, their wives and families for the loyalty, and the university support,” Fitzgerald said. “They’ve stepped up. When we’ve had the opportunity to compete to keep a coach, the university has stepped up. Our athletic director and president are rock stars. They do a great job for us, and we’re very thankful for it.”
Speaking of Fitzgerald, he’ll be heading back to Yankee Stadium for the first time since the Pinstripe Bowl to throw out the first pitch on Tuesday evening. Let’s hope it goes as well as his last one did.
Enjoy your Monday, everyone.