Jordan Thompson Jared Thomas Joe Gaziano Trent Goens Nathan Fox Simba Short John Moten Cameron Green Adam Lemke-Bell Tommy Vitale Montre Hartage Flynn Nagel Charlie Fessler Trae Williams Jelani Roberts Alonzo Mayo Steven Reese Andrew Otterman Lloyd Yates Jacob Murray
Following a relatively quiet offseason, Northwestern's football program will welcome members of its 2015 recruiting class to the program on Feb. 4 for National Signing Day. Even with de-commitments from some of the Wildcats' top targets, Pat Fitzgerald and co. still managed to put together a solid class. As of now, Northwestern's crop of new talent ranks 47th nationally, according to 247 Sports, the same rank they had last year. We'll be putting out player capsules like these in the lead up to National Signing Day so you can learn more about this new bunch of Wildcats.
POSITION: Middle linebacker
HOMETOWN: Houston, TX
HIGH SCHOOL: Clear Lake
247 COMPOSITE RATING: ★★★ (.8585)
NATIONAL RANK: 685
POSITION RANK: 23
STATE RANK: 87
OTHER OFFERS: Mississippi State, Oregon, Utah, Wake Forest
MORE: 247 Profile | Hudl
It's not often a school from above the Mason-Dixon line can venture deep into the heart of Texas and pluck away a rangy playmaker from the big boys, but that is exactly what happened for Nathan Fox. Northwestern even had to contend with a late push from Oregon and their flashy uniforms, but Pat Fitzgerald and his staff were able to hang on to this Houston-area middle linebacker.
Fox was the Wildcats first player to commit for their 2015 class, committing in early April and setting the pace what would become a class strong on the defensive front seven. He had an excellent junior season for Clear Lake. Fox had 131 tackles on the year to go along with three picks. In recognition of the stellar season he had, Fox was named the 24-5A Defensive MVP, in addition to earning first team all-state honors from the Associated Press and being named to MaxPreps 2013 Junior-All American team.
Fox has shown very good instincts on the field; he doesn't get fooled by play-action or misdirections and reacts quickly to the pass and run. As we see in the highlight clip below, he has a propensity to get in the backfield and blow up plays. Other things to take away from film of him include an ability to quickly shed blocks to get to the ballcarrier and a nose for the ball that begets big hits and big plays. He can shoot the gap well and has great timing on run blitz, sometimes getting to the backfield before the quarterback even has time to hand the ball off. While highlight clips can fall victim to selection bias, Fox demonstrates skills that should carry over to the Big Ten.
While it's likely Fox may have to redshirt this season, he already possesses exceptional size and strength while still retaining the speed necessary to range sideline to sideline. His size and experience playing in football-crazed Texas should enable him to shoot up the depth chart quickly while his instincts and playmaking ability indicate the potential for a high-impact "Mike" linebacker in the future.
His skill set (nose for the ball, gets off the mark quickly, rapidly reads and reacts, outstanding tackling ability) and position (middle linebacker) is similar to that of former Wildcat Collin Ellis and current starter Anthony Walker Jr. as all three players have the speed to make plays no matter where they are on the field. While it may not be next year, don't be surprised to see Fox atop the conference leaderboards in tackles–and anchoring the Wildcat's defense in the years to come.