The numbers crunch for last two spots

Northwestern football recruiting has helped us fill this page throughout the last five months since the Gator Bowl victory as the program has gone on an unprecedented run of strong recruiting. The expected class of 15 recruits to sign with Northwestern in February 2014 already has 13 members committed thanks to Noah Westerfield’s Monday commitment, leaving just t spots for Pat Fitzgerald and his coaching staff to fill before February.

Basic economics should tell you that the demand for these last two spots might outpace supply. There are 34 outstanding offers from Northwestern according to Scout. Obviously not all are necessarily considering Northwestern as seriously as others. So many — read: most — of those outstanding offers will obviously go unanswered.

And Northwestern does not mind that. The program has counted on it as it has moved on to other recruits and other targets on its recruiting board. The bulk of the recruiting is completed for Northwestern. Obviously though the Wildcats want to finish strong and fill some specific needs.

Across the sites, it is pretty well assumed Northwestern is looking to complete its class on the defensive side of the ball. In this year’s class, the Wildcats have commitments from three running backs, one wide receiver, one offensive lineman, one tight end, two safeties, one quarterback, one defensive tackle and one defensive end. At least, that is by the positions they played in high school. It seems fairly certain that to complete this class Northwestern is going to look to the defensive side of the ball to complete this class.

Further, it seems the consensus belief is that Northwestern will focus on linebackers to complete this class and fill some needs for future teams.

There really is only one “big” name left that is seriously considering Northwestern — that would be Cameron Dickerson’s brother, Garrett Dickerson — otherwise it seems like the last spots will go to the typical Northwestern underachievers who the coaching staff can groom to fit their needs. That is still a part of the Northwestern recruiting ethos even with the acclaim the team has gotten for its other recruiting exploits.

So who is Northwestern going after? Since there are still a little more than seven months to go before Signing Day and there is little unknown, figuring out who will nail down these last three spots presents the biggest intrigue left.

So how do we make sense of who is left in the Northwestern target list? If you have a Purple Wildcats subscription, Nick Medline breaks down his favorites for the final three spots in Northwestern’s class of 2014. I will point out who his favorites are and leave the rest of the analysis to him. But here is a breakdown of who is left for Northwestern:

The Real Targets

Garrett Dickerson (LB), Oradell, N.J.: Dickerson seems to be the biggest no-brainer to Northwestern in the whole list. The four-star tight end whom many expect to make the transition to linebacker in college is from a school Northwestern recruits pretty well and from a family Northwestern has recruited well. That has kept Northwestern in the conversation. They are in the final three.

Adarius Pickett (S), El Cerrito, Calif.: Pickett’s seriousness with Northwestern has really picked up in recent days. According to Aric DiLalla of Rivals, the Wildcats are “in the game” for the four-star prospect. That may not be saying much as Pickett has whittled his list down to 13 schools. Working against Northwestern is that Pickett also likes playing baseball. It is unclear whether he would try to play both in college. The last player at Northwestern to play both baseball and football was Arby Fields. Fields eventually transferred to LSU to pursue baseball after his football career flamed out.

Brandon Lee (LB), Indianapolis, Ind.: This is someone Medline highlights as a real target for one of Northwestern’s final three spots. Lee is a four-star prospect according to Scout and a three-star prospect according to Rivals with offers from Virginia Tech, Louisville and Missouri among nine finalists. He is taking his time on his recruiting process but plans to trim that list to five in July or August before taking official visits. Lee specifically told Anna Hickey of Scout that he is looking specifically for academics and campus atmosphere as he narrows his search. Medline believes Northwestern should make that next cut.

Ron Robinson (S), Corona, Calif.: This is one of Medline’s, along with other Northwestern recruiting observers, pick for one of those last two spots for Northwestern. Robinson is a two-star prospect, but also the kind of player Jerry Brown loves. They see him in the mold of a Traveon Henry, whom we know the coaching staff loves. Robinson is fielding offers from California schools too and so the recruitment may be heating up with him. He received an offer from UCLA in late June, making them the second BCS-conference school to offer him. If the Wildcats want to secure their secondary depth, Robinson has to be one of the players on the top of NU’s remaining targets list.

Bobby Okereke (DE), Santa Ana, Calif.: Okereke has looked mainly at schools on the West Coast, but his interest in Northwestern has grown. He will reportedly be on campus in late July or early August and he will be studying Evanston pretty hard to see if it is someplace he could fit. Pat Fitzgerald has sold him on just about every other aspect of the program. It will all come down to Okereke’s decision. But many seem to think Northwestern has piqued his interest enough that the visit will clinch it.

Don’t Hold Your Breath

Cordelral Cook (QB), Stone Mountain, Ga.: The two-star (Rivals) quarterback has a Northwestern offer along with offers from a couple FCS schools. It does not seem that Northwestern’s recruitment of him is very serious at this point. The Wildcats are set at quarterback for a while and are looking on the defensive end. Schools like Michigan State and Nebraska have shown interest, but it seems doubtful Northwestern is thinking he will be part of its class despite the reported outstanding offer.

Parrker Westphal (CB), Bolingbrook, Ill.: Westphal is another one of those players that is emphasizing academics and that appears to have him waiting for Stanford to make an offer. Northwestern is not in the mix much any more. Westphal is also considering Florida and pretty much all the Midwest powers — Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Nebraska. The four-star cornerback just may not be a good personal or personnel fit for Northwestern right now. Interest seems to have waned from both sides since Westphal visited bowl practice in December.

Alex Bookser (OL), Pittsburgh, Pa.: According to Greg Pickel of Scout, Northwestern is very clearly in the second tier for this four-star offensive lineman. Bookser has Ohio State and Pittsburgh at the top of his list and Penn State is somewhere in the mix too. The Wildcats appear to have fallen off as his interest in these other schools have grown. At least the Wildcats made it to the top eight.

Alex Van Dyke (WR), Elk Grove, Calf.: Van Dyke seems to be taking his time in whittling his list of schools down and it appears Northwestern might still be somewhere in the mix. If they are, it would seem they are far back in the pack. The California product has done most of his visits to California schools like Cal, UCLA and USC. His father went to Nevada and the Wolfpack are in the mix. So too is Oregon. With Northwestern already securing Dareian Watkins and having most of those offensive needs filled, there seems to be a mutual disinterest in each other in the recruiting process as Van Dyke is keeping his focus on Western schools (not Northwestern ones . . . sorry, had to).

Josh Malin (DE), Cibolo, Texas: Malin is an interesting prospect mostly because Northwestern still seems to be the mix and is the “which one of these is not like the other” on Malin’s recruitment list. No doubt, the Wildcats would like to add a defensive end to this year’s class and Malin fits that. Now to the competition: they are all Texas schools for the most part. Baylor, Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas Tech are in the running and seem to have a leg up on Northwestern at this point. The Wildcats do not seem to be pursuing him as hard at this point.

Terrence Alexander (CB), River Ridge, La.: The Wildcats have been a bit slow-moving on this three-star cornerback. They did not extend an offer to him until April and, again, the focus seems to be on shoring up the defensive line with these final three spots. Alexander though might still be in the mix. At The Opening this week, Alexander still names Northwestern in his top four. But it does not seem Northwestern is in “hot pursuit.” Arkansas, Ole Miss and Stanford appear to have a leg up in that top four. If cornerback were a bigger need, maybe then Northwestern would be higher up in the mix.

Jomon Dotson (RB), American Canyon, Calif.: Dotson said it pretty plainly to Brandon Huffman of Scout. Of all the teams that have offered the three-star running back, only Northwestern has not offered him as a running back. The Wildcats want him to play cornerback and Dotson said he wants to play running back. You would think that would eliminate him complete — and, in fact, it might have. But Dotson continues to keep Northwestern on his board in case he changes his mind and finds that he may be best suited for the defensive end.

Little to No Chance

Dalton Schultz (TE), South Jordan, Utah: At one point, Northwestern offered the nation’s top tight end according to both Rivals and Scout. But they should not be considered in the running at all. Schultz is looking at staying in the West Coast with Greg Biggins of Scout reporting in May that he was a heavy Stanford lean. Arizona, Wisconsin and Cal appear also to still be in the running. Northwestern is not.

Nyles Morgan (LB), Crete, Ill.: Morgan has SEC fever with interest in Ole Miss and Tennessee. His academic interest has kept Vanderbilt in. Northwestern has not been in the mix for a very long time. The Wildcats appeared to have offered him early and his talent — he is a four-star prospect from both Scout and Rivals — outpaced his interest in the Big Ten.

Richard Yeargin III (LB), Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.: This four-star linebacker appears to have his eyes set on those big names. Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State are among the favorites to land him. It does not appear Northwestern has been in the mix for a long while.

John Bonney (CB), Houston, Texas: Bonney seems set to stay at home with Baylor and Texas on his list. Ohio State is on there too along with Stanford. Northwestern has been out for a while it seems.

Peyton Newell (DE), Hiawatha, Kans.: Newell is down to four as of June 29 — South Carolina, Nebraska, Kansas and Kansas State. Wrong purple Wildcats.

Austin Roberts (WR), Carmel, Ind.: Roberts told Allen Trieu of Scout on Monday that four schools stand out to him. Northwestern is not one of those schools and with offensive needs filled, the pursuit of this four-star receiver probably have ceased.

Jimmie Swain (LB), Lee’s Summit, Mo.: Swain is already down to his top five and it does not include Northwestern. Michigan, Stanford and Michgian State are among the teams still recruiting him.

Justus Reed (DE), Clearwater, Fla.: Reed has Ohio State and North Carolina as his favorites, according to Jacquie Franciulli of HooNation but is still looking into Virginia, Miami and Florida among others. Northwestern appears completely out of the mix.

M.J. Stewart (CB), Arlington, Va.: Northwestern and Stewart have not really had much mutual interest at this point. Stewart could decide between North Carolina, Michigan State, West Virginia or Virginia Tech pretty soon, Brian Dohn of Inside Carolina writes. That is his final four and Northwestern has been out for a while.

Ladarius Wiley (WR), Los Angeles, Calif.: Northwestern offered Wiley back in April and Wiley has made almost a complete conversion to safety. It seems like he is waiting for an offer from Stanford, one that he knows is coming, and Northwestern’s attention has moved elsewhere.

Chris Lacy (WR), Desoto, Texas: Lacy is beginning to get the attention from some big-name schools including Ohio State and Clemson as he looks to go out of state. Northwestern was in the mix at one time. But, as it seems, if someone sits on a Northwestern offer too long, it probably was not meant to be.

Garrett Johnson (WR), Winter Garden, Fla.: Johnson seems to be pretty intently focused on going to South Florida or Florida. He will be participating in camps there and already has an offer from South Florida. Northwestern gave him an offer, but the pursuit likely ended with offensive needs filled.

Zach Cripps (QB), League City, Texas: Northwestern is the only school with an outstanding offer to the Texas quarterback, but TCU seems close and his interest seems to be in staying in-state.

Antonio Woods (QB), Cincinnati, Ohio: Woods is a two-sport star who gained interest in football and basketball. It seems that his basketball prospects are a little bit stronger.

Kevin Strong (DT), Cleveland, Texas: Strong appears to be looking to stay in-state. Only Northwestern has offered him from out of state and it does not appear there is much interest anymore.

  • NUinVa

    While I’m glad this site focuses on NU recruiting, I am curious to know how our “rivals” (i.e. Stanford) go about recruiting, what their yield is, etc.

  • ctya

    Dickerson is already 6’3″ 236 and people expect him to transition to linebacker? Sounds like a DE to me. I’ve also seen him listed as a TE, but not a LB.

  • Algoncat

    Good write up.

    I would move Robinson and Pickett down, and Woods up to “Don’t Hold Your Breath”
    I would move Westphal and Wiley into “Real Targets”
    An argument can be made to move Alexander up but he is probably good where you have him. You also should add Adam Soesman to this list, likely into “Real Targets.”

    • RodCat

      I like the thinking re: Westphal, but why do you think that’s warmed or improved?

  • Chasmo

    This will be interesting to see how NU handles this situation as the staff has never been in this position before — just two scholarships left but many outstanding players still interested.
    Some Cat fans believe Fitz will take the next two kids who commit and call it a recruiting season but if that is what Fitz does, he isn’t really serious about competing for Big Ten and national championships.
    If Fitz is serious about wanting to win championships, he knows he can only do that with great athletes, so he might put his fifth year seniors on notice that one or two of them won’t be back next year.
    It would not be wrong in any way to tell a kid who, by going to summer school all these years, should be on the path to graduate in four years, that once he gets his degree his NU football career is over. It is in no way betraying a player who has obtained his NU degree to tell him that he can’t play special teams as a fifth year senior and get a graduate degree for free.
    Fitz and NU should hang in there with the superstar recruits for as long as it might be necessary because that’s what the teams who compete for conference and national titles do.

    • Richard

      Not necessarily.

      Remember that recruiting doesn’t end after next year.

      Wrapping up 2014 recruiting early means that Fitz and the coaches get a head start on 2015 recruiting, getting one of the first cracks at the top talent in that class.

      This could be called the Hoke philosophy vs. the Meyer philosophy.

      Like Fitz, Hoke expects his commits to honor their commitment and aims to wrap up recruiting early, allowing his staff to get a head start on the next year’s class. Meyer aims to close strong & to win hat dances.

      So far, despite doing worse on the field, Hoke has managed to put together a stronger 2014 class than Meyer.

      • Chasmo

        When one recruits as many Top 100 players as Michigan does, one can afford to close recruiting early.
        When one signs as many super stars as Northwestern does, one can’t — unless winning conference titles isn’t the goal.

        • Richard

          That argument doesn’t make sense if you think about it.

          Neither Michigan and NU are closing recruiting early to sit on the beach. If you accept that there is a finite unchanged number of hours coaches can devote to recruiting, it’s a question of whether it is more worthwhile to devote more to the early part of the process or the late part of the process. Recruits don’t just drop in your lap just because you keep a spot or 2 open. You have to devote time to recruiting late cycle 2014 recruits, which means less time early in the cycle to 2015 recruits.

          It’s far from clear to me that following the Meyer strategy would be more beneficial to NU. If you’ve noticed, Fitz and company are about to sign the best recruiting class at NU ever following the Hoke strategy. (And if I was being snide, I would say that meanwhile, Chasmo has wooed exactly zero recruits to NU). I daresay the NU coaches know more about what they’re doing than a Monday-morning recruiter.

          • Richard

            So I’ll turn your argument around and say that if you’re OSU, you could go hard for 2014 recruits late and neglect 2015 recruits early in the process because you will win recruiting battles late just by showing up and being OSU, but if you’re NU, you have to make a connection with superstar 2015 recruits early to have a shot at them– unless winning conference titles isn’t your goal.