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Football: Fitzgerald introduces new Northwestern recruiting class

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Football: Fitzgerald introduces new Northwestern recruiting class

Coach Pat Fitzgerald introduces the latest football recruiting class at his National Signing Day news conference in Chicago. The coach was excited to welcome 20 new scholarship athletes to the program.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald introduces the latest football recruiting class at his National Signing Day news conference in Chicago. The coach was excited to welcome 20 new scholarship athletes to the program.

Bobby Pillote/Daily Senior Staffer

Coach Pat Fitzgerald introduces the latest football recruiting class at his National Signing Day news conference in Chicago. The coach was excited to welcome 20 new scholarship athletes to the program.

Bobby Pillote/Daily Senior Staffer

Bobby Pillote/Daily Senior Staffer

Coach Pat Fitzgerald introduces the latest football recruiting class at his National Signing Day news conference in Chicago. The coach was excited to welcome 20 new scholarship athletes to the program.

Bobby Pillote, Web Editor

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CHICAGO — A month after completing one of the most successful seasons in program history, coach Pat Fitzgerald on Wednesday welcomed the next generation of Wildcats.

In a rolling process known as National Signing Day, 19 recruits from 10 different states faxed in National Letters of Intent to signify their commitment to enroll and play football at Northwestern. Those 19 joined one early enrollee, defensive end Tommy Carnifax, and two walk-ons, long snapper Tyler Gillikin and wide receiver Parker Oliver, to finalize the Cats’ 22-person class.

“Great class, top to bottom,” Fitzgerald said. “We filled a lot of our needs, and added competitive depth where we thought we needed to add competitive depth.”

The class, excluding walk-ons, rates as the 10th best out of 14 teams in the Big Ten according to 247Sports.com and consists of 11 offensive and nine defensive players.

Fitzgerald said 19 of the 20 verbally committed to the program before their senior year of high school, and added that he’s already impressed with the camaraderie among the group. Eighteen came together for an official visit in January.

“They’ve had a chat group together or whatever,” Fitzgerald said. “They’ve been in constant communication.”

The biggest standout of the class is Carnifax, who is the lone early enrollee of his peers and just the second in Fitzgerald’s tenure as head coach. Fitzgerald said he isn’t opposed to having more recruits enroll early, but wants to make sure each player understands what he’s getting into and makes the best decision for himself and his family.

Outside linebacker Jango Glackin, for example, graduated from IMG Academy in the fall but elected not to come to campus early, Fitzgerald said.

“It starts with the family. Is this something the family is interested in doing?” Fitzgerald said of the early enrollment decision. “You think you’re getting a drink from the water fountain and you get hit with a fire hose.”

A month after the Outback Bowl, Fitzgerald also lauded the impact of the exposure a January 1 bowl game created for the program. He said four recruits from the class of 2017 have already committed to NU.

And despite his praise of the coverage surrounding a high-profile bowl game, Fitzgerald did not express frustration over a regular season schedule that frequently had the Cats playing at 11 a.m. and televised on the Big Ten Network. These games do not draw as large an audience as games in later time slots on larger networks such as ABC and ESPN.

“Recruiting is at an all-time high. The exposure level of our program is at an all-time high,” Fitzgerald said. “I think BTN has really played a big role in that. … BTN is phenomenal for Northwestern football.”

Most of all, Fitzgerald was excited to bring in competitive depth at many positions where he said it has been lacking in recent seasons, especially along the offensive line. Fitzgerald commended the size and physical development of linemen Nik Urban, Gunnar Vogel and Jesse Meyler, and he was also pleased to add two more running backs in Jesse Brown and Jeremy Larkin to an already talented mix.

Unrelated to recruiting, Fitzgerald announced he made no changes to his coaching staff since the end of the season.

Email: bpillote@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @BobbyPillote

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