NU will have to beat out Michigan State and Duke to land the No. 24 DT in the nation. The three-star prospect from Cincinnati (Ohio) La Salle visited Evanston last weekend, with the Wildcats looking for an ace recruit to close out their defensive line.
"The things they're doing over there, they're opening my eyes," Thompson said on Thursday night. "Football wise, I could see Northwestern being one of the elite schools."
The optimism from recruits is a combination of factors. First, they view the injury-filled 2013 season as an outlier. Second, they look at the lakefront facility plan and view it as a sign of investment in the program.
More important, though, can be the interaction with coaches. Randy Bates and Marty Long have carried his recruitment, which Thompson said will "really help with choosing the right school." NU also introduced Thompson to members of the strength and conditioning staff.
Thompson holds other offers from schools including Cincinnati, Illinois, Iowa, Wake Forest and West Virginia. The three clear leaders mainly earned their position due to academic standing. Still, Thompson preached the value of being "honest," and praised the NU coaching staff in that regard.
"I want it to be just like it was when I visited," he said. "They're doing a great job being straightforward."
Thompson hopes to make a decision before his high school season, though we've seen recently that timeframes can shorten as spots dry up.
NU target Kraig Howe is still wavering, despite being thought of as a potential early commitment. After taking three defensive ends, it seems unlikely that the Wildcats will take more than one tackle.
Regardless, the Wildcats put themselves in solid position to land another top Ohio player.
"It's still a growing program," Thompson said. That very thing continues to resonate with recruits.