Early returns on NU's 2012 recruiting class

Checking in on the progress of Northwestern's impressive 2012 recruiting class...

We look at Northwestern's 2010 recruiting class and laugh. Everyone turned out.

The Wildcats failed to add a single four-star prospect to that class, yet found some hidden gems and solid talents. The group will likely account for a dozen starters this year, giving credence to Pat Fitzgerald's general dislike of star ratings.

What matters is the on-field product, and after one season on campus, we're beginning to see which of the 2012 recruits will impact the program.

It's surprising to look back at high school profiles. Fitzgerald then hauled in six two-star prospects—all of which make sense. We can excuse Dan Vitale's low ranking, given that no one anticipated him fitting in so well at superback.

After that, you see several under-recruited players turning out. Dwight White (with his immense talent) and Jaylen Prater should crack the defensive two-deep. Stephen Buckley will see frequent targets as a change-of-pace slot receiver.

Even Dean Lowry flew somewhat under the radar, landing as the 95th best defensive end prospect. Some players have the skillset and mentality that translate well to the collegiate level. It's easy to get caught up in rankings, yes, because they need to show up and prove their worth.

That being said, we can start to evaluate the 2012 recruiting class. Some guys might be slow learners; others are ready to contribute in their true sophomore or redshirt freshman seasons.

At the top

Ian Park
Traveon Henry
Dan Vitale
Dean Lowry

Park locked down the right guard position–or came close–with an excellent performance in spring that carried over to training camp. Henry and Vitale are two of the most exciting athletes on the team, with unique skillsets and the ability to change games.

Next up

Ifeadi Odenigbo
Malin Jones
Dwight White

All three should earn some playing time–at the very least in backup roles. Jones could compete with Treyvon Green for the starting running back role in 2014, while Odenigbo and White are already solid backups at their respective positions.

On the cusp

Stephen Buckley
Joseph Jones
Jaylen Prater

The linebackers might step into featured roles for later seasons. Jones and Prater stand as two players who took their redshirt campaigns seriously and are showing impressive energy throughout fall camp.

Offensive line backlog

Adam DePietro
Kenton Playko
Eric Olson
Connor Mahoney

Fitzgerald loaded up on offensive linemen for this class, even more so than usual. This staff especially loves having depth at O-line and running back, so this made sense. Some of these guys will later compete for starting roles—especially former four-star talent DePietro.

In limbo

Greg Kuhar
Jack Schwaba
Chris Fitzpatrick
Andrew Scanlan
Terrance Brown
Mike McHugh

Many of these players will make depth chart moves in future seasons. Watch for McHugh–with his impressive speed–to work kickoff return duties later in his career. Kuhar struggled with injuries last season. If he can put those in the past, we're looking at a productive career.

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