Moving the clock an hour ahead is an annual right of passage in the Central time zone every spring. Similarly, moving the clock ahead seems to also include the NCAA football recruiting clock.
Northwestern already has six Class of 2018 verbal commitments, launching the Wildcats to one of their best early in-state recruiting efforts in recent memory. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald has locked in a verbal from one of the top defensive ends in the Midwest: Rivals.com's four star-ranked Devin O'Rourke (6-foot-6, 240 pounds) from Lincoln-Way East. He also has commitments from three in-state names in Libertyville offensive linemen Charlie Schmidt, New Trier's three star-ranked tight end Brian Kaiser (6-foot-7, 220 pounds) and Dunlap's three star-ranked tight end Charlie Mangieri (6-foot-4, 230 pounds).
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The Wildcats are not the only in-state school making early progress on the recruiting front. Northern Illinois and head coach Rod Carey's staff has made a major philosophy change in recruiting approach. No longer are the Huskies playing the wait-and-see game when it comes to extending early scholarship offers. Northern Illinois already has three in-state verbal commitments so far: Danville offensive linemen Julian Pearl (6-foot-7, 245 pounds), Andrew defensive end Mike DeHaan (6-foot-6, 230 pounds) and Plainfield East defensive tackle Jack Sullivan (6-foot-5, 245 pounds). The Huskies have also have extended more in-state scholarship offers for 2018 than any others in recent memory.
While several of the in-state FCS schools have yet to lock up any known verbal commitments, the recruiting calendar has indeed moved up for the likes of Illinois State, Southern Illinois and Western Illinois. Both Illinois State and Southern Illinois have already hosted several in-state recruits this winter for various Junior Day events and have extended early offers to a few athletes. And on Monday, Western Illinois extended several early in-state offers as well.
So why offer a scholarship this early in the process? The reasons vary. Colleges want to be the first school to offer prospects after making earlier college visits and camps. Also, with the NCAA expected to add at least one additional early football signing period starting with the Class of 2019, I fully expect more and more early offers and verbal commitments to follow from here on out.