April Recruiting Preview: Offense

PurpleWildcats.com takes note of some offensive prospects to watch closely.

Last year, Northwestern used program momentum to dominate the spring recruiting season. The Wildcats leveraged players, closed quickly and gained more elite players than ever before.

NU began with Jordan Thomas—who later coldly decommitted—and followed by adding local quarterback Clayton Thorson. After spring break, leading into the spring game, several prospects gave their verbals in quick succession.

Though the team might be slightly less attractive to recruits after its 5-7 season, the coaches are working to avoid any letdown. It's worked so far. They can pitch the upcoming lakefront facility and the idea of a "fluke"—last season isn't likely to happen again.

Here's our breakdown of the offensive side. It includes some key players to watch, and an overall outlook of what the team hopes to accomplish this spring recruiting season.

David and Andrew Dowell

I liked the strategy here. NU offered David, a four-star receiver, in early January. They waited two months before offering Andrew, a four-star running back. The Wildcats are very interested—and probably somewhat hopeful—about landing the twins from Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward.

NU picked the appropriate time to offer Andrew. One major element of its approach is to wait. As some schools haul in early commitments, the Wildcats prefer to wait and offer later in the process. Because it earned the status as a "five-year program" with frequent redshirts, NU needs to hit on the majority of its prospects. They're usually good about this, but they can't afford to miss on many recruits.

The Dowells' visit plans mark one sign of hope. They already visited Northwestern twice and will plan another trip soon. As four-star prospects, they picked up obvious interest elsewhere. Northwestern is squarely in this race, at least for now. Watch for Matt MacPherson to build a strong relationship with Andrew, something the running back said was essential to his college choice.

Brian Chaffin and Jared Thomas

Who will Northwestern look for in the recruiting class of 2015? The best guess is to sift through the current depth chart. Almost always, they focus on replacing whoever graduated. Even with some depth at a position, the Wildcats like to build numbers—especially at certain spots.

Though 2013 recruit Brad North figures into the equation at center, Brandon Vitabile graduates after the year. They will almost certainly prioritize his spot, with Charlotte Christian (N.C.) prospect Brian Chaffin high on their list.

Chaffin visited for Junior Day and praised NU for setting its player up to succeed: "They have internships at Fortune 500 companies in Chicago. Northwestern offers an education. That stands out."

He also praised offensive line coach Adam Cushing, who flew up to North Carolina and met Chaffin's coaches. At that point, only in-state schools were focused on Chaffin. Since then, the three-star prospect has blown up with offers, but perhaps the lasting relationship with his position coach and solid visit will pay dividends.

I'm also sold on three-star Indianapolis Cathedral offensive guard Jared Thomas. He's interested in a broadcast journalism major, which makes Northwestern an ideal candidate. He also plans to visit a spring practice in April, adding: "I love everything about the school and everything they have to offer."

Grant Newsome

This would make quite the splash. Four-star Lawrenceville (N.J.) offensive tackle Grant Newsome visited Northwestern a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed his time in Evanston. Even the fact that he's visiting speaks to the New Jersey pipeline. Newsome called superbacks coach Bob Heffner an "amazing recruiter" and praised NU's aggressive recruiting.

Newsome also holds offers from Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State and many more. Of course, Northwestern can struggle to land the truly elite prospects, but lately they've hit on a great number of them. Last year, they reeled in four-star prospects Justin Jackson, Parrker Westphal and Garrett Dickerson (also from New Jersey).

This might not be their best chance of landing an elite prospect, as Newsome will take his time and plan visits everywhere. Still, it's a promising start to what should be a long recruitment. Newsome is certainly considering and weighing the benefits of Northwestern, saying "they have a whole lot to offer."

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— I'm not sure how enticing of a sell the quarterback position is at the moment. In the two most recent classes, Northwestern signed Matt Alviti and Clayton Thorson—two of the most hyped players in their respective groups. Bryce Perkins is one name to monitor.

– As for the running back position, expect at least two signed. Nothing especially promising has developed, outside of St. Louis back John Moten. Moten gained interest from several schools and grabbed an NU offer last month.

— Expect the ‘Cats to make a huge push for Stevenson (Ill.) wideout Cameron Green. He's been on their recruiting agenda for months, and finally picked up the offer at the beginning of March. On the receiver front, it seems early, with more names likely to emerge soon.

We'll have many more updates on Northwestern's recruiting plans, especially as the calendar flips to April.


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