Can Collins salvage first class?

Nick Medline takes a look at how the recent developments affect the 2014 recruiting picture, if at all.

"[Losing Hardy] really sucks for 2014 recruiting … It's asking a lot for him to seal the deal with several high-profile prospects in 2014. If he manages to do that, it would be epic." — Msnow

Chris Collins faces the daunting task of salvaging his 2014 recruiting class. In the short-term recruiting process, this does "really suck" for Northwestern, as one of our message board users phrased it. Considering one of Collins' most attractive qualities was his recruiting prowess, there's an enormous amount of pressure placed on him to deliver immediately.

Now, after his first setback, there are no excuses. He may not need an "epic" class, but would still benefit from earning two or three solid commitments. He has some scholarship flexibility, which allows him to dig deeper into the 2014 group, but could use some key cogs early in his tenure. This is his first chance to both impress and revitalize the dormant fan base.

This is bad news from a PR standpoint as well as from the recruiting perspective. Hardy chose to stay at NU under Collins, and then left within two months. They need to inform recruits of this coaching change. You can't hide from the bad news, and there's little doubt that every single prospect considering NU will view this as a negative.

Even worse, the staff is incomplete. The hiring of Brian James has yet to be officially announced despite him having been on campus for several weeks. Patrick Baldwin is the lone assistant, and probably works the phones for hours on end these days. He's beginning to develop his reputation, and has been in contact with several guys, but this unfinished staff is yet another concern.

Reid Travis–likely the top priority for this class–developed one of his strongest relationships with Hardy. The NU associate head coach believed in him from the early stages of his high school career, and came through with a crucial offer in December 2011. Though Collins speaks to Travis regularly, it will be tough for the team to rally and land him. I'd go so far as to completely rule out the chances with Whitney Young (Ill.) power forward Paul White.

But there's certainly some hope. By staying around for a month, Hardy was able to introduce Collins to several important guys. Collins has built a relationship with Tyler Ulis and grew acquainted with other top guys. Though it was disheartening keeping Hardy–even for a month–was beneficial for recruiting in the short term.

In the next couple of months, it would massive to lock down Collins' first commitment and generate some hype. Marcus Bartley and Josh Cunningham are my leading candidates, and I don't think that the loss of Hardy does any significant damage to their chances. Those are the two most feasible "gets" so far, but there's plenty of time for Collins, Baldwin and the others to find some other guys of importance.

They could look to the Illinois Wolves, with sleeper shooting guard Ore Arogundade. Arogundade has received mostly mid-major interest, but that could very well change. They're evaluating some under-recruited local guys, and this staff knows how to recruit the area: Have faith. It may not be the flashiest group, but there's no reason to panic.

The loss of Hardy means this team will need to cement its vision, find the right guys and make the most of this class in any way possible. It's a setback, but not one impossible to overcome.

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