Why is Alabama is so dominant every year? Nick Saban isn’t necessarily the best Xs-and-Os coach in college football, but he is one of the best recruiters in the nation. Alabama’s plethora of four and five-star recruits makes it one of the most talented teams year in and year out.
Saban can walk into the home of any potential recruit and promise him a shot at a national championship. While Pat Fitzgerald doesn't have quite the same clout yet, Northwestern's recent success on the field has been translating to better recruiting classes. Check out the five players who have already committed to the Cats for 2014.
Clayton Thorson, QB – Wheaton, Illinois
For the second year in a row Fitz and the Northwestern football staff have snagged a four-star quarterback recruit, this time in Clayton Thorson. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound dual threat QB is expected to be the future of the program along with 2013 commit Matt Alviti. Thorson is ranked as the eighth dual threat and 11th overall quarterback in the nation for this class, according to Rivals.com.
Trevor Siemian will be a senior when Thorson comes in, while Alviti will be a redshirt freshman. With that in mind, it makes sense to have Thorson redshirt his freshman year as well. By 2015, Alviti and Thorson could be the better version of Siemian and Kain Colter.
It’s hard to keep your mouth from watering with Thorson’s potential. His size, speed (4.6 40-yard dash) and ability to throw the ball accurately downfield makes him look like Kain Colter 2.0.
Jordan Thomas, S – Klein, Texas
Coming to Northwestern as the 25th-ranked safety in the country, Thomas gives Northwestern fans a lot to look forward to. Though the Cats are pretty set at safety right now with junior Ibraheim Campbell and sophomore Trayvon Henry, injuries to the secondary last season were a huge reason for Northwestern’s late-game struggles.
It’s always good to have another fast, hard-hitting body to put on special teams and work into the secondary when needed.
In fact, with his speed (Thomas also played receiver in high school) and physical ability on the perimeter, Northwestern could even give him some reps at cornerback. If the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Thomas wants to play safety, he should add some muscle, but if he’s slotted at corner he’d only needs to gain five to 10 pounds. Regardless, Thomas could have an immediate impact on special teams.
Soloman Vault, Ath – Gaithersburg, Maryland
Vault’s unusual strength (370 pound squat) and speed (4.47 40-yard dash) for his size (5-foot-10) was certainly a reason Northwestern wanted the incoming freshman. Projected as a running back, Vault will be entering Northwestern right after Venric Mark graduates.
If the coaching staff decides to keep him from redshirting his freshman year, Vault could play a minor role as a slot receiver or special teams gunner.
Further down the road, Vault should be a dynamic player on offense for the Wildcats. He is a strong between-the-tackles runner with the speed to break one for a score, not to mention that his reliable hands make him a valuable asset out of the backfield on swing passes and screens. Vault opted for Northwestern despite an offer from Big Ten rival Nebraska.
Cameron Quiero, OLB – Oradell, New Jersey
Although his last name translates to “I want” in Spanish, Quiero is going to need a little more development before he has the coaching staff saying, “I want Quiero in.”
Despite gaining some weight over the year, Quiero is only 210 pounds with a 4.68 40-yard dash. Those dimensions scream mediocrity.
However, scouts have pointed to Quiero’s excellent football instincts. A good reaction time and a nose for the ball is more than enough to overcome average physical ability. It also runs in the family for Quiero: brother Kyle Quiero is a member of the incoming class of 2017.
Ben Oxley, OT – Avon Lake, Ohio
The first thing that stands out about Oxley is his weight, or lack there-of. For 6-foot-6, 260 pounds ain’t gonna cut it in the Big Ten. To be fair, he is probably constantly working to put on some more pounds in the offseason.
Redshirting seems like the path to go with Oxley. He should put on another 25 to 30 pounds. With limited athleticism, Oxley might never crack the starting lineup, but with some hard work and determination, we never know.
Fitz is slowly but surely gaining a national profile as one of the most engaging and quick-witted coaches in college football. If Fitzgerald can get a trip to the Rose Bowl in the upcoming seasons, players will be more inclined to come play in Evanston.