First in line

Northwestern's 2010 recruiting class addresses just about every position on the field. But it's what NU has done on the defensive line – snatching up a trio of lineman from three very different parts of the country, including native son Chance Carter (left) – that stands out the most. Purple Reign takes a closer look at the upcoming crop of defensive lineman.

Northwestern's 2010 recruiting class has, in a lot of ways, already been a success.

The Wildcats have nabbed eight players that ranks as three-star prospects – that's already more three-star commits than the Cats have had in three of the past four years. And of those eight three-star players, there are a numbers of different positions accounted for: running back, wide receiver, linebacker, offensive and defensive line.

NU commit Brandon Vitabile ranks as the No. 16 center in the nation; Paul Jorgenson ranks as the No. 52 offensive tackle; and eschewing offers from Kansas, West Virginia and Wisconsin, Chi Chi Ariguzo has been dubbed by Scout as the No. 54 outside linebacker. NU currently ranks No. 58 for its 2010 class – up 11 spots from last season with more scholarships still likely to be handed out.*

* Receiver Jimmy Hall and cornerback Daniel Jones will be in Evanston this weekend to see the Indiana game. Those two could be among those to join NU's 2010 class.

So the Cats have addressed spots all over the field, and they're doing so with quality prospects. Regardless of the sometimes-sporadic play on the field, things are going pretty well on the recruiting trail.

But nowhere does the 2010 class look better than on the defensive line. With this week's addition of three-star recruit Chance Carterwho committed to the Cats on Sunday – Northwestern has plucked up a trio of highly touted, heavily recruited D-lineman. So while next year's crop of prospects has been an overall success, it is along the defensive trenches that the Wildcats have done their most damage on the recruiting trail.

Carter's commitment is a good place to start. The 6-4, 250-pounder – rated as the No. 54 defensive lineman in the nation – was recruited by Notre Dame, Missouri, Indiana, and Wisconsin, and he held an offer (and serious interest) from Nebraska. But Carter, who goes to school at nearby Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Ill., opted to stay close to home.

And Carter's commitment – NU's 11th total for the 2010 class – is but merely the most recent bit of good news for the future of the team's defensive line. Earlier this fall, three-star Will Hampton of Houston, Tex., committed to NU as well. Hampton, who is 6-3 and 275 pounds with a 4.9 40, also held offers from Nebraska, Texas Tech, Wake Forest and Stanford, among others. In fact, Hampton had committed to Stanford* at the beginning of the summer, only reneging later on and opting for purple instead of red.

* Hampton's recruiting story is pretty interesting. Read all about it in this Purple Reign story from September.

And about a week after Hampton's commitment, John Froland from Snohomish, Wash., committed to NU as well. The 6-4, 245-pound Froland also held offers from Colorado State, New Mexico and Air Force. And while Froland may only be rated by Scout as a one-star recruit – he has three star according to – he has long been a target for NU. The Cats were the first school to offer Froland last fall, and they never wavered in their recruitment of him – unlike some other schools.

By nabbing these three recruits, NU has laid the foundation for a potentially stout D-line for years to come. Interestingly, NU only had three three-star-or-higher defensive line recruits in the previous five years: Adam Hahn (recruiting class of 2005), Vincent Browne, (2007) and Davon Custis (2009). And in the 2010 class, the Cats have snared a pair of three-star recruits, plus Froland, whose one-star rating seems to belie how highly NU thought of him.

There are other things that stick out about this trio. First, geography. Hampton is from the heart of Texas, Froland from the West Coast – and a self-admitted Left Coaster at heart – and Carter is from just down the road. In piecing together this defensive line, the Cats have recruited the coast, the South and their backyard. Add that to NU's recruiting prowess in other parts of the country – QB Trevor Siemian, receiver Rashad Lawrence and running back Shontrelle Johnson are from Florida; Vitabile is from New Jersey; wideout Tony Jones and Jorgenson are from Big Ten country; linebacker/safety Colin Ellis is from Louisiana – and NU's recruiting map is just about as big as it can get.

Also, largely because of the geographical diversity of the defensive line group, NU competed and beat out a number of different programs for these players. Hampton had offers from southern schools like Texas Tech and up-and-coming Baylor. Carter was being lured by midwest teams likes Missouri and Indiana and Nebraska, among others. And – along with some interest from Washington and Oregon – Froland held offers from two Colorado schools and New Mexico. Yet they all are headed for Evanston.

Again, it's not that NU hasn't recruited other positions for the 2010 class. There are three-star receivers, a three-star back, a three-star backer, a thee-star O-lineman and so on. But it's the defensive line that stands out at the moment. And whether it was the onus from the start or not, the 2010 class look like it may go down as the one that solidifies NU's defensive line for a long time.

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