Northwestern earned attention this spring for its exceptional start to the 2014 recruiting season. The previous group had some fine pieces, but nothing suggested this sort of immediate success.
The four-star gems like Matt Alviti and Godwin Igwebuike are proving themselves worthy of the massive hype. Athletic receivers Tommy Fuessel, Macan Wilson and others have even pushed the veterans of their unit. But really, the entire class has made an impressive collective statement.
It won't pay off right away.
NU will almost certainly avoid burning redshirts on offense. Mark that down. On the defensive side of the ball, two candidates (to me) appear college-ready and even they might keep their shirts. It's a testament to the depth and talent of these Wildcats.
It could just be Igwebuike seeing the field in his first season. The Pickerington (Ohio) native has shown flashes of his versatility and potential. But the question goes like this: Why waste a crucial year of eligibility? I have no doubt Igwebuike would be a serviceable backup, though even he might need some injury for Fitzgerald to justify playing him.
Then, Matt Harris has managed to make an immediate impact at the cornerback spot. He's one of those unique athletes who might have earned the "under-recruited" status despite earning an offer from Wisconsin. He's quick enough and seems strong enough to compete at the Big Ten level. Still, Harris might be better served waiting.
There are several positives wrapped into one. The freshmen have earned rave reviews for their overall performance. The guys in front of them, though, are solid enough to keep the redshirts on. It's the perfect dilemma for NU in an excellent camp, and it's possible we could go another season without witnessing this strong 2013 group in action.
Stay tuned to PurpleWildcats.com for subscriber-exclusive updates as Northwestern returns to practice on Wednesday.