The work on the recruiting trail for 2016 is complete, so barring a few late tweaks or transfers, rosters across the Big Ten are pretty much set with national signing day in the books. The ESPN.com reporting crew is taking a look at what each team in the conference looks like now with a new class on the way, continuing with the Northwestern Wildcats.
Team’s position of strength: Linebackers
With one of the most productive defenders in the Big Ten leading the way, the Wildcats remain in great shape at a position near and dear to coach Pat Fitzgerald’s heart. Anthony Walker has plenty of talented company at the second level of the defense, and Northwestern can continue to make life miserable for opponents with the junior teaming up with Joseph Jones and some skilled sophomores in Nate Hall and Cameron Queiro. Fitzgerald won’t need to waste any time worrying about what he’s got coming back in the heart of his defense.
Team’s biggest need heading into signing day: Wide receivers
Continued development at quarterback figures to provide a boost to a passing attack that struggled last season, but Clayton Thorson could also use an upgrade among his targets if Northwestern is going to make significant offensive improvements this year. With Christian Jones and Miles Shuler now gone, the urgency to add some game-breakers at wideout picked up noticeably in the offseason, and there’s no question that’s one area of the roster that has plenty of room to grow.
How Northwestern addressed the need: Signing three wideouts
The Wildcats aren’t likely to ever land recruiting classes that will turn heads and rank among the nation’s best, but Fitzgerald has an eye for talent and a knack for developing it that has suited him well during his career. Now Northwestern needs him to have uncovered a few diamonds in the rough at wide receiver, and he’s got three new ones on hand after signing day -- including a promising prospect from Minnesota in Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman. There will be opportunity for early playing time for him, Riley Lees and Parker Oliver, and Northwestern could use their help right away.
Biggest need remaining: Defensive linemen
Linemen are a priority for just about every school in the Big Ten each year, but Northwestern in particular could use a few more big bodies in the middle of the line and a couple pass rushers on the edge after suffering some attrition last season. The Wildcats did land three more linemen on signing day, but Fitzgerald will no doubt be looking to beef up his roster in the trenches as he starts building the 2017 recruiting class.