Big non-conference win

In its recruitment of three-star defensive lineman Will Hampton, Northwestern was up against some usual recruiting-trail foes – Notre Dame and Stanford among them. But with yesterday's commitment to Northwestern, Hampton showed that NU can go into Big 12 Country and nab a recruit who had his share of traditional and up-and-coming Big 12 options.

With his decision yesterday to commit to Northwestern, defensive tackle Will Hampton marked a lot of firsts for Northwestern's 2010 recruiting class.

The first defensive lineman. The first Texan. The first future Secret Service agent – we'll get to that in a minute.

But with Hampton's commitment, Northwestern witnessed yet another 2010 first: The first time that the Wildcats had gone toe-to-toe with Big 12 powers for a recruit – in this case a three-star prospect with a boatload of offers – and received a commitment.

The first, hopefully not the last.

At 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds, Hampton is ranked by Scout as the No. 65 defensive tackle in the nation. And not surprisingly, a handful of schools were vying for his services. But it's which schools those were that makes Hampton's signing a combination of intriguing and encouraging.

The usual suspects were after Hampton, who runs a 4.89 40. A stellar student, he had offers from Stanford, Duke and Notre Dame.

It's nothing new for NU to compete for recruits with those programs. NU commits Paul Jorgenson and Tony Jones, for instance, both had offers from Stanford, and quarterback Trevor Siemian was being recruited by Duke before opting for NU.

And it goes both ways: Linebacker Kelby Brown chose Duke over NU, and Devon Carrington, Jarrod West and Dillon Bonnell opted for Stanford despite holding offers from the Wildcats. Blake Lueders, a D-end who NU targeted, ended up committing to the Irish.

So that Hampton's suitors included Notre Dame, Duke and Stanford is nothing unusual for NU. Those are teams that NU battles every year – if not on the field, then always on the recruiting trail.

But the other schools that NU beat out for Hampton, well, that's what makes his commitment especially noteworthy. And, moreover, especially encouraging for the program.

Hampton also held offers from Nebraska, Missouri, Colorado and Texas Tech. In the last two years, those four schools have combined for two Cotton Bowls, three New Year bowls and – in the case of Colorado – recruiting success that belies what it has done on the field.

Last season, Tech and Missouri were both in the Top 20 in the final AP poll, and all Nebraska did was rack up nine wins. Oh, and those schools are closer to Hampton's hometown of Houston.

So it wasn't just the academic stalwarts chasing Hampton – although they were chasing too. There were traditional powers (Nebraska, Colorado) and intriguing up-starts (Texas Tech, Missouri) also in pursuit.

That's a not insignificant troop of Big 12 heavyweights that Northwestern outmaneuvered for Hampton.

This isn't totally unprecedented. Last season, Northwestern received a commitment from Roderick Goodlow, who, like Hampton, is from Texas. But Goodlow, who was ranked as the No. 87 safety in the nation, didn't have quite the same list of schools chasing him.

True: Nebraska, Kansas and Kansas State had offered. But neither Notre Dame nor Stanford had; same with Texas Tech and Missouri. So while Hampton's commitment isn't necessarily a stop-the-presses moment, it's a big get nonetheless.

Hampton originally committed to Stanford in May, at the time only holding offers from the Cardinal and NU. But following his commitment, several schools came with offers. The slew of interest apparently made Hampton think again, even though he ultimately chose one of the schools that was there from the beginning.

As recently as late June, Hampton told Big Red Report: "I am going to continue to evaluate my options as I go forward, but I am still committed to Stanford as of right now."

Wildcat fans should be happy that he kept evaluating.

About the Secret Service…Hampton cited academics as a big draw for Northwestern. And in particular, he said that he was excited about NU's ability to help him land a Secret Service-related internship.

"With Northwestern, I would have to say my position coach Marty Long. He is a great person," Hampton told BRR. "Also, if I did go there, because I want to be a Secret Service agent, they can set me up an internship and I would also have a mentor there for me. Plus they win plenty of games every year."

And Northwestern just won again. This time, it was a victory over typical foes like Stanford and Notre Dame, as well as a non-conference triumph over the Big 12.

To reach David Vranicar, publisher of Purple Reign, please contact

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