With 21 verbal commitments, Northwestern's Class of 2012 is coach Pat Fitzgerald's biggest. And with two four-star prospects, it is also the most decorated.
This class may also be the first one to be upstaged by an addition to the team that isn't even included among the prospects on the list. That, of course, is USC transfer Kyle Prater, who signed with Northwestern on Saturday. As a transfer, the former five-star Class of 2010 recruit is not a member of this signing class.
With that out of the way, WildcatReport breaks down the new class of Cats:
Star gazing: The last two years have shown clear consistency in Rivals star ratings: 17 recruits in each class, all with three-star ratings except for no more than two recruits with two stars. This year, the pattern was broken as the class features 2 four-star, 12 three-star and recruits, and 7 two-star recruits.
Trending up: Fitzgerald frequently emphasizes that his program evaluates prospects by their own metrics, but there's no denying that the caliber of talent, in terms of star ratings, is rising. Ifeadi Odenigbo and Greg Kuhar are both four-star recruits, while Fitzgerald was only able to lane one four-star (Patrick Ward, in 2009) since 2006. The range of Rivals.com ratings in 2006 ran from a high of 5.5 (out of 6.0) to a low of 5.0. Over the intervening years, the high ratings grew to 5.7 and 5.8, and lows from 4.9 to 5.4. This year's class sets a new high-water mark of 5.9 and no rating lower 5.3.
Rank-and-file: Seven players, one-third of the class of 2012, were well-regarded enough to be ranked among the nation's choice recruits at their positions and in their states:
Ifeadi Odenigbo, No. 9 among defensive ends, 4th overall in Ohio, 99th overall in the nation
Greg Kuhar, No. 19 among defensive tackles, 19th overall in Ohio
Malin Jones, No. 26 among running backs, 10th overall in Illinois
Dean Lowry, No. 34 among defensive ends, 17th overall in Illinois
Eric Wilson, No. 50 among safeties, 20th overall in Michigan
Adam DePietro, No. 65 among offensive tackles, 18th overall in Pennsylvania
Three other players were ranked as top recruits in their home states: Eric Olson was fifth in Massachusetts, Mike McHugh was 16th in Missouri, and Jack Schwaba was 32nd in Pennsylvania.
Even keeled: Overall, Northwestern's class is well balanced, with 11 players on offense and 10 on defense.
Global positioning: The position breakdown shows an emphasis on beef for the lines of scrimmage, as eight of the 21 commits will play with a hand on the ground . Four recruits are offensive linemen: DePietro, Olson, Ian Park and Kenton Playko (five if you count long snapper Chris Fitzpatrick). Four defensive linemen are listed, the most in any one recruiting class during the Fitzgerald era. Lowry and Odenigbo are ends, while Kuhar and Connor Mahoney are tackles. Also well represented is the safety position, with three recruits -- Henry, Terrance Brown and Joseph Jones -- although one or more of them could wind up at outside linebacker. There also two running backs (Malin Jones and Stephen Buckley), two superbacks (Dan Vitale, two wide receivers (McHugh and Andrew Scanlan, two linebackers (Wilson and Jaylen Prater) and one cornerback (Dwight White). Then, of course, there is Fitzpatrick, the specialist, meaning that this class has a long snapper, but no quarterback.
O Captain, my Captain: Fitzgerald likes to talk about the importance of intangibles like leadership in potential recruits and this class should make him happy: 16 of the incoming Wildcats were captains of their high school teams.
Little love from Rivals: Once again, Rivals was less than impressed with Northwestern's class. The Wildcats group ranks ninth in the Big Ten conference and doesn't crack the top 50 overall. However, NU did have some better showings on a positional basis. The Wildcats have the 20th-best incoming crop of defensive tackles, tied with the 'other' purple Wildcats at Kansas State. They also are 26th in the nation for defensive ends, 40th for defensive backs, and are part of a four-way tie for 46th in offensive linemen.
Early bird gets the Jones: The recruiting staff got a real jump on the class of 2012, when Malin Jones offered his verbal commitment on Oct. 24, 2010, more than fifteen months before signing day. He is believed to be the earliest Wildcat commitment ever. Last year, Jarrell Williams gave his verbal on February 17th, 2010, approximately a year before signing day. In previous years, Northwestern hadn't gotten verbal commitments any earlier than the April.
Sticking together: Park and Schwaba attended Upper St. Clair (Pa.) together and will be the third pair of high school teammates to commit to Northwestern in the same class during Fitzgerald's tenure. In 2010, Trevor Siemien and Rashad Lawrence came as a package from Orlando (Fla.) Olympia, and last year Deonte Gibson and Geoff Mogus from Lakewood (OH) St. Edward joined the Cats at the same time. Gibson and Mogus must have spoken highly of Northwestern around the St. Edward locker room because Kuhar, another St. Edward Eagle, is a signee this year.
Making a state-ment: Northwestern continues to recruit well in the football powerhouse states of Pennsylvania (five players; DePietro, Mahoney, Park, Schwaba, and Scanlan) and Ohio (fours; Kuhar, Playko, Prater and Odenigbo), as well as its backyard of Illinois (four players; J. Jones, M. Jones, Lowry and Vitale). The five Pennsylvania players make up the largest contingent from any state other than Illinois since five Ohio players were part of NU's Class of 2007. Texas, another NU recruiting hotbed, produced just two players this year (White and Buckley), while Florida (Henry), California (Brown), Massachusetts (Olson), Michigan (Wilson), Missouri (McHugh) and Kentucky (Fitzpatrick) boast one player each.