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National signing day notes: Fitz talks early-enrollees and new signings

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The 2018 recruiting class is complete.

NCAA Football: Music Bowl-Kentucky vs Northwestern Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

We spoke with Pat Fitzgerald on Tuesday after National Signing Day. It wasn’t too exciting for Northwestern after getting 16 signatures in the Early Signing Period, but Fitz still took the time to talk about the class.

  • On new signing day timetables with an early signing day: "I think a lot's changed in this process. That's one area in particular. We've got a signing day on the 20th, and if guys maybe put on the internet that you're committed and didn't sign, are you really committed? You're not. We're gonna talk to kids directly. Kids will say 'I'm committed to a school," but when you talk to them or talk to their high school coach, they're not."
  • On recruiting players who are already committed elsewhere: "13 years ago, a commitment truly meant something. And for our kids it means something. They know how we feel about it. We're gonna ask a kid a direct question, and if he's not committed, he's not committed. I'm not gonna recruit kids that say, 'I'm committed to that school, that's where I wanna go.'"
  • On recruiting high-character players: "Character and integrity are the glue that keeps everything together...There's one thing about this experience that happens after today, it's gonna get really hard. All the fun is all over now. Reality sets in that you're a college football player."
  • On early-enrollees: "We've got five guys here that are already college football players. It's not recruiting anymore, it's reality. It's really challenging. That's the glue that keeps everything together when things get hard."
  • More on the five early enrollees, who have participated in winter workouts: "Isaiah Bowser, running back reported early. I think he's acclimated pretty well pretty quickly. Greg Newsome, defensive back, same thing, I think he's acclimated quickly and is doing a great job. Khalid Jones, linebacker, is doing a great job, I think he's learning and growing. Jeremiah McDonald, a DB that I think is learning and growing and seeing how we do things. And then Andrew Leota. It's been fun watching Andrew learn and grow."
  • On signing cornerback A.J. Hampton: "[A.J. Hampton's] an electric athlete, a terrific student, from a great family, a football family. I was really impressed with A.J. as we got to know each other really well."
  • On Clayton Thorson's status: "There's no timetable on where he's gonna be and where things are gonna go. I think it's awesome that people get to speculate, so I hope you guys enjoy that. Everything to this point has been great. Prehab was great, surgery went better than expected, the initial phases of rehab have been terrific. That'll be a process that's ongoing, that I won't update you on at all...It won't change from now until he plays, full disclosure."
  • On the quarterback competition between TJ Green, Aidan Smith and Andrew Marty: "I have no idea about the next the three guys. They're gonna compete, they have already since they've been in the program...Should be a fun month, we'll rotate those guys through, kind of like we have in the past through quarterback battles. One guy will go out with the 1s, one guy will go out next and one guy will go out third and we'll keep rotating through. We'll just see how the guys execute and how they make our team better. 13 years, wow, this is a number of quarterback situations we've gone through like this, so this isn't the first rodeo...We've been as successful, Mick and I, as any head coach, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator in the country as far as quarterback succession planning...I'd put it up against anybody to be quite honest with you."
  • On Godwin Igwebuike and Justin Jackson and their NFL Combine prep: "They've been pros for a long time with the way they've gone about preparing, the way they've worked, their production speaks for itself for both guys. There's gonna be no 'what are they what can they do' questions because they played so much football for us. We've had more traffic here than any other year from an NFL evaluation standpoint...This is game 14 of their senior year. That's how this will be evaluated."
  • On recruiting and the NFL: "Every guy I talk to in high school recruiting, I asked them directly, 'Do you wanna be in the National Football League?' If they say no, then I really don't wanna recruit them."
  • Fitz said early signing didn't solve every problem with recruiting, but it was a good first step. He said he liked that he could reevaluate his class after the early signing day.