Football: NU recruits unveiled on Signing Day

Adam Fusfeld

With last month’s BCS Championship Game still fresh in many people’s minds, Northwestern officially announced its 2008 recruits yesterday and began to prepare for the upcoming season. The Wildcats received letters of intent from all twenty of their anticipated recruits and head into the 2008 season with high expectations, looking to build on last season’s six-win campaign.

“I believe our program is as strong from a talent situation as it’s ever been,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said at a press conference – one of many on National Signing Day, when recruits across the country can first sign letters of intent – formally announcing the new recruiting class. “We were able to attract 20 tremendous young men, with great families, and tremendous character.”

Offensively, the recruiting class was built from the line of scrimmage outwards, with five offensive lineman, four wide receivers, a running back and a superback. Neal Deiters, a 6-foot-8, 310-pound offensive lineman, might be the most prized offensive recruit, as ESPN/Scouts, Inc. has him rated as the 36th-best tackle in the nation.

“He’s a big man,” Fitzgerald said. “He went down and played in an all-star game down in Florida over the January break and did just a great job down there just road-grading people.”

Family was clearly a common theme in the recruitment process for the Cats. Several of the recruits have family who played football at a major college or professional level.

“It will help [the recruits] when they deal with the adversity of leaving home and going to college,” Fitzgerald added. “It will help because their father will say ‘I’ve been there.'”

Linebacker Quentin Williams, ESPN/Scouts Inc.’s top-rated NU recruit and one of nine defensive recruits, won’t even have to look that far for help. Quentin’s brother, Nate, is a 2008 redshirt sophomore and a linebacker on the varsity squad. Other defensive recruits include four defensive backs, three linebackers and two defensive linemen.

According to Fitzgerald, NU’s academic reputation and recent football success are huge assets in attracting recruits.

“They hear Northwestern has the number one graduation rate in the country and they think ‘wow,'” he said. “They see the success that we’ve had, we’ve won three Big Ten championships in the last twelve years… and they say: ‘You guys are pretty good at football too, you can have the balance of both worlds.'”

Additionally, the newly established Big Ten Network ensures that more people can watch NU football, which has added to the Cats’ exposure

“When you talk to young men, it’s funny, they say: ‘You know what, we see you almost every game at 11 o’clock,'” Fitzgerald said. “It’s either on the Big Ten Network or ESPN, and that marketability gives us the opportunity to go out and recruit young men throughout the country.”

With this year’s recruiting process over, the Cats have already begun to check transcripts and watch film of potential candidates for the 2009 recruiting class.

But the coaching staff’s first priority is the upcoming season.

“Friday morning at 6:30 we’ll truly have our first meeting of the true 2008 Northwestern Wildcat season… and I’m extremely excited, not only about this year, but also about the future,” Fitzgerald said.

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