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WR Kyle Prater transfers to Northwestern

Lane KiffKyle Prater

Lane Kiffin, Kyle Prater

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Updated: January 28, 2012 4:54PM

Kyle Prater is coming home.

The former five-star wide receiver and Proviso West star announced Saturday that he will transfer to Northwestern after he left USC earlier this month.

Prater told the Sun-Times Jan. 19 in a phone interview that he was already academically eligible at NU and coach Pat Fitzgerald confirmed that Saturday.

‘‘I vetted it pretty well and visited with some folks out [at USC] and I visited with his high school coach [Famous Hulbert] at length, and I did as many background checks as I could,’’ Fitzgerald said. ‘‘I wanted to make sure and I did what I did with every prospect. Kyle said how he wanted to get closer to his family and I thought he was a really good fit.’’

Prater was recruited and offered by every school in the Big Ten when he was at Proviso West. But Prater decided to leave the Midwest and picked USC, only to nearly change his mind twice after initially making his verbal commitment in September of 2009.

‘‘We had him here [in high school] during our camps in the summer and started a relationship there,’’ Fitzgerald said. ‘‘The process out of high school went the way that it did, but then it seemed like a great fit and that’s where we are today.’’

The 6-5 Prater was hampered by injuries his two years at USC. He redshirted his freshman year and then saw very limited action last season. Prater had said he wanted to return to the Chicago area for family reasons.

Fitzgerald said he is not sure whether or not Prater will be able to play in 2012 or will have to wait until 2013, per NCAA rules. But Fitzgerald acknowledged that Monday he will start the process of getting Prater eligible for this coming season because of ‘‘mitigating circumstances,’’ which refer to Prater’s reason for transferring to NU. Fitzgerald said Prater has three years of eligibility remaining.

Prater could be the most high-profile transfer to come to NU since quarterback Zak Kustok transferred from Notre Dame in 1999.

So can he make an immediate impact on the Wildcats’ offense in 2012 if he is granted an NCAA waiver?

‘‘Time will tell,’’ Fitzgerald said. ‘‘He has a very bright future in this game. It’s unfair to put expectations on a person who hasn’t been a part of it and has to get in the whole sociology of it: New peer group, new friends, get up to speed academically. I have full confidence that will happen.’’

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