Northwestern moving past its demons

2015 DE Zach Allen of New Canaan (Conn.) capped an incredible recruiting week for Northwestern, one that will help it distance itself from last season's rough ride.

Zach Allen visited Northwestern on April 5, not knowing what to expect. Then, NU had no commits.

Just more than one week later, he became the Wildcats' eighth commit—capping a surge that captured everyone's attention.

"I wasn't really surprised," Allen told "They saw the exact same things I saw. Coach Fitz has done wonders with that program."

Asked about the struggles last year, he barely paused. No one really cares anymore.

"They had injuries," Allen said. "They've made four bowl games in five years, or something crazy like that. You really want to be a part of it."

And he's telling us. Northwestern proved itself this week with eight pledges—one of which has not yet been announced. Wins are one thing, but a new season means new hopes.

In February, after Signing Day, I wrote about how Pat Fitzgerald kept it together. Six recruits went on record dismissing the 2013 season. One, it's in the past. Second, the program is destined for better things.

Even more importantly, it's the versatile coaching staff that attracts players. Allen praised Fitzgerald and Marty Long, two other figures involved in his recruitment.

"Coach Long and Coach Fitz, they're amazing," Allen said. "Coach Fitz is like the energizer bunny. He's out there running with the players.

"Coach Long, his résumé speaks for itself, with all of the players he's developed and put into the NFL … They're ready to develop boys into men."

NU never hid from its seven-loss season. They never veered from the program mission, and brought in a swarm of young talent. There were no excuses; there was a commitment to getting better that resonated with recruits.

"I want to be where the people are completely up front and honest, and will give me the true story," Allen said.

Eventually, and maybe not even this week, fans will be able to take a short breath. This time, it'll be in wonderment over how distant last year already feels.

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