The blue chips on the table

Coach Fitz has never feigned giving a care about what the recruiting services think. But as NU piles up two- and three-star recruits at a torrid clip, there are still some players with NU offers, like Miles Shuler, who could turn this good class into a great one. PR breaks down the uncommitted four-star prospects with offers, and some one-time targets we know won't be committing.

Coach Fitz has never feigned giving a care about what the recruiting services think of a player, or how many stars a kid has, or how experts think a prospect will do at the next level.

But as Northwestern piles up two- and three-star recruits at a torrid clip – the Wildcats have 10 commitments compared to five at this point last year – there are still a handful of players with NU offers who could turn this solid class into a great one.

Things, of course, are already looking good for the 2011 class. The Wildcats, after all, didn't nab their fifth commitment last year until Chi Chi Ariguzo committed on July 9. And here we are on July 8, and Northwestern has no less than 10 commitments already, including five in the past week. Not bad.

The Cats nabbed a commitment from their top QB prospect Zack Oliver; kept the New Jersey pipeline flowing with wide receiver Cameron Dickerson and offensive tackle Shane Mertz; and harvested defensive backfield talent from within the state with safety Sean Cotton and corner Jarrell Williams.

Last season, Northwestern signed a total of 11 players who were Top 100 at their position, and a total of 17 players. Already the Cats have five Top 100 players and a total of 10 commitments. Suffice it to say that NU is off to a good start for the '11 class.

But if this class if going to go from good to great, Northwestern will have to land one (or more) of a handful of four-star players who have NU offers. And if Northwestern is to do that, then it will likely be one of these guys.

Justice Hayes says NU is still in play.
Justice Hayes – Hayes, a native of Grand Blanc, Mich., is the top-rated running back with an offer from NU. The 5-10, 185-pound speedster (4.45 40) has visited NU and confirmed to recruiting analyst Allen Trieu that NU is one of his official finalists. He also told Purple Reign that, on account of NU being the first school to offer, the Wildcats "have the upper hand." The fact that Hayes' high school buddy and former teammate Tony Jones was part of the 2010 Class doesn't hurt either.

Miles Shuler – Word is out on this New Jersey native. Once upon a time Northwestern was one of just two schools to have offered Shuler, who back in the late winter was seen by some as little more than a speedy athlete. But now the 5-10, 175-pound Shuler, who runs a sub-4.4 40, has fielded offers from a plethora of schools, including blue bloods Florida, Oklahoma, Penn State and many more. But like Hayes, Shuler appreciates NU's early offer, and is impressed with the way Northwestern is handling recruiting.

"They were the second school to offer me. They're there for me. They're doing a great job recruiting me. They're just looking at it like no other schools have offered me, like they're the only one. I love Coach Fitz. He does a great job.

"They're definitely on my list. They're one of my tops."

Shuler confirmed that Northwestern had made the cut into the Top 10. Alas, he doesn't plan on making a decision any time soon. So we'll have to take solace in the fact that Northwestern simply made the list, and that Shuler is definitely interested.

Walsh has visited NU several times.

Jordan Walsh – Walsh, a Glen Ellyn native, has visited Northwestern – and been visited by Northwestern – multiple times. Not only has the 6-3, 280-pounder made a handful of jaunts to Evanston, he has also seen Northwestern coaches dotting the sidelines at his spring track and field meets.

"I understand why other teams can't (come to my track and field meets) – you can't travel really far just to see a kid at a track meet," Walsh told Purple Reign in May. "But because Northwestern is close, they have the opportunity to come down. I appreciate that. I really appreciate it."

Walsh isn't just spinning comments about Northwestern to Purple Reign. In an interview published by Michigan's Scout page, Walsh said that Northwestern was definitely recruiting him the hardest, adding:

"Just like Coach Fitz, Coach Cushing and Coach Johns…are always in constant contact with me. They've been to a few of my track meets. We talked and I thought that was pretty cool. It's easy for them because they are so much closer than everybody. So I understand why other schools do not do that, but it was pretty cool."

Northwestern will take whatever edge it can get in the heated race to land Walsh,'s No. 2 guard in the nation. Among the other schools to offer are USC, Tennessee, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State, Michigan…the list goes on.

Valdez Showers – Showers, a 5-11, 181-pound corner, visited Northwestern a few months ago. But as of a few days ago, he had yet to trim down his list of 11 offers. Showers told Michigan's Scout site:

Showers hasn't yet made a short-list.

"I'm going to try to cut my list down, sit down with my parents and everything. When it's that time, when I wake up and it's that time that's when it is going to be….I'm just trying to do that now because the visits are starting to slow down, camps starting to play out. I'm just trying to get into the process of doing that now."

Wayne Lyons – Lyons is one of the nation's most heavily recruited players, and it'd be a real coup if Northwestern were to land this 6-1, 190-pound safety, who is rated by as the sixth-best safety in the land. Lyons, from Fort Lauderdale, has offers from – actually, a list would be a waste of space. Just think of any decent-to-excellent FBS school, and chances are they've offered.

One interesting tidbit: On Rivals' "Interest" column for Lyons – where a player can have "High," "Medium" or "Low" interest in a potential suitor – there are nearly two dozen schools who have been relegated to the "Low" category. Northwestern has thus far avoided that distinction, and is at the moment lumped into the "Medium" category with the other remaining contenders. Problem is that there are about 25 other schools in that same group.

But for a wannabe engineering major who owns a 4.8 GPA, Northwestern could have an academic edge. Either way, Lyons would be a huge get for the Cats.

Jordan is undecided, meaning...who knows?

A.J. Jordan – This 6-2, 175-pound wideout from Trotwood, Ohio, is either mum or truly undecided. Last month he told's Dave Berk, "I've got twenty-one offers right now but don't have a Top Five. Some schools stand out but I'm not ready to say just who yet."

In the meantime, Jordan has (a) visited Louisville and (b) said that he is getting ready to trim his list. Other than that, not much to report besides the fact that Northwestern has offered, and Jordan is undecided. Translation: Northwestern is still a candidate.

OK, so those are the players who could help make this NU class something truly special: They are uncommitted, they hold scholarship offers from Northwestern, and they have a professed interest in Northwestern.

There are, however, some big-time undecided prospects who, for one reason or another, almost certainly won't be giving commitments to Northwestern.

Avery Walls – Last week Walls, a safety from Georgia, told that he had a final 11, and that Northwestern wasn't among them. That settles it.

George Atkinson – Atkinson, a California native, hasn't officially nixed Northwestern from the list, but judging by his summer travel plans, one could be forgiven for thinking that the 6-2, 195-pound athlete is taking a pass on the Cats. Irish Eyes is reporting that, having already taken visits to Oregon, California, UCLA and USC, he will be heading to Notre Dame, Alabama and Florida in the coming weeks. No Northwestern.

Lamar Dawson – While still listed as a Northwestern prospects on Rivals, Dawson, from Kentucky, confirmed to Purple Reign last month that he is no longer considering NU.

Dawson made it clear: NU's off the list.
"I told the coaches (at Northwestern) that it wasn't the place for me…" Dawson said. "I just think they were ever going to dominate the Big Ten. They're more academics than football."

OK then.

C.J. Uzomah – Scout and Rivals still list Northwestern as a potential school for the 6-5, 235-pound Uzomah. But there are a few things that would seemingly prevent Uzomah from committing to Northwestern.

For one, the Wildcats received a commitment from Zack Oliver last week. Oliver was one of NU's main targets, so the 2011 class may well be set on QBs. What's more, the Wildcats will have a junior starter this season (Dan Persa), a freshman back-up (Evan Watkins), and two 2010 signees (Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter) getting to campus. Heading into 2011, that's four QBs, only one of whom will be a senior.

What's more, Uzomah told that LSU, South Carolina, Auburn, Notre Dame and Clemson are recruiting him the hardest.

Then again, Uzomah did say that "Academics are definitely number one" when it comes to deciding on a school, so who knows.

Again, Northwestern has had a stellar recruiting cycle to date. The number of commitments, the number of three-star commitments, the variety of positions and locations from which these players are coming – it's all good. But should this class transcend "good" and become elite, look for one of those guys from the first batch of players to commit.

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