Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald is excited about his 17 signees, the first of which was wide receiver Pierre Youngblood-Ary of Orlando, Fla., who sent his letter in first Wednesday at 6:15 a.m.
But don’t ask Fitzgerald about the minutiae of comparing a two-star recruit vs. a three-star kid when it came down to NU offering one player a scholarship over another.
“I could care less what they’re rated,” Fitzgerald said. “I believe in this class. And I still don’t understand the definition of what a star means. I was a zero-star recruit who [ended up being] a two time All-American [linebacker at Northwestern]. So you can put that in your pipe and smoke it.”
Out of the players who signed their letters, five are from Illinois including four from the Chicago area. Richards cornerback Jarrell Williams was one of the first of this class to commit to NU.
Williams, a 5-11, 170-pounder, is a three-star player according to ESPN.com and Rivals.com, and he holds the Richards career record for turnovers forced with 11.
Fitzgerald sees Williams having the potential to play a variety of positions, including receiver, quarterback and kick and punt returner. He seems to be in the mold of current NU freshman Venric Mark, who started out as a heralded receiver but moved to special teams and sparkled as a kick returner.
“We always start and end our recruiting here in the Chicago area,” Fitzgerald said. “Jarrell is the full package, and he is the perfect fit. He was here quite a bit and was on our campus about five to 10 times.”
Another recruit is Waubonsie Valley tight end Mark Szott, who should play at the Wildcats’ superback position and is a three-star recruit according to ESPN.com. Fitzgerald likened Szott, a 6-4, 230-pounder, to NU junior superback Drake Dunsmore. Szott was a three-year starter and apparently committed to Fitzgerald as soon as he was offered.
“He dominated [during a 7-on-7 camp] while he was on the field and caught the ball effortlessly, and that carried over into his senior year,” Fitzgerald said.
The other area recruits include offensive linemen Jack Konopka (Fremd) and Matt Frazier (Bishop McNamara). Defensive end C.J. Robbins (LaSalle-Peru) is the Wildcats’ other Illinois signee.
But despite the good feelings about this class, the Wildcats did not make Rivals.com’s list of top 50 recruiting classes, and the site also ranks the Wildcats 11th out of the Big Ten’s 12 teams.
“It’s small at only 17 signees, which is why it doesn’t rank much higher,” said national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell of Rivals.com. “There is some talent in there, especially at offensive line, defensive end and wide receiver. But it’s not spectacular in any one aspect.”