Northwestern will finalize its 2017 recruiting class on Wednesday on National Signing Day, cementing one of the best classes of the Pat Fitzgerald era.
Entering Wednesday, the Wildcats’ class ranked No. 46 in the country, No. 10 in the Big Ten and No. 4 in the Big Ten West, according to 247 Sports. Fitzgerald’s previous highest ranked class (the 2014 group that included Justin Jackson and Clayton Thorson) was No. 47 nationally, making this a potentially historic group for Fitz and his program.
The highest-ranked player in Northwestern’s class is Earnest Brown, a 4-star defensive end from Denton, Texas. Brown is the No. 6 strong-side defensive end in the country, per 247, and is the first 4-star recruit to commit to Northwestern since 2014. He had more than 20 FBS offers and chose the Wildcats over in-state powers Texas, Baylor and Texas A&M, as well as Michigan, Ohio State and Oklahoma.
Other potential stars in the Wildcats’ class include Houston defensive tackle Sam Miller and Pittsburg, Kansas, defensive end Trevor Kent. Kent had offers from numerous big-name schools and chose Northwestern after visiting Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska and others. Miller is a more traditional Wildcats recruit: an under-the-radar prospect with only a few offers from major-conference schools.
This recruiting class is dominated by Texas and Ohio, which together account for 10 of the 19 commits. For the second straight year, only two members of the Wildcats’ class come from the state of Illinois.
Below is a list of each Northwestern commit in its 2017 class, including position ranking, star rating, hometown and more.
Until Wednesday, any non-early enrollees had just been verbally committed, but they’ll send in their paperwork throughout the morning to officially finalize their commitments.
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||42||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||70||Austin, TX|
|3-star OLB||Peter McIntyre||63||Toledo, OH|
|3-star WR||Berkeley Holman||140||Bellflower, CA|
|3-star WR||Jace James||141||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||100||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
Northwestern 2017 signing day schedule
Northwestern’s official signing day press conference will be held Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. ET at the Chicago Sports Museum in Water Tower Place.
After the press conference, Northwestern will host a luncheon at the same location, beginning at 1 p.m. ET. You can find out more about that event right here.
Northwestern National Signing Day preview, storylines
Could this class anchor Northwestern’s defensive line for years to come?
The Wildcats’ top three recruits in this class, according to their 247 ranking — Earnest Brown, Sam Miller and Trevor Kent — all play on the defensive line, allowing Northwestern fans to envision the Class of 2017 leading a dominant front seven not too far in the future. Fitzgerald and company have churned out some good defensive linemen in recent years in Dean Lowry, Deonte Gibson, Ifeadi Odenigbo and others, and that tradition could continue through this class.
Does this class have an impact skill player?
The Wildcats’ 2017 class is loaded with defensive players and offensive linemen, but it’s unclear if there’s a high-ceiling skill-position player in the bunch. Northwestern does not have a commit ranked in the top 50 nationally at quarterback, running back or receiver, though tight end Trey Pugh is No. 28 at his position.
Are any last-second commits in the cards?
Now that Northwestern has officially missed out on Ellis Brooks, a 4-star inside linebacker from Richmond, Va. who chose Penn State on Monday, there don’t appear to be any remaining prospects who could really move the needle on the Wildcats’ class. That said, Northwestern could be a landing spot for Louisiana wide receiver Justin Jefferson, Michigan defensive end Ian Creech or several other lower-tier prospects.
Will this caliber of class become the norm at Northwestern?
The typical Pat Fitzgerald recruiting class consists of a couple respectable prospects and a bunch of undersized or overachieving players who lack flashy ratings but can be coached into being contributors or even stars. But in recent years, the Wildcats’ recruiting rankings have gone up along with their win totals, so it’s fair to wonder whether top-50 classes (or even better) could become an annual occurrence in Evanston.