The future is now! Pat Fitzgerald and Co. have been building the next class of Wildcats, totaling with 16 incoming freshman and six transfers. On Wednesday, National Signing Day came and went and while Northwestern only picked up one signee, the Class of 2022 proivdes a lot for ‘Cats fans to be excited about.
Who signed on NSD:
Jason Reynolds Jr., LB, 6-foot-2, 215 lbs., McDonough, GA
Reynolds is an unranked prospect according to 247Sports, but he brings strong middle linebacker depth. The Georgia native possesses plus speed to go alongside strong reflexes and a knack for finding the ball. He is undersized as a middle linebacker, but can act as a strong contributor down the line if he can bulk up.
Middle linebacker was a notably weak position for the ‘Cats last season. The transition from long-time veterans Paddy Fisher and Blake Gallagher to Peter McIntyre, Khalid Jones and Bryce Gallagher yielded disastrous results, the likes of which Fitz will hope to avoid in the coming years. Despite his under-the-radar recruiting status, Reynolds is a dynamic player, so don’t be surprised to see him get sporadic snaps next season.
Players to watch:
Reggie Fleurima, WR, 6-foot-2, 195 lbs., Naperville, Ill.
Fleurima is a local guy, coming out of Naperville Central High School, just about an hour away from Evanston. He initially committed to the ‘Cats on March 17, 2021 and is listed as a four-star recruit on 247Sports. He also received offers from over half of NU’s Big Ten foes, including Penn State, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan State, as well as several non-B1G programs.
NU’s passing game struggled mightily in both 2019 and 2021. While these challenges seemed to be due in large part to poor quarterback play and less-than-solid play calling, it can’t hurt to add a high-profile target like Fleurima to the list of potential pass catchers for presumed starting quarterback Ryan Hilinski. Fleurima may not have tremendous speed, but he adjusts well to passes down field and can turn short passes into chunk plays with his ability to gain yards after the catch.
Anto Saka, EDGE, 6-foot-2, 230 lbs., Towson, Md.
Anto Saka is nothing short of a special get for Northwestern. The four-star edge rusher held offers from Penn State, USC, Michigan, State and many other Power Five schools, NU included. Ultimately, he chose the ‘Cats on July 17 of last year.
Saka is somewhat of an athletic freak. In the eight games he played his senior season, Saka recorded 46 tackles, 15 of which were tackles for loss, and nine sacks. Throughout his senior year, Saka played across the defensive line. However, it’s important to note that he does have some experience playing as an off-ball linebacker from his junior year.
A little fun fact about Saka: he was a part of the track and field team in high school. He ran a 100-meter time of 11.50 seconds while also shot putting 41 feet as a junior. He ran as verified 4.62 40-yard dash time as a junior, as well.
Jack Lausch, QB, 6-foot-2, 180 lbs. Oak Lawn, Ill.
You’ve definitely heard this name before. Jack Lausch was originally set to walk on to the Notre Dame football team and play baseball for the Irish. The three-star quarterback then received an offer from Northwestern on December 6 of last year, visited the school a week later and committed to the ‘Cats on December 13.
Lausch only had one other division one offer for football from Indiana State. Still, though, there are many who think Lausch may be a hidden gem. After all, Lausch was named the 2021 Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year. Maybe the Brother Rice quarterback will be just what the Wildcats need to get their offense back on track.
What the Class of 2022 means for next season
Cleaerly, the biggest point of emphasis in the recruiting Class of 2022 was strengthening the lines. Four of the top six rated prospects in the class, according to 247Sports, play either on the offensive of defensive lines. Additionally, Northwestern brought in four transfers to bolster the trenches, including seasoned former Stanford Cardinal defensive lineman Ryan Johnson.
These additions should be considered a tremendous success for Fitzgerald and his staff. The ‘Cats had the worst rush defense in the Big Ten last season and are graduating starters Samdup Miller and Joe Spivak. The recipe for success under Fitz has been to run the ball and play strong defense, and the hope is that this class can make an immediate impact in returning to success in those categories.