Northwestern completed its 2017 recruiting class Wednesday, finalizing what could very well be the best class coach Pat Fitzgerald has produced in more than a decade in Evanston.
According to 247 Sports, the Wildcats’ class ranks No. 48 in the country (No. 11 in the Big Ten). That makes this class one of the highest rated of the Fitzgerald era, just behind the 2014 class that featured current Wildcats stars Justin Jackson and Clayton Thorson and ranked No. 47.
The 2017 class is heavy on defensive players, with Northwestern’s top four incoming players, per 247, all playing that side of the ball.
The highest-ranked player in the Wildcats’ group is Earnest Brown, a 4-star defensive end from Denton, Texas, who was the No. 6 strong-side defensive end in the country and is the first 4-star recruit to commit to Northwestern since 2014. Defensive tackle Sam Miller (Houston), defensive end Trevor Kent (Pittsburg, Kansas) and safety J.R. Pace (Atlanta) are all also highly ranked prospects who turned down offers from other major-conference schools.
Northwestern also welcomes some promising offensive line prospects, including guard Rashawn Slater (Sugar Land, Texas) and center Sam Gerak (Avon, Ohio).
“I think we filled all of our needs,” Fitzgerald said Wednesday, according to The Daily Northwestern. “We’re always trying to add speed and solidify the line of scrimmage, and I think we did that with this class.”
The class is a little weak on skill-position players, with tight end Trey Pugh (a 3-star from Plain City, Ohio) the only one who ranked in the top 50 at his position. Running back Kyric McGowan and quarterback Andrew Marty don’t necessarily look like future stars, though Northwestern has a knack for turning under-the-radar recruits into solid Big Ten players.
Of this class’ 19 commits, 10 come from either Texas or Ohio, two states that have become major areas of attention for the Wildcats in recent years. Only two members of Northwestern’s class come from Illinois, matching the total from last year. Fitzgerald seems increasingly interested in widening Northwestern’s geographic focus for recruiting.
Northwestern 2017 recruiting class, rankings
|4-star DE||Earnest Brown||6||Denton, TX|
|3-star DT||Sam Miller||30||Houston, TX|
|3-star DE||Trevor Kent||16||Pittsburg, KS|
|3-star S||J.R. Pace||41||Atlanta, GA|
|3-star OG||Rashawn Slater||32||Sugar Land, TX|
|3-star TE||Trey Pugh||29||Plain City, OH|
|3-star C||Sam Gerak||8||Avon, OH|
|3-star ILB||Blake Gallagher||28||Needham, MA|
|3-star S||Austin Hiller||69||Austin, TX|
|3-star OLB||Peter McIntyre||65||Toledo, OH|
|3-star WR||Berkeley Holman||142||Bellflower, CA|
|3-star WR||Jace James||143||Carol Stream, IL|
|3-star OT||Ethan Wiederkehr||99||Shoreham, NY|
|3-star CB||Cameron Ruiz||118||Lake Villa, IL|
|3-star RB||Kyric McGowan||64||Dalton, GA|
|3-star ATH||Chee Anyanwu||89||Buford, GA|
|3-star S||Bryce Jackson||101||Denton, TX|
|3-star QB||Andrew Marty||55||Cincinnati, OH|
|3-star K||Charlie Kuhbander||5||Springboro, OH|
What is Northwestern’s recruiting class ranked?
Early enrollees: 2
4-star commits: 1
3-star commits: 18
247Sports composite ranking: No. 48
Big Ten ranking: No. 11