April Recruiting Preview: Defense

PurpleWildcats.com gives you a preview of April recruiting, and which names to watch on defense.

Defensive end. That might be the overwhelming priority for this entire recruiting class. Expect Northwestern to accept two for the class—even if they take a flier on someone. They landed Xavier Washington as their sleeper pass rusher earlier this year; they won't waste any time locking others in by the end of this cycle.

Tyler Scott provides an easy starting point. He excelled at the position, and when that happens, recruits often envision themselves taking on that responsibility. It's how tradition builds, like the Purdue quarterback system. There's some defensive back and linebacker emphasis for the class, which should be more defense-centric than the last.

(And a short side note: We're not devoting an entire segment to special teams, but please watch Belleville (Ill.) West kicker Austin Seibert. He's eyeing an early decision, and seems to like Northwestern. He's also, from what I hear, among the best kicking prospects in recent memory. This would be a boon for a program that still looks to replace departed senior Jeff Budzien.)

Again, we'll mention some notable guys to watch.

Tyriq Thompson

I love this pursuit. Northwestern refuses to slow down its recruitment of Thompson, a four-star Detroit King outside linebacker. His father attended Michigan, but this recruitment appears wide open. Josh Newkirk of Scout.com reported that he plans to visit Northwestern, again.

Pat Fitzgerald can land these types of defensive prospects, as evidenced by his strong long-term pursuit of Parrker Westphal. You never know what transpires during long recruitment processes. Spots fill up. Minds change. There are so many politics. And in this era, NU remains above the fray and remains the solid academic option.

The Wildcats continue to pursue four-star Indianapolis Lawrence Central middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland. That one seems less likely, and Thompson is the one who continues to praise the program. It's not a likely get, but you never know with Fitz. Others to watch include Markus Bailey.

Kraig Howe and Jordan Thompson

Three-star Kettering (Ohio) Alter defensive tackle Kraig Howe told me he plans to visit Northwestern beginning on April 2nd. That should be a massive weekend, with Justice Shelton-Mosley, Jamie Gordinier and several others planning to visit as well.

Still, Howe remains the frontrunner for "first commit" status. He's looking around, but the general sentiment is that he loves NU and could commit sometime during spring. It would be another victory over Illinois, which has shown considerable interest in the defensive tackle.

Another major target—they really all are—is Cincinnati La Salle defensive tackle Jordan Thompson. Northwestern became his fifth offer in late January. This represents another focus for NU: They could certainly use some depth at DT given the rate of attrition. The Wildcats are in good shape here.

Justice Shelton-Mosley

Oh, this one's heating up. NU was the second school to offer the versatile Shelton-Mosley, and the first was UC Davis. Though Duke followed a couple of weeks earlier, Northwestern won't let this one go easily. Shelton-Mosley is a star student who plays multiple positions—practically the definition of a Northwestern guy.

He plans to visit from Sacramento in April, which could end well. Better, his vision of the ideal school seems specific, and he outlined that to Purple Wildcats earlier this month. For Shelton-Mosley, the most important thing is considering balance. How do players interact with coaches? How do they manage classes? Being the first to offer, NU (from my vantage point) could land another early commitment. That'll take some strong work.

Jacob Robinson

As for defensive ends, the Wildcats are going after Gordinier, Jacob Robinson and some others. Robinson picked up his offer during Junior Day, a positive forum for Fitzgerald to make his pitch. The Westfield (Ind.) prospect enjoyed the pitch and told Allen Trieu that NU currently stands as one of his top two schools.

A solid student with other comparable offers, he's another candidate to join the Wildcats program early. If we had to guess numbers, NU would take a couple of defensive ends and a defensive tackle—hoping to strengthen their front. They'd be in solid shape with early pledges.

They're also staying in the picture for national name Jashon Cornell of Saint Paul (Minn.) Cretin Derham. He placed them in his top 15, which is no joke given his offers list, and will pick up his visit schedule this spring.

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