Historically speaking…

Signing Day is looming, and Northwestern's 2010 haul figures to be one of the best in recent history. With nearly a dozen three-star players expected to sign -- including the No. 17 center in America, Brandon Vitabile -- Fitz himself said, "It may be the best class we have had." Purple Reign takes a look back and compares this class' historical chops to classes of yesteryear.

It's only appropriate that Pat Fitzgerald was talking about Northwestern's 2010 recruiting class moments after the Outback Bowl. What better place to mention a historic recruiting class than after a historic game?

Sure, it was only a passing comment from Fitz. But it was less than 300 words into his post-game remarks, and it was totally unprompted. Indeed, Fitz was just adlibbing when he said:

"We will heal up our wounds and go home and enjoy the New Year. We will be on the road as coaches finishing up recruiting a great class. It may be the best class we have had."

The Outback's historical value was measured by the yards and points and completions; it is obviously impossible to quantify a group of prospects the same way. After all, it's still months before any of the 2010 commits will strap it up in Kenosha, and years before they will have made their footprint on Northwestern football.

But even if it's not totally measurable yet, it is, uh, guessable. And all indications are that the 2010 recruiting class – like the Outback Bowl – will be remembered for years to come.

In an effort to back up (if not prove) what Fitz said about this class, let's take a look at the players who have committed to NU – and who should be signing their letters of intent on Wednesday – compared to some of NU's recruiting classes of yesteryear.

If all goes as planned on National Signing Day, Northwestern's 2010 haul will feature: (all rankings according to Scout.com)

Elevent three-star recruits...

Including three-star recruits at pretty much every position group: quarterback (Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter), linebacker (Chi Chi Ariguzo), offensive line (center Brandon Vitabile and tackle Paul Jorgenson), defensive line (defensive end Chance Carter and tackle Will Hampton), running back (Adonis Smith) and receiver (Tony Jones and Rashad Lawrence)

Six two-star players...

Which will fill in the remaining holes: cornerback (C.J. Bryant and Daniel Jones), safety (Colin Ellis), receiver (Venric Mark and Jimmy Hall) and offensive tackle (Sean McEvilly)

Not bad. There is either a two- or three-star player committed at every position save punter and kicker. And two-star punter Jeremy Stein told Purple Reign last week that NU is recruiting him and could offer him preferred walk-on status – in which case he'd likely become 2010 commit No. 18.

According to those rankings, this is certainly NU's best crop of talent in years.*

* Unfortunately, there isn't a huge stash of info from pre-2002 recruiting classes. The Scout.com database only has records back to ‘02, long after Fitz and Darnell Autry and the other Rose Bowl/Gary Barnett classes had gotten to Evanston. So we are talking RECENT history here.

In 2009, Northwestern had five three-star recruits and one four-star recruit.
In 2008, NU had eight three-star recruits.
In 2007, NU had one four-star recruit and five three-star recruits.
In 2006, NU had three three-star recruits.
In 2005, NU had nine three-star recruits
In 2004, NU had two three-star recruits
In 2003, NU had one four-star recruit and one three-star recruit
In 2002, NU had one four-star recruit and two three-star recruits (each of whom transferred)

No recent classes challenge this one's 11 three-star recruits. And the list of 2010 prospects is even more impressive when you consider where they are coming from. In 2008 and 2005 – the only years that even compare to this one in terms of three-star players – the recruiting map was much smaller. When NU landed eight three-star players in ‘08, five of them were from Illinois. And in 2005, eight of the Cats' nine three-star recruits were from Illinois, Wisconsin and Ohio.

Not that there's anything wrong with recruiting your backyard. But it says something when, in one class, you can nab three star-recruits from Florida, New Jersey, California, Colorado and Texas – which is exactly what NU has done this season. And in the case of Wilmette, Ill., native Chance Carter, NU scored the top defensive end prospect in Illinois. That works too.

Now, it's easy to argue the exactitude of Scout.com's star-rating system. After all, Corey Wootton, who ended up starting more games than anyone in Northwestern history and will be playing on Sundays in the near future, was only a two-star recruit in 2005 according to Scout. And fellow two-star recruit John Gill – who was from the same class as Wootton – will be suiting up for the Indianapolis Colts this weekend to play in the Super Bowl.

Indeed, in Purple Reign's first chat with Fitz, one of the first things he said was: "I don't put too much stock into what you guys say."

Fair enough.

But by and large, the star-rating system is a pretty good forecaster. Mike Kafka spent the last two seasons rewriting the Northwestern record books, and he was a three-star recruit coming out of St. Rita (Chicago) in 2005. C.J. Bacher is ranked among NU's all-time leaders in pretty much every passing statistics, and he, too, was a three-star recruit. Tyrell Sutton, NU's second all-time leading rusher and second all-time yardage leader, was a three-star recruit. And four-star cornerback Jordan Mabin was a freshman All-American in 2008 and has started 24 games in his two seasons at NU.

Thus, while there is no Newtonian equation to decipher the star rating and future potential of high school football players, Scout.com nonetheless has a pretty good record rating recruits – at least NU recruits. The three- and four-star high school players have, for the most part, thrived as Wildcats.

And with a 2010 Signing Day that should feature almost a dozen three-star players, this could be a class for the ages.

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