Big Ten Recruiting: Northwestern

While many programs around the Big Ten have their fans excited about the future prospects, the same isn't necessarily true at Northwestern. Get the perspective from a beat writer as we continue our trip around recruiting in the Big Ten.

The Wildcats' have made big splashes in the past decade on the football field. However, it seems progress has come very slowly on the recruiting end — especially in the Randy Walker era.

It seems Northwestern is always playing catch-up and trying to make recruits believe that the team is actually climbing the ladder. A bowl appearance last season had to help.

The biggest acquisition this season was QB C.J. Bacher of Carmichael, Calif.

Bacher is considered a top-15 quarterback by some analysts. He threw for 2,163 yards and 23 touchdowns last year, and he has a chance to push starting QB Brett Basanez foe the starting job.

Walker won't say it, but he probably would love to see Bacher blow Basanez away in practice. Bacher demonstrated arm strength and accuracy at the high school level. If he can do the same thing at the college level without going through an "awkward" period, there is every chance that he can unseat Basanez, who struggled during the 2003 season.

Walker brought two very talented running backs on board, including Akeem Hunter of Chicago and Brandon Roberson of Texas. Roberson was a remarkable high school athlete who gained 5,235 yards to rank eight all-time in Texas 5A history.

Those skills players will have to take a big step up if the Wildcats are going to continue to go to bowl games and for the Wildcats to remain competitive in the Big Ten.

QB C.J. Bacher — At 6-2 and 180, Bacher carries the Wildcats' QB hopes on his shoulders. While there is a chance he could stand out early and win the starting QB job by the beginning of the season, he's more likely to get in the lineup by midseason or later. He has a strong arm and threw 23 TD passes for Jesuit High School near Sacramento, Calif.

RB Brandon Roberson, Pearland, Texas — A workhorse running back who hopes to follow in the tradition of Jason Wright. Roberson is not very big — 5-9 and 185 — but he can pile up the yards and dish out punishment. He had 5,235 yards during his high school career.

TE Ben Rinker, Barrington, Ill. — A raw talent who has not played much football. However at 6-4 and 230 pounds, Randy Walker loves his size and strength. Walker saw Rinker at Northwestern's football camps and liked his athletic ability. He could be a big-time playmaker.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's going to have a chance. I tell every kid we recruit that you need to come in with the mindset that you are going to take somebody's job. If you come in with any other mindset, you are wasting time." — Walker on QB recruit C.J. Bacher, who could challenge Brett Basanez for the starting job.

GLANCE AT 2004: Jason Wright is leaving and that's a major loss to overcome. However, backup RB Noah Herron — 739 yards and a 6.2 yards per carry average — returns and he made big improvement this season. QB Brett Basanez returns for his junior season and should be better than he was in 2003. He completed 53.6 percent of his passes, but his 4-12 TD-interception ratio shows how much improvement is needed. Backup QB Alexander Webb has solid athletic ability and could push for playing time, and so could freshman C.J. Bacher.

PRO POTENTIAL: RB Jason Wright — He was clearly the heart and soul of this team. The numbers were sensational. He ran for 1,388 yards and scored 20 rushing TDs. He also added 18 receptions for 251 yards and a touchdown. Not a spectacular looking athlete, but somebody who could bring a lot to the table at the next level.

INJURY IMPACT: The Wildcats should be healthy heading into spring practice.

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