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A mid-pandemic 2021 football recruiting update

The constraints of the coronavirus haven’t stopped the ‘Cats from signing recruits and pursuing some more.

Northwestern v Rutgers Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn't stopped Pat Fitzgerald and his staff from hitting the virtual trail and reeling in commits.

With Anthony Tyus III’s commitment to Northwestern this past week, the Wildcats’ class currently stands at 11 players, with 10 of those signings coming in the midst of the pandemic and its resulting shutdowns. Cleveland-area native Najee Story, a four-star defensive end, and Lake Forest product Mac Uihlein, a four-star linebacker, headline the Big Ten’s ninth-ranked class and 34th-ranked nationally, according to 247Sports.

By comparison, this year’s incoming recruiting class, considered to be very solid, finished ranked 47th in the nation.

Of course, challenges remain to put together a full class. Prospects cannot watch spring practices or, aside from three-star tackle Jack Leyrer, physically visit the campus or attend summer camps to boost their profiles to schools.

The current mandatory recruiting dead period runs through June 30. It was first put in place just one day after winter and spring sport championships were cancelled in March.

According to the NCAA, during the dead period, “a college coach may not have face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents, and may not watch student-athletes compete or visit their high schools. Coaches may write and telephone student-athletes or their parents during a dead period.”

Nonetheless, despite many aspects of in-person recruitment thrown out the window due to the virus, the ‘Cats still have some spots to fill in this class and several interesting offers on the table. Here’s a quick tally at commitments by position:

Quarterback - 1

Running Back - 1

Receiver/Tight End - 1

Offensive Line - 2

Defensive Line - 2

Linebacker - 2

Defensive Back - 1

ATH (two-way) - 1

Offensively, the ‘Cats are probably set with Tyus and fellow Michigander Brendan Davison at tailback and quarterback, respectively. One prospect 247Sports sees the NU having a good shot at landing is tight end Jordan Dingle, a native of Bowling Green, Kentucky. Dingle is a high three-star with a composite rating of 0.8858. He’s also giving strong consideration to Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State and Virginia Tech.

The Wildcats do not a have a true receiver in the class yet. Wideout Skyler Bell, a three-star receiver from the Taft School in Connecticut, is supposedly “warm” on NU, per 247Sports, but it seems likely he will commit to Iowa. They’ve also offered receivers Keontez Lewis, Andrel Anthony and John Paul Richardson, but none seems too likely to come to Evanston.

Northwestern also needs to add some bodies on the offensive line: The aforementioned Leyrer could be the third commitment to an already impressive group consisting of four-star Caleb Tiernan and three-star guard Josh Thompson.

Defensively, the ‘Cats have good pieces at all three levels. Three-star Mitch Leigber, a safety from Orange County, California, seems to be in play, but he may be hard to lure from compete with a few Pac-12 schools. Isaiah Henderson, a three-star weak-side defensive end from football hotbed Virginia Beach, is another option. He’s also being pursued heavily by Appalachian State, East Carolina and Pitt.

On the d-line, recent North Texas decommit Jayden Gray could be an option. The ‘Cats offered him back in April while he was still committed to the Mean Green.

So many questions still exist over the near future of college football in the wake of this pandemic. Regardless, Northwestern holds the foundational pieces to an impressive class. Right now, filling some of those gaps and adding depth seems to be a priority. It should be interesting to see how the class of 2021 turns out with these restrictions impeding the exposure of players and ability for coaches to recruit them, and how things pick up once the recruiting dead period ends.