But during Purple Reign's recent chat with three-star athlete Miles Shuler, the Long Branch, N.J., recruit gushed about Northwestern. So much so that one could be forgiven for thinking that, at the moment, Northwestern is the best bet to land Shuler.His early interest is due, in part, to Northwestern's early interest in him. NU, after all, was the second school to offer Shuler.
"I will always have that thing for Northwestern," Shuler said. "They actually recruited me the heaviest, you know, they showed me a lot of attention. I love coach Fitzgerald. He's energetic, he's young. Coach Fitz is just a great coach and they have a great football system down there. I will always stay in contact with them just like I have been."Purple Reign caught up with Shuler as he was planning a call to NU coaches to talk visit. And when asked which schools, along with Northwestern, Shuler planned on visiting, there wasn't a laundry list: "Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Northwestern – I know that for a fact."
Contrast that with another Northwestern target like, say, Wayne Lyons, the four-star safety from Florida who says he has no idea which schools he is visiting. To be fair, Lyons has more than 30 offers (compared to about 10 for Shuler) and it'd be much harder for him to have sliced his massive list down just yet.But Shuler has options too. The 5-10, 165-pounder has offers from Stanford, Michigan, Boston College and numerous others, yet he "knows for a fact" that Northwestern is one of the schools he's visiting.
Besides NU's early interest, Shuler has other reasons why he's so high on the Wildcats. Echoing what Jordan Walsh said last week, Shuler is excited that (a) coach Pat Fitzgerald genuinely bleeds purple and (b) per his 2009 contract extension, Fitz figures to be entrenched for years to come."That's a really big thing," Shuler, who has been clocked at 4.38, said. "I know that coach Fitzgerald is staying there, he's going to stay for the next seven or eight years. That's a big thing. Coach Lane Kiffin went from Tennessee to USC, other coaches are jumping around, and I just know that coach Fitz is staying at Northwestern. That's big for me."
So, too, is NU's spread offense, which Shuler spoke about giddily."Ah man," Shuler said, "that's awesome, that spread offense. I watched that (Outback) bowl game and I couldn't believe it. They threw it 78 times.
"And the wide receivers were good, they were fine, but they didn't have that speed to take it the distance. I'm thinking with my speed" – and here Shuler uses a voice like he's planning something – "I could take one of those 70-something passes and do something big."To be fair, Andrew Brewer had two 35-plus-yard touchdown catches against Auburn, and Drake Dunsmore took a dink-pass 66 yards to the house. So it's not like Northwestern's receivers were stuck in sand against in the Outback.
But it sounds like Shuler has already visualized himself in that NU spread."All the colleges are looking at me for wide receiver and running back," said Shuler, who plays quarterback in high school. "Northwestern is looking at me for a slot receiver, which is fine. I just want to have the ball in my hands. I mean, I'll go anywhere, I'll play special teams. But I need the ball in my hands. I need to make plays. I'm a playmaker. That's what I do."
Shuler will get an up-close look at the spread when he makes a visit to Evanston, which, he said, will be sometime during spring practice. While in town, he'll be thinking not only about how he fits in the offense, but also the campus."I'm looking for atmosphere," he said. "You know, like the hospitality. The looks and stuff – ‘This is a beautiful place' – I know that matters to a lot of people, but not to me. I just gotta feel like I could stay there for four years."
Shuler is a good interview, and maybe he sounded effervescent about Northwestern because he owns a bubbly personality. But between NU offering him early and recruiting him hard, and between Shuler being a speed-burner and his affinity for NU's wide-open offense, and between the fact that he wants a coach who's not going anywhere and the fact that Fitz isn't going anywhere – well, NU has to be a favorite right now. Or the favorite.
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