- Scott Powers, Reporter
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Here’s an in-depth look at Northwestern’s 2012 football recruiting class:
Top prospect - Defensive end/linebacker Ifeadi Odenigbo received the highest ESPN recruiting grade (82) of Northwestern’s recruits. He actually received the highest grade of any of the in-state schools’ recruiting classes. Odenigbo, who is 6-3 and 212 pounds, is the sixth-ranked defensive end and the 51st-ranked overall player in the country by ESPN. Athleticism and toughness are two attributes most often associated with him.
Sleeper prospect - Plano safety Joseph Jones could be one to watch out in the future. Jones missed most of his junior season due to injury, but it didn’t stop the Wildcats from recruiting him. He has good size (6-1) and speed and he can jump. To add to the story, he was Plano’s first Division I athlete since 1971.
Illinois winners - Northwestern’s recruiting class only includes four Illinois players, but three of them played in a state championship game. Dean Lowry played on Boylan’s Class 7A state championship team. Dan Vitale was on Wheaton Warrenville South’s Class 7A runner-up team. Malin Jones was on Joliet Catholic’s Class 5A runner-up team. Lowry and Vitale also won state championships their junior seasons.
Versatile Vitale - Northwestern is sure to find a place on the field for Wheaton Warrenville South’s Dan Vitale. Vitale was Mr. Everything for his high school team last year. He led the Tigers in rushing, receiving and touchdowns. He’s expected to play superback at Northwestern.
Penn men - Pennsylvania has become a popular recruiting stop for Northwestern’s coaches. The Wildcats will sign five recruits from the state, and three of their top-five recruits are from Pennsylvania. The state has been kind to Northwestern before. Just off last year’s roster, the Pennsylvania natives included Dan Persa, Quentin Williams, Jeravin Matthews and Ibraheim Campbell.
Building an O-line - Four of Northwestern’s top-five recruits are offensive linemen. Adam DePietro is the 46th-ranked offensive tackle; Ian Park is the 38th-ranked offensive guard; Kenton Playko is the 80th-ranked offensive tackle; and Connor Mahoney is the 64th-ranked offensive guard. The class also includes Eric Olson, who is the 143rd-ranked offensive tackle.
No quarterbacks - Northwestern’s recruiting class does not include any quarterbacks. It should be a position the Wildcats are firm in for at least a few years. Kain Colter will be a junior next season, Trevor Siemian will be a sophomore, and Zack Oliver will be a redshirt freshman. The Wildcats have offered a number of 2013 quarterbacks, including Bolingbrook’s Aaron Bailey and Maine South’s Matt Alviti.
Safety boost - Northwestern’s 2011 recruiting class included one safety. Its 2012 class has three of them. Dwight White Jr. is the 102nd-ranked safety, Terrance Brown is No. 112, and Joseph Jones is No. 131.
Searching for a running back - Northwestern’s running game improved in 2011, but the Wildcats are still in search for a lead back. Mike Trumpy could be that guy when he returns from injury. Treyvon Green and Adonis Smith also carried the ball last season. Northwestern’s 2012 recruiting class includes at least two potential running backs in Joliet Catholic’s Malin Jones and Traveon Henry, who played at Pine Crest in Florida. Jones is ranked the No. 87th running back. He rushed for 1,681 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. Henry is ranked the 121st running back.
ESPNU 150 recruits - Northwestern obtained a commitment from an ESPNU 150 recruit for the second consecutive year. Christian Jones was an ESPNU 150 recruit in 2011. Jones made 16 catches for 195 yards during his freshman year.
Worth noting - Kyle Prater isn’t technically a 2012 recruit, but his recent decision to transfer to Northwestern from USC was a major recruiting coup for the Wildcats. Prater was ranked No. 45 in the Class of 2010 by ESPN coming out of Proviso West High School in Hillside, Ill. He had 64 receptions for 1,151 yards and 13 touchdowns his senior season.
Scouts take - ESPN Midwest recruiting analyst Jared Shanker said, “Signing day should be pretty quiet for Northwestern, which received its biggest gift of the 2012 class on Jan. 7 when Ifeadi Odenigbo, ranked No. 51 in the ESPNU 150, committed to the Wildcats. Odenigbo could redshirt next season, but if he plays as a freshman he could make an immediate impact as a third-down rush linebacker. The Wildcats did a great job bolstering both the offensive and defensive lines as their top seven recruits are all lineman if Odenigbo, who played end in high school, is included. Three-star offensive linemen Adam DiPietro, Ian Park, Kenton Playko and Connor Mahoney could make up four of the five line spots in a few years."