Football: Scouting reports on Northwestern’s incoming recruiting class

Bobby Pillote, Assistant Sports Editor

Jared Thomas – Cathedral High School / Indianapolis, Indiana

OL / 6’4” 260 lbs.

Thomas was recruited primarily as a guard but originally played left tackle in high school. The move may have been prompted by his strong run-blocking abilities: Thomas has great awareness in space and consistently finishes his blocks to the end of the play. Regardless, versatility at multiple positions along the offensive line never hurts.

Cameron Green – Stevenson High School / Lincolnshire, Illinois

WR / 6’3” 205 lbs.

Green may not seem like the fastest player on the field, but the receiver returned punts for his high school team and displays deceptive speed once he hits his top gear. He uses his big frame well, shielding the ball from defenders, catching passes away from his body and high-pointing throws that appear well out of reach.

Trent Goens – Chino Hills High School / Chino Hills, California

DE / 6’3” 245 lbs.

Goens looks undersized for a defensive end, and that’s because he’s a pure speed rusher. His first goal is to beat an opposing offensive lineman off the snap with a good jump, and if that fails, Goens will quickly juke to the inside instead. He’ll be vastly outweighed by the mammoth offensive lines of the Big Ten but can pick up some lessons from sophomore defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo, listed at 240 pounds himself.

Simba Short – De La Salle High School / Concord, California

OLB / 6’2” 210 lbs.

Short has what is probably the best name in the recruiting class. Nothing in particular sticks out about his game on tape, but Short, listed as an outside linebacker, played a linebacker/safety flex position in high school similar to the one Northwestern used in its defense last season. Short is similarly sized to senior Jimmy Hall and junior Drew Smith, who rotated in that role last year, and projects well into that position in the future.

Flynn Nagel – Lemont High School / Lemont, Illinois

WR / 6’0” 190 lbs.

Nagel was the most dramatic story surrounding the Wildcats’ signing day. Originally committed to Duke, he switched after fellow receiver Grant Perry de-committed from Northwestern and went to Michigan.

“Coach Fitz called Monday,” Nagel said. “He gave me an offer. … When I woke up in the morning (the next day) it felt right.”

It probably helped that Nagel has two older brothers, Brett and Aaron, who played superback for the Cats. Nagel says the idea of eventually playing there had always been in his mind. He also emphasized family as a reason for his late recruiting switch.

“Northwestern was a better fit for me and my family,” Nagel said, “mostly because of the distance.”

The local product is considered one of the best prospects in the state and should bolster a thin receiving corps.

“As a receiver, I’m not that fast. My asset is getting open,” Nagel said. “I think the example there is Julian Edelman. … He might not be the fastest but he knows how to play football.”

John Moten IV – John Burroughs School / St. Louis, Missouri

RB / 6’0” 190 lbs.

Moten isn’t the quickest or the fastest running back, but he has prototypical size for the position and shows great vision and breakaway speed in the open field. He’s joining a crowded Northwestern backfield, so don’t expect him to make an instant impact like freshman Justin Jackson did this season, but he has the potential to be an impactful player down the road. Moten had competing offers from local rivals Illinois and Purdue, which reflects well on the Cats’ recruiting ability.

Jordan Thompson – La Salle High School / Cincinnati, Ohio

DT / 6’3” 255 lbs.

Thompson joins Fox as one of Northwestern’s top defensive recruits. He follows a line of undersized ends on the team that includes sophomore Ifeadi Odenigbo and freshman Xavier Washington. With those examples to follow, Thompson isn’t fazed by the Big Ten’s mammoth offensive lines.

“Best part of my game is my punch,” he said. “I used to play basketball so I can move pretty well.”

That much is clear watching his highlights. Thompson played defensive tackle in high school, and that versatility will be an asset throughout his career. He has great quickness and burst off the line, and also brings a mean streak to the Wildcats.

“People think it’s just a bunch of nerds,” Thompson said, “but we can play football too.”

Adam Lemke-Bell – Oak Park and River Forest High School / Oak Park, Illinois

OT / 6’5” 270 lbs.

Lemke-Bell has good size for the position and the ability to add more weight onto his 6-foot-5 frame. He finishes his blocks, shows good awareness when blocking at the second level and seems equally adept at both run and pass blocking. With some time to grow, the local product has the potential to develop into a bookend on Northwestern’s line.

Tommy Vitale – Wheaton Warrenville South High School / Wheaton, Illinois

OLB / 6’2” 220 lbs.

Vitale joins his older brother, junior superback Dan Vitale, at Northwestern to form the third sibling pair on the roster. He possesses great quickness and awareness at the outside linebacker position and is also a sure tackler in the open field. In addition to the sibling rivalry, Tommy also played against freshman running back Justin Jackson in high school, meaning there will be no shortage of familiar faces when the local recruit arrives at training camp.

Charlie Fessler – Cathedral Preparatory School / Erie, Pennsylvania

WR / 6’4” 205 lbs.

Fessler stands a tall 6-foot-4, at the opposite end of the spectrum from fellow wide receiver recruit 5-foot-8 Jelani Roberts. The Pennsylvania native knows how to use his frame well and will provide a big target for Northwestern’s quarterback in the absence of graduated receiver Kyle Prater.

Joe Gaziano – Xaverian Brothers High School / Westwood, Massachusetts

DE / 6’3” 230 lbs.

Gaziano is cast in the same undersized defensive end mold as current Wildcats sophomore Ifeadi Odenigbo and freshman Xavier Washington. But despite his size, Gaziano still has great strength at the point of attack, can play the run well and should find a spot in Northwestern’s defensive rotation. It’s also worth noting his Twitter handle, @meanJoeBiden, is the best in NU’s recruiting class.

Steven Reese – Buford High School / Buford, Georgia

DB / 6’2” 190 lbs.

Locked in a battle with fellow recruit Tommy Vitale for the longest hair in Northwestern’s recruiting class, Reese is a rangy defensive back with the versatility to play either safety position. He has impressive speed and can chase down a player who appears to be breaking away, but also shows good awareness in traffic and has the skill set to come down as a blitzer.

Jacob Murray – Coppell High School / Coppell, Texas

S / 6’3” 195 lbs.

Murray joins inside linebacker Nathan Fox as the other Texas native of Northwestern’s class. He lacks flair, but the defensive back is solid in coverage, has the versatility to play any position in the secondary and the speed to run with all but the fastest wide receivers.

Lloyd Yates – Oak Park and River Forest High School / Oak Park, Illinois

QB / 6’2” 190 lbs.

The high school teammate of fellow recruit Adam Lemke-Bell, Yates is the only signal caller in Northwestern’s class. He’s listed as a dual-threat quarterback by recruiting outlets and will remind NU fans of Kain Colter. At 6-foot-2, Yates seems undersized for the position. But he is excellent as a runner and at his best when on the move, while still competent enough as a passer to keep defenses honest with his arm.

Andrew Otterman – Delbarton School / Morristown, New Jersey

OG / 6’4” 285 lbs.

Otterman has size atypical of a Northwestern lineman, which will be a welcome sight for whoever lines up behind him. A grinding run blocker, he is still effective in space when pulling and can block defenders at the second level. He also has the potential to add strength to his mammoth frame and be able to bulldoze any defender in the Big Ten.

Trae Williams – Athens High School / The Plains, Ohio

DB / 5’11” 195

Williams played both ways in high school, running back and defensive back, but was recruited to play corner at Northwestern. Williams was originally a commit at Ohio University, where his father is the defensive line coach, but the Wildcats managed to pry him away late in the recruiting process. He has excellent speed and acceleration and will be a dangerous return threat as a defensive back with his pedigree as a ball carrier.

Alonzo Mayo – Gilman School / Baltimore, Maryland

CB / 5’11” 180 lbs.

One of five defensive backs in Northwestern’s class, Mayo is the high school teammate of fellow recruit Jelani Roberts. The two have been friends since elementary school, and while Mayo isn’t as blazing fast as Roberts, he still runs a very quick 4.56 second 40-yard dash, has the skills to run with most receivers and hits surprisingly hard for a cornerback.

Montre Hartage – Crisp County High School / Cordele, Georgia

CB / 6’0” 180 lbs.

Hartage is the wild card of Northwestern’s recruiting class. He joined late, after the decommitment of defensive end Zach Allen, and was previously committed to Georgia Southern, a school the Wildcats don’t typically compete with for recruits. Not a highly ranked recruit, Hartage still has good athleticism, is a strong tackler and played some receiver in high school, implying he has good hands should he ever have a shot at an interception.

Twitter: @BobbyPillote