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Northwestern Early Signing Day Rundown: Defensive Backs

Coach Matt MacPherson added some impressive talent during the early signing period.

With the departures of Rod Campbell and Brian Bullock to the transfer portal and senior Trae Williams graduating, Northwestern will certainly benefit this offseason from adding some depth in the secondary. Luckily, a strong class of players announced their commitment to the ‘Cats over the early signing period.

Here are the secondary pieces headed to Evanston:

Garnett Hollis

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 185 pounds

Hometown: Franklin, TN

High School: Battle Ground Academy

247 composite score: .8689

National Ranking: 628

Position Ranking: 47

State Ranking: 18

Other offers: Purdue, Arkansas, Cincinnati, Virginia, Indiana, others


After taking an official visit to Evanston on May 17, the defensive back out of Battle Ground Academy committed to Northwestern on June 22, his birthday.


With so much talent returning at the CB position, it’s hard to imagine any first years getting considerable playing time next year. However, if Newsome or Ruiz get injured (knock on wood) Hollis could be turned to as the next man up, especially if NU is in a position where competing in one or two games is more important than keeping his redshirt.

Gunner Maldonado

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 180 pounds

Hometown: Chandler, AZ

High School: Chandler

247 composite score: .8681

National Ranking: 653

Position Ranking: 47

State Ranking: 17

Other offers: Iowa State, Arizona State, Arizona, Indiana, others


The three-star safety out of Chandler, Arizona also took his official visit on May 17, and announced his commitment on June 13.


With JR Pace and Travis Whillock both having started last year, and both returning for their senior years, it’s unlikely that Maldonado will get considerable playing time. With that said, if he gets redshirted this year, he’ll have his shot alongside Brandon Joseph with the departure of Pace and Whillock after next season.

Jaheem Joseph

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 170 pounds

Hometown: Opa Locka, FL

High School: Monsignor Place

247 composite score: .8426

National Ranking: 1337

Position Ranking: 119

State Ranking: 172

Other offers: Vanderbilt, Michigan, Syracuse


Another signee from the May 17 set of official visits, Joseph was one of the first members of the 2020 class to commit, committing on December 10, 2018.


It would be surprising to see Joseph play very much next year. With Ruiz, Newsome, etc, and even Hollis likely in front of him, snaps will be hard to come by. He will probably end up getting minimal in-game reps this year and redshirt.

Nigel Williams

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 180 pounds

Hometown: Richmond, VA

High School: Collegiate School

247 composite score: .8376

National Ranking: 1503

Position Ranking: 133

State Ranking: 28

Other offers: Wake Forest, Virginia, UCLA, others


Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, the three-star recruit did not take an official visit, but after having verbally committed to Wake Forest, switched his commitment to the ‘Cats on October 15, 2019.


With Greg Newsome, Cam Ruiz, and a plethora of other talent returning for NU at the cornerback position, it’s going to be hard for any recruits to see much playing time in their first season. Look for Williams to get redshirted, and maybe play a few snaps while doing so.

Northwestern’s secondary has struggled at times, but with a strong group of commits heading to Evanston, NU fans have a lot to look forward to.