Paschall: Fitzgerald silently recruits another strong class
February 5, 2013
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There’s nothing sexy about a Northwestern football recruiting class.
You won’t find them with a top-25 ranked class or competing with other Big Ten powerhouses like Ohio State and Michigan. A five-star recruit won’t have a NU hat sitting next to a Florida or Alabama cap on National Signing Day as he makes his commitment official.
For coach Pat Fitzgerald, stars are for the nighttime sky, not his recruits. He doesn’t care how many stars a prospect has or what rating number is pasted next to their name.
Fitzgerald doesn’t need the big names to compete with the Goliaths of the conference. He just needs the right parts to fit his system, one that has remained intact for an extended period of time, something unheard of in a era of constant coaching changes. Coaching stability, as seen by any dynasty in college or in the pros, is one of the keys to sustained success and Fitzgerald has figured that out. Moving parts simply don’t work — and when Fitz is recruiting, starts don’t really seem to matter.
NU’s recruiting class of 2010 did not have a single four-star recruit, according to ESPN, Scouts.com and Rivals. ESPN had quarterback Kain Colter and safety Ibraheim Campbell listed as the 79th and 139th best prep athletes in the country, respectively. Chi Chi Ariguzo was the 126th best linebacker in the country. Want to take a guess where Venric Mark was ranked? He was 199th. Even better, Brandon Vitabile wasn’t even ranked as a center by ESPN. I could continue to go on and on about these three-star or less recruits who make just as much impact to the team as a four- or five-star prospect. It just never ends.
The beautiful part about signing day for the Wildcats is that it is drama free. Of 19 commits, 17 verbally accepted NU’s offer before the start of football season. There’s no flipping and flopping hours before they sign on. They signal their allegiance to the Cats because Fitzgerald has them believing that there is nothing sweeter than attending NU. And you can’t really fault them on that.
The Wildcats will most likely be ranked in the top 25 coming into the 2013 season and have a 97 percent graduation success rate. It’s the perfect combination of athletics and academics that only Stanford could rival. A brand new, multimillion dollar practice facility will be built in the coming years that will overlook the waters of Lake Michigan and the peaks of the Chicago skyline. What once started as a laughable tradition at Ryan Field has now become one to be respected nationwide.
What Fitzgerald does with each recruiting class is bring in a handful of 18-year-old men who carry the dedication, integrity and intelligence he wants representing NU nationally. He’s never star-struck by any one player. No recruit is bigger than what the program stands for. To put it classically, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Take a look at each and every one of the 19 names that will fax in a signed letter of intent. Remember the Matt Alvitis, but also don’t forget about the Tommy Fuessels of the class. It’ll be the determination of this class to succeed on and off the field that will keep Northwestern’s program held in such high regard in the future.