Halfway Point: Top Players

The 2014 Northwestern recruiting class is already loaded with top talents. Sylvan Lane and Nick Medline pick their favorites.

Nick Medline's Pick: Clayton Thorson

I loved this commitment for Northwestern. Thorson dominates at wide receiver for Wheaton North HS (Ill.) In spite of that, he projects to play quarterback at the D-1 level, and will compete with four-star pivot Matt Alviti for reps in the future. On the current team, Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian push each other to improve. Siemian has developed increased awareness outside of the pocket, and Colter faces pressure to improve his vertical passing game.

Here's the catch: I think Thorson will end up playing wide receiver. After seeing Alviti play last fall, I'm beyond excited for what he'll bring under center. He's a proven winner, and someone who balances his cannon with excellent scrambling ability.

Isn't it scary to imagine Dareian Watkins and Clayton Thorson–two of the top members of this class–catching passes for the Wildcats? Thorson boasts impressive size at 6-4, 195 lbs. He'll begin at quarterback, but could easily make the transition.

NU rarely wastes scholarships—as evidenced by the 2010 class. If Thorson fails to earn the starting job, he'll move out wide. If he wins the starting job, even pure-quarterback Alviti could switch positions.

This team will benefit from his size and position flexibility. With several quarterbacks (including Chris Durkin) itching to join NU, Thorson made the early decision. He's excited to be here, and they're excited to have him.

Sylvan Lane's Pick: Dareian Watkins

There's no question that Dareian Watkins has the potential to make a big impact as a Wildcat. However, the size of the impact isn't just restrained to how the wide receiver plays, but how–and where–others around him play.

At 6'2", 184 lbs. and with incredible speed and quickness, Watkins figures to be the branch on the Jeremy Ebert-Tony Jones tree . A player with his skill set lends himself perfectly to spread offense that's worked so well for the Wildcats.

Home run heaves may be few and far between for in the system predicated on spreading the field, exploiting the subsequent holes and piecing together drives reception-by-reception. For a guy like Watkins, it's a perfect fit.

That's why if Watkins makes an early splash, he could potentially force Fitzgerald into a difficult decision: Does he keep Clayton Thorson under center, let Watkins lead the receiving corps, and have him compete with Matt Alviti? Or does he keep him as a wide receiver and give Alviti another weapon with which to work?

His overwhelming potential may very well put Fitzgerald in an interesting position come 2014. Regardless, it's for the better.


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