Northwestern’s most talented player in 2010? OT Patrick Ward

patrick_ward_Northwestern

Last year, Northwestern’s running game was so below par that it inspired Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald, on one occasion, to utter obscenities in front of the media. It wasn’t so much the running backs themselves, but the offensive line. You might recall Fitz’s “I don’t give a sh** who plays” soundbite, in response to the front seven’s lack of run-blocking during the middle of the 2009 campaign.

But this year, things should be a LOT different. The Offensive Line is returning all five starters; and two of them have lost their starting positions.

That’s the thing about this time of year- lots of programs boast of returning starters, and the experience they bring. And that can be good news or bad news, depending on the situation. However, if you’ve found better players than who you had starting last fall…now you’re on to something.

And NU’s OL should really improve, led by starting Right Tackle Patrick Ward, the highest rated Wildcat recruit in years.

By Paul M. Banks

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National Signing Dayapalooza

By Paul M. Banks
National Signing Day, college football’s version of the NFL draft, continues to grow in popularity each year. The everyday causal football fan has now joined the hardcore college football nerd in following the day’s events. There are even parties thrown at sports bars and restaurants in honor of the event.

Yes indeed, there are that many people interested in going out on a February night to watch high school football highlights and learn where those kids are attending college.

This year, both Illinois and Northwestern had live streaming coverage of and special soirees for the first day that blue-chip recruits have an option to sign their letters of intent. The local sports media came out to Evanston in full force to see how much recruiting benefits NU Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald gained after a season where his team finished just one win shy of the school record.

It started and finished locally, with Northwestern receiving commitments from five Chicagoland recruits to go along with 13 signees from across the country. The Wildcats’ five local commits gives NU a total of 16 Chicagoland signees the past three years and ups their current roster of Illinois players to 34. “Our focus always begins and ends with Chicagoland and we are thrilled with the commitments we received from our local student-athletes,” said Fitzgerald.

Patrick Ward OT 6-7 285 Homer Glen, Ill./Providence Catholic is the jewel of the class. His father played on Illinois’ 1984 Rose Bowl team. “It’s critical to your success, recruiting is the lifeblood of your program…We feel like we filled our needs from a size, speed, and toughness standpoint, Fitzgerald said. Allen Trieu, a recruiting analyst for Scout.com, called Northwestern’s 2009 signing class the “most underrated class” among Midwest FBS schools, while Rivals.com rated Fitz’s haul as middle-of-the-pack. The recruiting specialty site ranked the class 58th overall in the nation.