Signing Day 2014: Illinois high school football blogger ‘Edgy’ Tim O’Halloran talks Northwestern’s local talent

John Paschall, Reporter

“Edgy” Tim O’Halloran is the publisher for, a comprehensive website focused on Illinois high school football recruiting published on Yahoo! Sports’ Rivals website. He shared his thoughts with The Daily on some of the talent Northwestern signed from the Land of Lincoln and the Wildcats’ in-state recruiting efforts.

The Daily Northwestern: Of the four Illinois recruits Northwestern got, which one will make the most impact for the Wildcats?

“Edgy” Tim O’Halloran: I’ll go with (running back) Justin Jackson. To me, he’s always been kind of a multi-faceted, very athletic kid where if, and I know he hates hearing this, running back doesn’t work out, he’s the type of kid that NU can move to two or three different spots on the field, and he can play. Just from that versatility standpoint alone, he’s a kid you got to watch. Besides the athletic skills, he’s a very versatile kid that you can do a lot of things with, including special teams. I’d have to throw Parrker Westphal in there as well. Defensive back is always a position of need for everyone.

The Daily: Northwestern was able to get four of the top 25 players in Illinois, including three in the top 10, according to Rivals. What was the reason for all the success this year in the Land of Lincoln?

O’Halloran: First of all, Northwestern does a really good job of identifying their recruits early in the process. They’re very active, having their coaches out making in-school visits ahead of time. They know academically whom they have a shot at. They also do a good job of getting them on campus and taking those overnight visits, which I think have been huge. It’s a situation where you got to find that type of kid that’s a fit at Northwestern and can meet it academically. That automatically eliminates probably, and I hate to say it, half of the top 20, if not more. You’re kind of limited in what you can recruit right off the bat. But they’ve done a good job of going after that kind of kid and selling him on the program.

The Daily: Are the Fighting Illini the Wildcats’ biggest competitor in Illinois or is there another school that’s been giving coach Pat Fitzgerald trouble?

O’Halloran: They will always be a competitor. But from what I saw, Vanderbilt was one that gave Northwestern a run for its money. There are a lot of similarities academically. Vanderbilt had head coach James Franklin and the draw of SEC football. Then of course, Stanford is always one from a national perspective that fits the mold academically. If a kid gets an offer from a Stanford or Vanderbilt, he also seems to be on Northwestern’s radar too. The appeal of the total picture from those two schools has just as much of an effect as an Illinois or someone out of the Big Ten. Illinois will always be a rival in anything, but with this class in particular, Vanderbilt really gave Northwestern a run for some of its kids.

The Daily: In 2013, the Wildcats signed Maine South quarterback Matt Alviti. In 2014, Northwestern got a verbal commitment from Wheaton North quarterback Clayton Thorson. How do Alviti and Thorson’s games compare, and can they co-exist in a two-quarterback system?

O’Halloran: I think they can co-exist. When you look at both of them, you start with the physical differences. Matt is probably around 6 feet tall. Clayton is a bigger, stronger kid. Because of Clayton’s size (6 foot 4 inches, 205 pounds), people don’t think he’s mobile or as athletic, and they’d be sadly mistaken. The thing that caught my eye about Clayton is that he played half his junior year at wide receiver. He showed some really, really impressive athletics, being able to go out and catch passes and take hits. If you didn’t know he was a quarterback, you would consider him a very good receiver or tight end. Would I be shocked down the road if Northwestern looked at him as a wide receiver or tight end? No. Northwestern’s done that in the past.

The Daily: After playing mostly cornerback during his high school career, Westphal played a lot of safety in his senior year at Bolingbrook. Which position do you think he’s better suited for? 

O’Halloran: He’s a very, very talented kid. He has the physical tools to do either/or. He can play press against a quicker receiver. He’s big enough and physical enough to handle a larger receiver. He also really has the football IQ to play the safety position and be physical enough to come up and hit and make tackles. I know it’s a cop out but, yes, he can play either one. If it comes down to need, I think that’s what they’ll do with him.

The Daily: There have been many reports that the 2015 Illinois high school class isn’t as strong as it has been in previous years. Do you foresee Northwestern not offering as much talent from the Land of Lincoln, and what are some names to keep an eye out for as potential Northwestern targets?

O’Halloran: If I had to give a grade for the 2015 class I’d give it a ‘C’ right now. There’s a handful of offensive line targets to keep an eye on. Gabe Megginson from Jacksonville, Ill. will be highly sought after. I also like Trevor Ruhland out of Cary Grove. He’s a very good player but more of an interior lineman. Then there’s Jack Shutack out of Nazareth who’s more of an offensive tackle. In terms of talent, I’ll put it this way: I don’t see the SEC spending a lot of time here in Illinois for this class. There’s no four or five-star stud, impact Clifton Garrett’s of the world. We don’t have that in 2015. We have some good roster guys. The offensive line class isn’t great. There’s not a tremendous amount of depth. From an offensive line standpoint, schools are going to grab a handful of the kids there. A lot of schools might wait until 2016 because it looks absolutely loaded.

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