Northwestern Recruiting Notes: 01/23

Key notes from this weekend and the latest in Northwestern football recruiting.

Northwestern made noise last Thursday when three-star defensive end Noah Westerfield de-committed. That would normally be reason for panic, but NU clearly had its ideal backup option in place. The Wildcats snapped up James Prather, not out of desperation but out of an ideal fit. Prather earned attention following an excellent senior season, with Marty Long and Pat Fitzgerald comparing him to all-conference talent Tyler Scott. How negative was this shift for the program? Apparently, not at all. Westerfield is well short of a generational talent and never seemed to gel with the Northwestern mission.

— The Jordan Thomas de-commit hit harder. NU's first commit for the 2014 class finally succumbed to the Oklahoma pitch. He chose Stoops and the Sooners after his weekend visit to Norman—leaving the Wildcats with a major loss but considerable flexibility. They don't need to replace him with another safety, or even defensive back, and can look at under-recruited or recently de-committed players. Their first look: Kameron Uter. PW's Steven Goldstein interviewed the two-sport athlete and reported he will visit Jan. 31. There's a chance they could land another prospect carrying momentum into the late recruiting season. Still, they'll most likely look at other options through the process.

— The Wildcats used Junior Day as an outlet to give their impressive pitch. One of the major listeners was 2015 center Brian Chaffin—a talented O-lineman to watch on the trail. He's mostly been recruited by North Carolina schools, but holds an offer for NU and built an especially strong relationship with offensive line coach Adam Cushing. Chaffin praised the team's academic reputation as well, citing the internship opportunities and the fact that they "set their players up to succeed." With Brandon Vitabile leaving, as is natural, they'll supplement the center ranks by adding another for the 2015 class—Chaffin or not.

— Elsewhere in the offensive line department, NU looks to make inroads with Cary (Ill.) tackle Trevor Ruhland. His parents both went to Iowa, though he's picking up Big Ten interest and appears to be open to attending Northwestern. Ruhland reflected NU's overall pitch, adding: "It's definitely a program on the rise. They had a down season last year. But I like how they say they're providing not for the next four years, but for the next 40 years." Of course, NU needs to build some O-line depth after last season, making this 2015 swing important for the program's future.

— Expect two defensive ends in this 2015 class. They're looking everywhere to replace future graduates, with the latest being Jacob Robinson of Westfield (Ind.). Robinson picked up his offer during Junior Day—with Fitzgerald and the coaching staff making quite the impression on his family. He even praised the facilities plan. The ‘Cats also raced to offer three-star Red Bank (N.J.) D-end Jamie Gordinier, per Brian Dohn of Gordinier holds other offers from Miami (FL), Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Temple and Virginia. He's part of that New Jersey pipeline, though—one that superbacks coach Bob Heffner can dominate.

— Among the other most important weekend visitors was 2015 outside linebacker Markus Bailey, who told Simone Scott that NU is his current top choice. Though there's still a great ways to go in his recruitment, Bailey prefers the Wildcats to offers including Illinois, Indiana and Boston College. Also over the weekend, another offer emerged: 2015 MLB Jake Cooper of Warminster (Pa.) picked one up according to Greg Pickel of Cooper called it a "huge" offer and raved about Fitzgerald's pedigree.

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