EVANSTON, Ill. -- For the eighth time since becoming Northwestern head coach in 2006, Pat Fitzgerald announced on Wednesday (Feb. 5) his program's incoming freshman class as part of National Signing Day festivities. The highly regarded 2014 class features 15 signees -- eight on offense and seven on defense -- and draws from eight different U.S. states.
Fitzgerald also took advantage of today's Signing Day to introduce three student-athletes who will join the Wildcats as walk-ons this fall.
"This is always a memorable day for our signees and their families as they get set to embark on the next big phase of their lives as part of the Northwestern Football Family," Fitzgerald said. "In most cases, these are young men who our coaching staff has gotten to know very well over a period of several years. We have the utmost confidence that they have the drive and determination required to thrive at Northwestern academically, athletically and socially. I wish all of our signees the best of luck in wrapping up their successful high school careers and look forward to welcoming them to Chicago's Big Ten Team this summer."
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The 2014 class is among the most highly rated in program history, ranked No. 38 nationally by ESPN and boasting a composite player rating of 85.37 according to 247Sports--best in recent memory.
Last fall, Northwestern said goodbye to 14 Wildcats who completed their playing eligibility in 2013, but only five who were regular starters in their senior seasons (two on offense, two on defense, one on special teams).
Northwestern opens the 2014 season on Saturday, Aug. 30, at home against California.
Signing Class Notes
The positional breakdown for this year's class is as follows: defensive linemen (4), linebackers (2), offensive linemen (2), running backs (2), defensive backs (2), wide receivers (1), quarterbacks (1), superbacks (1).
One of Northwestern's signees today, four-star cornerback Parrker Westphal (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) has already ingratiated himself with the Wildcats program. After committing to NU on Dec. 20, Westphal completed his high school tenure in December and enrolled at Northwestern in time for the first day of classes on Jan. 6. Westphal, the first player to enroll early during Fitzgerald's head coaching tenure, has begun participation in NU's winter workouts and will be on the field for upcoming spring practices.
Of the 15 signees in this year's class, 10 gave verbal commitments to Northwestern prior to the start of their senior year in high school. QB Clayton Thorson (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton North) was the first student-athlete to verbally commit for the fall of 2014, doing so on March 17, 2013.
Northwestern added plenty of brotherly love to the program in 2014, with three incoming freshmen set to join their older brothers as Wildcats. SB Garrett Dickerson and SAF Cameron Queiro, both of powerhouse Bergen Catholic in New Jersey, signed on to accompany their siblings Cameron Dickerson (Jr., WR) and Kyle Queiro (R-Fr., CB), respectively. (Their signing also means NU has signed a pair of high school teammates in the same class for a fourth time in five years.) In addition, LB Nathan Hall (Toledo, Ohio/Southview) will enjoy one year of overlap with his brother Jimmy Hall, a rising senior safety in the Wildcats secondary.
DL Fred Wyatt is a signee with a substantial tie to Northwestern. Fred's father, Buddy, spent two years (1997-98) as the Wildcats defensive line coach under then-head coach Gary Barnett. Buddy, a veteran of 23 years as a Division I assistant, is now entering his fifth year as the D-Line coach at the University of Kansas.
Plano, Texas -- Plano West
Projected Position: Running Back
High School: Named a three-star prospect and the No. 17 all-purpose running back nationally in the class of 2014 by Rivals.com ... Also tabbed the No. 4-rated RB in Texas in the 2014 class and the state's No. 61 by 247Sports ... Twice named a Texas 10-5A first-team All-District selection as well as a two-time first-team All-Collin County honoree ... Compiled 2,968 career rushing yards (7.26 ypc) and 30 touchdowns, becoming Plano West's all-time leading rusher ... 1,342 rushing yards and 14 TDs in 2013 ... As a junior, helped lead Plano West to the state quarterfinals, the deepest playoff run in school history ... Team captain and three-year letterwinner in football ... Also a three-year starter in the sprints for the track team, with a career-best 100-meter dash time of 10.72 seconds.
Personal: Born Auston Gregory Anderson in Dallas ... Son of Tjuana Tanner and Martin Anderson ... Father played football at Alcorn State University, uncle (Rod Henderson) was an All-American offensive lineman at Grambling State, and great uncle (Randy Williams) played running back at Indiana University and was a 1961 draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys ... Chose Northwestern over a number of BCS schools including Texas, Stanford, Cal, Arizona, Nebraska and Tennessee.
Englewood, N.J. - Bergen Catholic
Projected Position: Superback
High School: Earned a four-star rating from Rivals.com, who ranked him the No. 18 strong-side defensive end prospect in the country ... Named the No. 7 overall recruit in his class from the state of New Jersey by 247Sports ... Expected to play superback at Northwestern ... Holds Bergen Catholic records for career catches (52), receiving yards (776) and touchdowns (10) by a tight end ... Named in the ESPN Top 300, Rivals Top 250, the 247 Top 250 and the Scout Top 300 ... Helped Bergen Catholic reach three consecutive state championship games ... Team captain of the Crusaders football and basketball teams ... Achieved academic first honors and was named of the President's List ... Also a member of the Spanish National Honors Society.
Personal: Born Garrett Michael Dickerson ... Son of Ralph Dickerson and Michell Merritt ... Joins brother Cameron Dickerson and former high school teammates Kyle and Cameron Queiro on the NU roster ... Chose Northwestern over Stanford, Michigan, Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State and Michigan State ... Plans to major in economics.
Grand Rapids, Mich. - Grand Rapids Christian
Projected Position: Offensive Line
High School: Deemed the state of Michigan's No. 12 overall prospect and the No. 2 offensive line recruit in the state by 247Sports ... Earned a three-star rating from Rivals.com ... Three-time OK White All-Conference selection and a 2013 first-team All-State honoree ... Named to the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News All-State Dream Team and twice was named to the Grand Rapids Press Area Dream Team ... Played left tackle on offense as well as on the defensive line ... Helped Grand Rapids Christian win a 2012 Division 3 state championship and was named team MVP as a senior in 2013 ... Team captain ... First-team Academic All-State ... President of school's National Honor Society and Student Congress ... Also the recipient of school's Ron Holland Scholar-Athlete Award.
Personal: Born Thomas Steven Doles in Grand Rapids, Mich. ... Son of Jack and Susan Doles ... Father is the sports director and a broadcaster for Wood TV in Grand Rapids ... Comes from a long line of athletes, with his grandfather having played basketball at DePaul, his cousin (Kyle Lichtenburg) playing football at Iowa State and two aunts who played Division I volleyball ... Chose Northwestern over the Michigan, Iowa State and the service academies ... Also heavily involved in leading FCA chapels and played first-chair tuba in his school's symphonic band ... Birthday is Christmas Day (1995) ... College major is undecided.
Toledo, Ohio - Southview
Projected Position: Linebacker
High School: Named the District Defensive Player of the Year and Northern Lakes League Player of the Year as a tight end and defensive back ... Named first-team All-Ohio, All-Blade, and All-Conference as a senior ... Recorded 111 tackles and three interceptions in his defensive career and caught 16 passes for 408 yards as a tight end ... Helped Southview to Division I state playoffs in both 2010 (10-1 record) and 2011 (9-2) ... Earned varsity letters in three sports all four years of his career (football, basketball and track) and was a two-sport captain ... Member of the honor roll.
Personal: Born Nathan Michael Hall ... Son of James and Lori Hall ... Joins his brother, Jimmy, a rising senior and safety on the Wildcats ... Chose Northwestern over Pitt, Toledo, Harvard and Yale ... Interested in studying business at NU.
Jacksonville, Ill. - Jacksonville
Projected Position: Offensive Line
High School: Rated a three-star prspect, the No. 13 overall recruit in Illinois and the No. 31 offensive line prospect in the country by Scout.com ... Earned four varsity letters as a tight end, defensive end and long snapper for Jacksonville ... Named first-team All-State as a senior by the IFCA and was All-State Special Mention by the Chicago Tribune ... Two-time first-team All-Central State Eight Conference ... First-team Jacksonville Journal Courier All-Area honoree in 2013 ... Recorded 113 catches for 1,459 yards and seven touchdowns during his varsity career, as well as 104 tackles and 9.0 sacks on defense ... Helped team reach state playoffs in three out of four years ... Also played four years of varsity basketball -- scoring 827 points and earning team's Offensive MVP honor as a sophomore -- and was 11-2 as a starting pitcher in two years of varsity baseball ... Four-year Honor Roll student and a member of the National Honor Society ... Illinois State Scholar and Academic All-State honoree.
Personal: Born Blake Andrew Hance ... Son of Ron and Theresa Hance ... Uncle (Jason Hance) played baseball at the United States Military Academy ... Attended same high school as boxing great Ken Norton ... Chose Northwestern over several other Big Ten offers as well as Vanderbilt, Missouri, Mississippi State and North Carolina State ... College major is undecided.
Carol Stream, Ill. - Glenbard North
Projected Position: Running Back
High School: Ranked the No. 5 overall prospect out of Illinois by Scout.com and the No. 4 all-purpose running back in the nation by 247Sports.com ... Holds the Glenbard North record for career rushing yards and ranks fifth all-time in the IHSA record book for both career rushing yards (6,531) and rushing TDs (85) ... Competed in the USA vs. Canada International Bowl ... Two-time Gatorade Player of the Year and Dupage Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year ... Named Chicago Sun-Times, Carol Stream Pressand Daily Herald Player of the Year ... Two-time Illinois All-State and All-Academic Team member ... Max-Preps All-American, two-timeChicago Tribune All-State and three-time Tom Lemming All-Area Underclassmen ... As a senior, recorded 42 carries, 405 yards, and five touchdowns in a 40-34 win over No. 15 Naperville Central ... Participated in the DuPage Training Academy for seven years ... Member of the Honor Roll and French Honors Society ... Also lettered in track and basketball and was the basketball team captain.
Personal: Born Justin Joseph Jackson ... Son of Phillip and Veronica Jackson ... Mother is the late Denise Jackson ... Majoring in economics.
Mansfield, Texas - Mansfield Legacy
Projected Position: Safety
High School: As a junior, recorded 61 tackles and five interceptions, with one INT return for touchdown ... 64 tackles as a senior ... Three-sport athlete.
Personal: Born Jared McGee ... Son of Mark and Kimberlee McGee ... College major is undecided
Avon Lake, Ohio - Avon Lake
Projected Position: Defensive Line
High School: Rated as a three-star athlete by Rivals.com ... Garnered numerous accolades on the field, including being named a first-team Greater Cleveland All-Star, a first-team All-Southwestern Conference, all-county and all-district selection, and a second-team all-state honoree ... Received the Northwestern Ohio Chapter of the National Football Foundation's Scholar-Athlete Award in 2013 ... Given the Paul Reynolds Citizen Award by his high school team ... Competed in the North vs. South and Ohio vs. Michigan All-Star Games... Member of the National Honors Society and Nation English Honors Society ... Three-year winner of the Summa Cum Laude Award ... Also lettered in basketball and track and field.
Personal: Born Benjamin David Oxley ... Son of Kevin and Deb Oxley ... Brother, Sean Oxley, played football at Notre Dame ... Majoring in economics.
Memphis, Tenn. - Memphis University School
Projected Position: Defensive End
High School: 2013 All-State selection and a two-time All-Region honoree ... As a senior, recorded 92 tackles, 17 TFLs, 9.0 sacks, seven QB hurries and two interceptions ... Finished his four-year varsity career as his high school's career leader in tackles for loss (58), sacks (20), QB hurries (26) and forced fumbles (eight), totaling 205 career tackles ... Named the 2013 AutoZone Liberty Bowl High School Defensive Player of the Year and a 2013 Commercial Appeal Best of Preps finalist ... Competed in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl High School All-Star game ... Team finished as state runners-up in both 2012 and 2013 with a 10-3 record each season ... Team captain ... Also a two-year varsity letterwinner in basketball ... Student Council Vice President and member of both the National Honor Society and Latin Honor Society.
Personal: Born James Porter Prather in Memphis, Tenn. ... Son of John and Hermenia Prather ... Attended same high school that produced Fred Smith, founder and CEO of FedEx ... Chose Northwestern over Navy, UConn, Northern Illinois, Memphis and Richmond ... Major is undecided.
Verona, N.J. - Bergen Catholic
Projected Position: Linebacker
High School: Ranked the No. 4 linebacker prospect in the state of New Jersey and the state's No. 30 overall prospect by Rivals.com ... Named MVP at the linebacker position at both the Five Star Northeast Combine and the National Underclassmen (NUC) Combine (2011, 2012) ... Member of Bergen Catholic team that reached three consecutive state championship games ... Recorded an interception, a forced fumble, and eight tackles in a single game ... Team captain of the Crusaders football and track team... Academic honor roll honoree.
Personal: Born Cameron Chandler Queiro ... Son of Kim and Henry Queiro ... Joins brother Kyle Queiro and former high school teammates Cameron and Garrett Dickerson on the NU roster ... Majoring in communications.
Wheaton, Ill. - Wheaton North
Projected Position: Quarterback
High School: Ranked as a four-star recruit and the No. 6 dual-threat quarterback in the country by Rivals.com ... Named 2013 first-team All-State by Chicago Tribune, Champaign News Gazette and the IHSA ... Competed in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in California, where he was named the game's MVP ... Recorded 2,809 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, 630 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns in his senior year ... Twice led Wheaton North to appearances in the state quarterfinals ... In a 32-31 playoff win over Fenwick, registered 413 passing yards and five touchdowns to rally the Falcons back from a 31-6 second-quarter deficit ... Four-time Tom Lemming All-Area Team ... Two-time All Conference ... Recipient of the Jim Rexilius "Proper State of Mind" Award and the Red Grange Award ... Team captain ... Four-year honor roll student and a member of the Math Honor Society.
Personal: Born Clayton James Thorson ... Son of Chad and Shauna Thorson ... Father played for the New York Giants and played collegiately for Wheaton College, where two of Chad's older brothers also competed ... Clayton competed against future NU teammates Dan Vitale and Justin Jackson in high school, also playing AAU basketball with Jackson ... Chose Northwestern over numerous Big Ten offers (including Iowa, Penn State and Minnesota) as well as Boston College, Syracuse, Northern Illinois and Ole Miss ... Majoring in economics.
Gaithersburg, Md. - Gaithersburg
Projected Position: Wide Receiver
High School: Rated as a three-star recruit by Rivals.com ... Named to the All-Gazette, All Sentinel, All Moco, and All-Metro Honorable Mention team in his junior year ... As a junior, recorded 188 carries for 1,251 yards and 21 touchdowns, as well as 22 receptions for 302 yards and one TD ... Selected to compete in the Big 33 All-Star game ... Two-sport team captain (football, track and field) ... Member of the honor roll ... Also received the African-American Award for Academic Excellence.
Personal: Born Solomon Lauren Vault ... Son of Brooks and Cheryl Vault ... Undecided major.
Cedar Hill, Texas - Cedar Hill
Projected Position: Defensive Lineman
High School: Compiled 105 tackles, 46 TFLs, 24 sacks and six forced fumbles in his senior season ... Helped Cedar Hill capture the Texas Class 5A Division II state championship in 2013, earning Defensive MVP honors in that game ... Selected to compete in the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl along with fellow NU recruit Clayton Thorson ... Earned DFW Class 5A All-Area recognition.
Personal: Born Xavier Washington ... Son of Pinice Gilmore and Rainey Washington ... Plans to study mechanical engineering.
Bolingbrook, Ill. - Bolingbrook
Projected Position: Cornerback
High School: Ranked the No. 10 cornerback prospect in the nation by Scout.com and No. 13 by 247Sports ... Earned a four-star rating from Scout.com ... Chicago Tribune first-team All-State selection ... Named Herald-News All-Area and SouthWest Suburban Blue Defensive Player of the Year as a senior ... Recorded 47 tackles, eight pass breakups and three interceptions during his 2013 senior season ... Also was a difference-maker on special teams, returning 22 punts with an average of 11.6 yards per return, while also averaging 33.9 yards per kick as a rugby-style punter ... As a junior, notched 51 tackles, four forced fumbles and three INTs ... Led Bolingbrook to the No. 1 seed in the Illinois Class 8A playoffs as a senior, when his Raiders defense allowed just eight points per game on the year.
Personal: Born Parrker Westphal ... Became the first player in Pat Fitzgerald's head coaching tenure to enroll early at Northwestern, graduating from Bolingbrook in December and beginning his NU career on Jan. 6, 2014 ... Brother, Brandon, played linebacker at Illinois State and started at cornerback on Bolingbrook's 2011 state championship team ... Chose Northwestern over Michigan State and Vanderbilt ... College major is undecided.
Lawrence, Kan. - Free State
Projected Position: Defensive Line
High School: Rated as a three-star athlete by Rivals.com and the No. 7 overall prospect from his class in the state of Kansas ... Named first-team All-Sunflower League at offensive line and earned an honorable mention nod on defense... Also named All-Metro Defensive Line ... Recorded 53 solo tackles, 21 tackles for losses, and 6.0 sacks in his high school career ... Team captain ... Member of the Honor Roll at Free State High School.
Personal: Born Fredrick Austin Wyatt ... Son of Andrea and Buddy Wyatt ... Father is the current defensive line coach at the University of Kansas and spent two years (1997-98) in the same role at Northwestern, coaching alongside Gary Barnett ... Buddy played collegiately at TCU ... Fred Wyatt's major is undecided.
Early Decision Walk-Ons
Dallas, Texas - St. Mark's School
Projected Position: Running Back
High School: Recipient of three varsity letters at St. Mark's, rushing for 1,035 yards on 152 career attempts (6.8 ypc) and 10 touchdowns ... Also had 22 receptions for 208 yards ... Once netted 127 rushing yards on just six carries, with two TDs, vs. Arlington Oakridge ... Helped St. Mark's finish as state runners-up as a senior after reaching the state semifinals in 2012 ... Also ran four years of varsity track as a sprinter ... Honor roll and high honor roll student throughout his career.
Personal: Born Malcolm Peter Louis Bowman ... Son of Randy Bowman and Jill Louis-Bowman ... Chose Northwestern over Cornell ... Interested in studying economics and urban studies.
Plainsfield, Ill. - Joliet Catholic
Projected Position: Offensive Line
High School: Four-year varsity letterwinner at Joliet Catholic ... First-team All-Area and second-team All-State honoree ... Three-time All-East Suburban Catholic performer ... Helped Joliet Catholic achieve an overall record of 40-13 in his four years with the Hilltoppers ... Three-time Academic All-State ... Also an honor roll student and a member of the National Spanish Honor Society.
Personal: Born James Robert Butler in Joliet, Ill. ... Son of Tom and Margaret Butler ... Father played Division I basketball at Butler University ... High school teammate of current Wildcat Malin Jones ... Chose Northwestern over Illinois, Harvard, Brown, Dartmouth and Northern Illinois ... Plans to major in economics.
Medina, Ohio - Medina
Projected Position: Defensive Back
High School: Played three years of varsity football as a running back, quarterback and defensive back at Medina Senior High ... Served as team captain ... Two-time All-Northeast Ohio Conference honoree ... Member of the National Honor Society and graduated in top 10 percent of senior class ... Attended Buckeye Boys State.
Personal: Born Jerry Ralph Klue in Cleveland ... Son of Jerome and Michele Klue ... Is a triplet along with his two sisters ... Chose Northwestern over Army and Air Force ... Plans to major in mechanical engineering and pursue a postgraduate career as a pilot in the military.