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Three takeaways from National Signing Day

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NU earned some late commitments while other players recently arrived on campus.

247Sports

With the passing of National Signing Day on Wednesday, Northwestern has officially completed the Class of 2021 recruiting cycle. In total, 16 players signed a National Letter of Intent to affirm their commitments to NU. The Wildcats’ class ranked 49th in the nation and 11th in the Big Ten, according to 247Sports. Now that recruiting season has come to an end, let’s review the group in a few areas:

Four-star phenoms

Three of the 16 scholarship signees earned four-star ratings in 247Sports’ Composite rankings. The highest-ranked of them is wide receiver Jordan Mosley, who is listed as the 302nd best player in the Class of 2021. He was one of the Wildcats’ two late-period commits, along with Mississippi native Calvin Johnson II. Mosley, who had planned on attending Tennessee before de-committing in the wake of the Volunteers’ recruiting scandal and the firing of former head coach Jeremy Pruitt, is the highest-ranked player (9th) from Alabama attending a school outside of the South.

The Wildcats’ next most highly-touted player won’t have to travel nearly as far. Linebacker Mac Uihlein, who ranks 329th on 247Sports’ list, was a senior at Lake Forest High School, just a 19-mile drive from Ryan Field, prior to enrolling early at NU. When asked in an interview with Louie Vaccher of WildcatReport which member of the Irish Law Firm — the moniker for Northwestern’s most recent starting trio of linebackers — he is most like as a player, Uihlein said Blake Gallagher, as he plans to play on the weak side in Evanston just as Gallagher did.

Rounding out the four-stars is Caleb Tiernan, an offensive tackle ranked 354th by 247 from Franklin, Michigan. Despite garnering offers from Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State, Tiernan said he chose to attend Northwestern because of the school’s combination of elite academics and Big Ten football, as well as an observed difference in camaraderie from more prestigious programs that sought his talents.

“From what I’ve experienced, it seems like all the bigger schools are less connected with each other,” Tiernan said in an article published in Hometown Life. “When I went to Northwestern, they actually had all the offensive linemen go out to dinner with me and my family. That in itself, that you can round up all the linemen for dinner was sweet.”

Michigan pipeline?

Despite the fact that Northwestern’s recruiting philosophy, according to Pat Fitzgerald, is to start and end in Chicagoland, the Wildcats recruited more players from the state of Michigan than any other state. Along with the aforementioned Tiernan, running back Anthony Tyus III, quarterback Brendan Sullivan and offensive guard Josh Thompson all hail from Wolverine State.

Aside from the four-star signees above, Tyus and Sullivan may be the two most anticipated newcomers due to their accomplishments at the high school level. Sullivan led Davison High School to the Division 1 State Championship in his junior year, and looked poised to do so again in 2020 before the remainder of the season was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. Tyus rushed for 1,801 yards and 22 touchdowns on 174 carries in his senior year, prompting MLive.com to list him as a Top 10 finalist for its statewide Player of the Year award.

Still hammering post-Hank

For the past 13 years, when defensive players committed to Northwestern, they signed on to play under legendary defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz. Coach Hank was a favorite of players, and his pedigree as a coordinator was second to none. Thus, when he announced his plans to retire following the 2020 season, some may have anticipated that defensive commits may have had some second thoughts about their plans to come to Evanston.

Luckily for the ‘Cats, no such mass exodus took place. Their lone de-commitment from the class of 2021 was Barryn Sorrell, a defensive end who announced he would look elsewhere in October — well prior to Hank’s retirement announcement— and later signed with Texas. With Sorrell headed to Austin, six defensive players remain of the Wildcats’ 16 signees. It remains to be seen whether new DC Jim O’Neil can attract the same level of talent to Evanston, but, for now all is well with regard to defensive recruiting.