Northwestern football kicks off its season next month (!) against Stanford, but head coach Pat Fitzgerald and his staff have been busy on the recruiting trail. And things are looking pretty good.
The Wildcats’ class of 2020, which ranks 6th in the Big Ten and 25th nationally, according to 247sports.com, currently stands at 15 commits.
Since we last wrote about NU’s recruitment state, Fitz has filled five more spots. However, NU’s class rank has dropped three spots in the Big Ten and 15 spots nationally since the writing of the last article. This is common for Northwestern classes to rank high at the beginning and then fall as the program receives many early commitments.
Among the first ten commitments, first-year offensive line coach Kurt Anderson made several splashes, garnering yeses from Josh Priebe, Peter Skoronski and Ben Wrather, some of NU’s highest-rated o-line recruits in the past decade. These players had impressive offer lists that included many Power Five schools and some Big Ten rivals.
NU entered the summer in need of defensive players and has gotten just that over the past two months. Four of the newest five recruits play on the defensive side of the ball, and they cover each level of the defense.
This past weekend, Fitz received good news in the form of Cullen Coleman’s commitment. The three-star running back out of New York had an impressive offer list that included some of the nation’s top programs, and he is expected to transition to linebacker.
Here are the five new commitments since our last update:
247 Composite: .8573
The local product from Lincoln-Way East High School had six Big Ten offers but opted to play under Marty Long. He’s got size at 6’7” but at 220 pounds will need to put on some weight. McLaughlin is the second defensive line commit in the 2020 class, joining TeRah Edwards.
247 Composite: .7898
While Lang isn’t the highest-rated talent in this class, he fills a need in the superbacks room, joining Hunter Welcing. NU was his only Power Five offer, but he had offers from several MAC schools. As we’ve seen with superbacks, Mick McCall takes them in all shapes and sizes, and they can be converted position players.
247 Composite: .8681
This was an important one. To continue developing the defensive talent, Fitz landed the three-star safety over his nearby Power Five schools Arizona and Arizona State, among others. He’s not huge at just under six feet, but his highlights as a wide receiver and defensive back display his foot speed. The NU staff had Maldonado on its radar for awhile, and it fills another slot in the secondary. Of its five outstanding offers, securing both the Chandler, Arizona, native with the man below, Garnett Hollis Jr., quells some concerns about Northwestern’s secondary recruits.
247 Composite: .8756
Hollis’ commitment came just days after Maldonado said yes after offers from Purdue, Vanderbilt and Arkansas, among others. His composite rating is the highest among the 2020 defensive commits. His highlights show an innate ability to track the ball and a finishing sense to break up passes or come up with interceptions.
247 Composite: .8728
With first and last names that sound familiar, the New York native is the second linebacker in this class. NU was tracking him all along, and it was rumored the Wildcats were at the top of his list. Though he’s a three-star, his offer sheet was LONG — nearly 30 schools including prestigious Power Five programs like Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan.
Where Northwestern stands
Here’s the current tally for commitments by position for this 2020 class:
Quarterback - 1
Running Back - 1
Wide Receiver - 1
Superback - 2
Offensive Tackle - 2
Offensive Guard - 1
Defensive End - 1
Defensive Tackle - 1
Linebacker - 2
Cornerback - 2
Safety - 1
What do the Wildcats need?
The offensive line is in a good spot and is the best recruited position of this class. The wide receivers and running backs — while there are not a ton of them — are in a fine spot. Most of the Wildcats’ remaining offers to skill positions are going to be tough gets. They currently have two offers to running backs — four-star Michael Drennen II and three-star Tim Baldwin — both of whom have several offers from a long list of competitive Power Five programs.
As for the wideouts, Fitz might have to extend a few more offers to land another commitment. The Wildcats were unable to land A.J. Henning, Collin Sullivan and Xavier Watts, and five-star Johnny Wilson from Calabasas is rumored to like Oregon or Washington.
All but three NU defensive line offerees have committed elsewhere. Four-star Jay Hardy is likely a no, and Californian Lance Kenely will be tough to drag away from the West Coast with his interest in Utah and UCLA. That leaves three-star Deontae Craig from Chattanooga, Tennessee. While he might seem like a more realistic get, NU is competing with basically the entire Big Ten and Notre Dame.
At the linebacker position, NU has reeled in two of its five offers, and it will probably stay that way. The highest-graded linebacker in Minnesota, Kaden Johnson, seems torn between the Gophers and Wisconsin.
Elsewhere on defense looks quiet: the two remaining cornerback recruits who have not yet committed look like they will not come to Evanston, and the two four-star safeties NU offered are sought after by many high-level programs.
For Northwestern, the good news is that the program is now being seen as a viable destination for more high-level recruits, and it is now competing with blue blood schools for these kids. The bad news is also that: NU is competing with these top-tier football programs.