NU aggressive in pursuit of defensive ends

Northwestern continues to pursue top-flight defensive end prospect. This PW Insider Update includes some analysis of key players.

When we reported that "outside linebacker" Noah Furbush planned his unofficial visit to Northwestern, the buzz created an unmistakably classic message board thread.

In it, several of our finest cracked jokes about Furbush being the next "Tyler Scott." This still felt all too real: After this season, they could use some long-term help at defensive end. There are some solutions on the current roster, but the recruiting picture focuses squarely on reinforcements.

Of course, the message boards were right, and continue to surprise me with their accuracy. Furbush is being pursued as a defensive end. NU, to me, remains the dark horse in his busy recruitment. He loves academics and envisions himself fitting right into the team's aggressive defensive schemes. He's also very good, as evidenced by the absolute show he put on at Purdue camp a few weeks ago.

There are no cop-out efforts. NU wants a top-tier defensive end, and the staff has lined up some premier options. These might be difficult lands, but with three commits left, they can take chances and tighten their lens.

You can respect their overall approach. If the Cats can land any one of their (as I see it) four key guys, it would result in another huge recruiting coup. And if not, that's fine. Jimmie Swain–the last significant snub–left NU off of his recent cut. I'm probably a few days away from forgetting how to spell his first name.

Recruiting does not slow down, even when you've landed 80 percent of your final class. It becomes precise, and with safety and defensive end the final needs, NU expects to finish strong. It would really suck if they came up short after all of this success.

Furbush stands as one of the more intriguing targets, with Grant Blankenship another. Blankenship, another Texas guy, quietly placed NU in his top four—which just moved to top five or something like that. He visited for the Vanderbilt game last season (obviously a good reflection because: Vanderbilt) and has family in the area. His aunt even graduated from NU. His offer list is also ridiculous (see his Scout profile) which only sweetens the deal. If he ends up planning his visit, it's an especially good sign.

Some other targets are just ambitious. What is there left to say about Garrett Dickerson? The Bergen Catholic (N.J.) target is one of the best hopes at an elite commitment to finish it all. Though he shafted NU in the three-spot of his latest list, that's still praiseworthy and the Cats could easily work their way up. Often, relationships with the coaching staff prove beneficial in sealing commitments, and that's what NU has sold Dickerson.

There's been the fairly well documented recruitment of Bobby Okereke. The California prospect–who could honestly play elsewhere on the field–sent me his list on Sunday. It includes NU, Stanford, USC, Cal, Vanderbilt (no), Oregon and Washington. Like in the recruitment of Blankenship, NU stands as the "unique" option: It's not on the West Coast. He does like the Wildcats, and again, anything can happen when you stick around long enough.

It's difficult not to admire the ostensibly confident outlook from this coaching staff. They're not running the process, and understandably so. Do they think they can land one of these four? Absolutely. Would they recover should everything fall through? Yes.

But without going into several hundred additional words, this seems to be the most pertinent need remaining for the class of 2014. If they can get it all wrapped up, NU football fans might have even more to be excited about.


Purple Wildcats Top Stories