Led by four signees from Chicago and the greater Chicagoland area, Walker's fifth recruiting class as the Wildcats' head coach fills needs on both sides of the ball. The class is his smallest recruiting class, but that stems from the fact that Northwestern only had nine seniors on its 2003 roster.
"Obviously, it isn't a large class," said Walker. "That is a function of having a small senior class. This goes back five years to the transition era between Coach Barnett and myself.
"We feel the quality of this group is very good. We continue to see a stronger emphasis on early commitments and student-athletes making unofficial visits during the course of the summer. That happened with us. We had more recruits than usual make early commitments."
Northwestern received its final oral commitment in mid-January. Eight of the 13 signees had orally committed to Northwestern prior to Thanksgiving.
Besides the four student-athletes from Illinois, Northwestern signed three players each from Florida and Texas, two from California and one from Ohio. In all, the Wildcats signed student-athletes from five states.
"We feel really good about where we recruited and the student-athletes we recruited," said Walker. "We continue to have success recruiting in Texas and Florida and California. We are happy we were able to recruit some student-athletes from Chicago, because our first priority always has been to recruit the best students and best athletes out of the city of Chicago and the greater Chicagoland area."
This year's class is once again balanced with offensive and defensive players -- seven on offense and six on defense.
"We hit some needs that were evident on our football team," said Walker. "We signed some quality defensive linemen. We were a young defensive line at one point, but those guys are now coming into their junior and senior years. We also helped ourselves at running back, signing three quality guys."
The three signees from Texas -- all from the Houston area -- now push the Wildcats' current number of Lone Star state players to 11, second-most behind Illinois (17). Northwestern now has 10 players from Ohio, 10 from Michigan and nine from California.
Northwestern's 2004 Recruiting Class
|Player|| Pos.|| Ht.|| Wt.|| Hometown|| High School|
|C.J. Bachér||QB||6-2|| 190|| Sacramento, Calif.|| Jesuit|
|Joel Belding||DL||6-3|| 285|| Seville, Ohio|| Cloverleaf|
|André Butler||DB||5-11|| 180|| Dolton, Ill.|| Thornwood|
|Matt Clark|| DL||6-3|| 290|| Orlando, Fla.|| Lake Highland Prep|
|Gerard Hamlett|| RB||5-10|| 175|| Fort Lauderdale, Fla.||St. Thomas Aquinas|
|Akeem Hunter||RB||5-11|| 205|| Chicago, Ill.|| Leo|
|Rejaie Johnson|| LB||6-1|| 220|| La Marque, Texas|| La Marque|
|Ross Lane||WR||6-3|| 180|| Ft. Myers, Fla.||Bishop Verot|
|Kevin Mims||DE||6-3|| 250|| The Woodlands, Texas|| The Woodlands|
|David Oredugba|| DB||6-2|| 185|| Sherman Oaks, Calif.|| Beverly Hills|
|Ben Rinker||TE||6-4|| 240|| Barrington, Ill.|| Barrington|
|Brandon Roberson||RB||5-9|| 190|| Pearland, Texas||Pearland|
|Jeff Yarbrough||WR||5-11|| 175|| Richton Park, Ill.|| Rich South|
C.J. BACHÉR (pronounced ba-SHAY)
6-2 * 190
Sacramento, Calif. * Jesuit
Projected Position: Quarterback
High School: SuperPrep All-American ... Ranked 14th nationally among quarterbacks by Rivals.com and 21st nationally by SuperPrep ... Ranked 28th-best player overall in the western United States by SuperPrep and 55th in the West by Rivals.com ... PrepStar all-region selection ... Ranked as nation's 14th-best dual-threat quarterback by Rivals.com ... Delta League Offensive MVP ... Red Zone National Player of the Year ... All-San Joaquin CIF Section (Division I) ... All Sac-Metro (team named by Sacramento Bee) ... 2003 team MVP ... During four-year career, completed 406-of-681 passes (59.6 percent) for 6,625 yards, 69 touchdowns and 24 interceptions ... Also rushed for 20 career TD's ... Completed 129-of-206 passes for 2,163 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions his senior season (2003) ... Led the Marauders to a 40-3 record during his career, including a perfect 13-0 season and a section championship in 2002 ... One of his top games came in the 2002 postseason when he led Jesuit to a victory over Grant by completing 18-of-21 passes for 256 yards and two TD's ... Northern California Optimist All-Star ... Hails from the same high school that has produced NFL quarterbacks Ken O'Brien (Jets), Gio Carmazzi (49ers) and J.T. O'Sullivan (Saints) ... Recipient of school's Excellence Award (given for leadership, academics and athletics) ... California Scholastic Federation recipient ... Also lettered three years in basketball ... Coached by Dan Carmazzi.
Personal: Born Christopher James Bachér on 9/25/85 ... Son of K.C. and Susie Bachér ... Father was an all-conference performer at New Hampshire ... Plans to major in economics ... Chose NU over Oregon State and Arizona.
6-3 * 285
Seville, Ohio * Cloverleaf
Projected Position: Defensive Line
High School: A two-time all-Ohio, all-Suburban League and two-time all-district honoree ... An AP second-team All-Ohio Division II offensive line selection in 2003 ... Named to OhioPrepScene.com Division II All-Ohio team ... Also named to all-star teams by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Akron Beacon-Journal, Medina Gazette and Wooster Daily Record, Fortune Football and SuperPrep ... As a defensive tackle, totaled 261 career tackles, 23 career sacks and nine forced fumbles ... Had 81 tackles, 12 sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries his senior year ... Offensively, had a blocking percentage of 96 percent to go along with 117 pancakes ... Totaled 24 tackles, one sack and 11 pancakes in a single game (vs. Norton) his senior year ... Also had 16 tackles, three sacks and 17 pancakes in one contest (vs. Revere) ... Playing in 2004 Ohio North-South All-Star game ... Also competes in the shot put and discus on the Colts' track and field team ... Captain for both football and track and field ... A two-time regional finalist in the shot and discus ... Twice named to all-star track teams by the Plain Dealer, Medina Gazette and Beacon-Journal ... Holds the school shot put record (54'4") ... Coached by Kevin Gault.
Personal: Born Joel Richard Belding on 11/1/85 ... Son of Jack and Debora Belding...Chose NU over Minnesota, Illinois and Boston College.
5-11 * 180
Dolton, Ill. * Thornwood
Projected Position: Defensive Back
High School: Ranked 21st-best player in state of Illinois by Rivals.com ... SuperPrep All-Midwest Region team ... Ranked 110th in SuperPrep's Midwest player ranking ... Top-25 player in Tom Lemming's Prep Football Report ... PrepStar all-region selection ... As a safety and linebacker his senior year, totaled 130 tackles (102 solos), 16 sacks (21 TFL's), four interceptions, three fumble recoveries and nine forced fumbles ... As a running back, rushed for 1,000-plus yards, scored 17 touchdowns and averaged over 7 rushing yards per carry ... In season opener, rushed for 237 yards, while notching 16 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery on defense ... Two-time all-conference selection ... Three-year starter and 2003 team captain ... Team's rookie of the year as a sophomore ... Played against fellow NU recruits Akeem Hunter and Jeff Yarbrough ... One of state's top track performers -- heading into senior season has had 20-plus first-place finishes while helping the Thunderbirds to three straight state championships ... Scored the most points in IHSA history at 2003 state meet ... Best times of 10.7 in the 100 and 21.6 in 200 ... Who's Who ... Vice president of Top Teens of America South Suburban chapter ... Charter member of the National TTA Leadership Academy ... National Honor Roll ... Coached by Andre Collins.
Personal: Born André Nathaniel Butler on 10/3/85 ... Son of Gaston Butler and Sherry Gordon ... Plans to major in pre-medicine ... Chose NU over Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.
6-3 * 290
Orlando, Fla. * Lake Highland Prep
Projected Position: Defensive Line
High School: A Class 2B first-team All-State defensive tackle honoree by the Florida Sports Writers Association ... PrepStar all-region selection ... Friday Night Football Radio Show third-team selection ... Two-time all-conference selection ... Helped 2002 team go 10-2 and reach second round of state playoffs ... Totaled 48 tackles, including five TFL's, in eight games his senior year ... Registered a career-best 13 tackles (five solos) and two TFL in a game (vs. Taylor) ... Also lettered in track and field, and weightlifting ... Coached by Tim Borcky.
Personal: Born Matthew R. Clark on 9/5/85 ... Son of John and Peggy Clark ... Plans to major in communications ... Chose NU over Vanderbilt, Duke and Georgia Tech.
5-10 * 175
Fort Lauderdale, Fla. * St. Thomas Aquinas
Projected Position: Running Back
High School: A two-time all-county honoree ... Finished career with 1,287 rushing yards for prep power St. Thomas Aquinas ... Opened the eyes of recruiters with a career-performance against Delray Beach Atlantic: 33 carries for a school-record 269 yards and four touchdowns ... That win helped the Raiders advance to the second round of the Class 5A Florida state playoffs ... Team finished 9-3 his senior season following 14-1 and 12-2 respective records his sophomore and junior seasons ... The Raiders finished as the state runner-up in 2001 ... Earned an all-star berth in the Florida North-South Game ... Three-year letterwinner ... Coached by George Smith.
Personal: Born Gerard D. Hamlett on 12/15/85 ... Son of Thomas and Cynthia Laituri ... Chose NU over Purdue and Wake Forest.
5-11 * 205
Chicago, Ill. * Leo
Projected Position: Running Back
High School: Named the Offensive Player of the Year in Chicago's Catholic League (White Division) ... Ran for 1,374 yards (198 carries) and 24 touchdowns ... Averaged 6.9 yards per carry ... Ran for 530 yards (7.4 ypc) and 10 touchdowns as a junior ... Preseason all-state selection ... Team's Offensive MVP ... Rushed for a career-best 236 yards and three touchdowns vs. Luther North ... Also had a 200-yard game (206 yards) and career-best five touchdowns vs. Hales Franciscan ... The Lions went 5-5 with a first-round playoff loss in 2003 ... A two-time all-state track runner (4.39 40-time) ... Ran on 4x100 relay team that placed ninth at state championships in 2003 ... Coached by Dan O'Keefe.
Personal: Born Akeem M. Hunter on 1/18/86...Son of Elbert and Lillie Hunter ... Hails from the same high school program as former NU star Harold Blackmon ... Chose NU over Nebraska and Michigan State.
Rejaie Johnson (pronounced rah-JAY)
6-1 * 220
La Marque, Texas * La Marque
Projected Position: Linebacker
High School: Tabbed a 2003 third-team all-state defensive end ... Also named second-team all-Greater Houston, first-team all-county and first-team all-district ... Totaled 65 tackles (11 TFL's), 18 hurries and two interceptions, including one for a TD, as a defensive end his senior season ... Saw significant playing time at tight end as a junior, making nine catches for 157 yards (17.4 ypr) and three touchdowns ... A first-team all-district and honorable mention all-county honoree at tight end in 2002 ... Dave Campbell's Texas Football Magazine top-15 player at tight end ... Team captain ... Helped lead the Cougars to the Texas Division 2 4A state championship (16-0), their fourth state title in eight years ... Totaled 10 tackles (1 TFL), a forced fumble and four quarterback hurries in the state championship game ... Also lettered in baseball, playing every position but catcher ... Vice-president of National Honor Society ... Ranked fifth in class (out of 243) ... Who's Who ... Coached by Bryan Erwin.
Personal: Born Rejaie D. Johnson on 9/2/1986...Son of Ron and Judy Johnson ... Brother, Rod, played football at NC State and snared a school-record-tying three interceptions for the Wolfpack in their 2003 win over Notre Dame in the Toyota Gator Bowl ... Plans to major in computer engineering ... Chose NU over Notre Dame, Michigan State and Missouri.
6-3 * 180
Ft. Myers, Fla. * Bishop Verot
Projected Position: Wide Receiver
High School: Florida Varsity 2A Player of the Year ... Finished in third place in Mr. Football Florida voting ... PrepStar all-region selection ... First-team all-state, all-district and all-area wide receiver in 2003 ... Ranked second in the state in receiving yardage (1,173) his senior year ... Set nine school records his senior year-single-game receptions (14), single-game receiving yardage (260), single-game TD receptions (four), single-season receptions (54), single-season receiving yards (1,173), single-season TD receptions (15), career receptions (114), career receiving yardage (2,322), career TD receptions (26) ... Besides receiver, also played safety and punter ... Second-team all-area wide receiver as a junior ... Prep Athlete of the Week by Cape Coral Breeze and Ft. Myers News Press ... Team captain ... Playing in John Carrigan Rotary South All-Star Classic ... The Vikings compiled a three-year record of 27-8 during his career, with two regional final appearances ... Also lettered in track (five events) and soccer ... Track team MVP as a junior ... Placed 11th in state 300-meter hurdles ... All-area second-team goalie for soccer team ... Presently the starting goalie for the state's fourth-ranked team ... Coached by Mike Marciano.
Personal: Born Ross Alexander Lane on 2/18/86 ... Son of Richard and Renee Lane ... Mother was a diver at Texas Tech ... Plans to major in communications ... Chose NU over Pittsburgh.
6-3 * 250
The Woodlands, Texas * The Woodlands
Projected Position: Defensive End
High School: First-team AP all-state defensive lineman ... Ranked nation's 34th-best defensive end by Rivals.com and 69th-best player in Texas ... SuperPrep All-Southwest and ranked 69th among players in Texas, as well ... PrepStar all-region selection ... Coaches' District 15-5A Defensive Player of the Year ... All-County Defensive MVP ... Team captain ... Totaled 104 tackles (82 solos), nine sacks, 22 TFL's, one interception, one fumble recovery and six pass deflections his senior year ... Preseason All-Greater Houston Defensive Player of the Year nominee ... Preseason All-Greater Houston Coaches' team ... Four-time Defensive Lineman of the Game ... Led the Highlanders to Texas' state championship game ... The Woodlands finished 14-1 and ranked No. 7 nationally by USA Today ... Team was ranked first in the state of Texas (Div. 1, 5-A) at the end of the regular season ... Had 44 tackles, six sacks, four TFL's, an interception, a fumble recovery and four pass deflections as a junior ... Second-team all-district in 2002 ... Also long snaps, and was listed as a "top prospect" for long-snapping by the Ray Guy Long-snapping Camp ... Also plays basketball ... Academic All-State ... Two-time Rotary Student of Year nominee ... Christian Athlete of the Year nominee ... Coached by Weldon Willig.
Personal: Born Kevin G. Mims on 8/4/86 ... Son of Michael and Katherine Mims ... Father wrestled at USC and mother played volleyball at CSU-Fullerton ... Plans to major in biomedical engineering ... Chose NU over Michigan State, Arizona, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Utah.
David Oredugba (pronounced ore-DOO-buh)
6-2 * 185
Sherman Oaks, Calif. * Beverly Hills
Projected Position: Defensive Back
High School: Earned All-Bay League honors at cornerback in 2003-the first year he played organized football ... Named team's Most Improved Player ... Totaled 45 tackles, eight TFL's, six quarterback hurries and two blocked field goals in 2003 ... Registered 13 tackles and a blocked field goal versus Peninsula, for one of his top performances ... Helped the Normans to a 5-3-2 record and a second-place league finish in 2003 ... Played one year at Beverly Hills after transferring from Pacific Hills High where he played basketball and ran track ... Averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds per game at Pacific Hills, which reached the CIF semifinals ... Also has lettered in volleyball ... Who's Who ... Gems Award (given to outstanding African American students in Santa Monica) ... Coached by Carter Paysinger.
Personal: Born David Olaniyi Oredugba on 4/21/86...Son of Olu and Cynthia Oredugba ... His brother, Kai, played one year of high school football and now plays at UCLA ... His father, Olu, was a track star at DePauw (Ind.) University ... Plans to major in communications ... Chose NU over Duke and Arizona.
6-4 * 240
Barrington, Ill. * Barrington
Projected Position: Tight End
High School: Named to Daily Herald All-Area team ... Played tight end and offensive line for the Broncos, who finished 10-2 with a conference championship ... Helped Barrington advance to the Illinois Class 8A state quarterfinals ... The Broncos' offense set single-season school marks for rushing yards (3,688), total offense (4,510) and points scored (381) in 2003 ... Tied the school's power clean record (275 pounds x 5 reps) ... Playing in the Illinois High School Coaches Association All-Star game July 17 in Peoria ... Member of Mid-Suburban All-Academic team ... Developed into one of Chicagoland's top performers despite playing just two years of football ... Also competed in basketball, baseball and track and field ... Coached by Joe Sanchez.
Personal: Born Benjamin Michael Rinker on 3/2/86 ... Son of Michael and Marilyn Rinker ... Father played basketball with NBA great Jack Sikma at Illinois Wesleyan ... Plans to major in communications ... Chose NU over Kansas and Bowling Green.
5-9 * 190
Pearland, Texas * Pearland
Projected Position: Running Back
High School: Closed his illustrious career as the eighth all-time leading rusher in Texas Class 5A history (5,235 yards) ... Scored 65 career TD's ... SuperPrep All-Southwest Region ... Two-time first-team All-Greater Houston honoree ... Two-time District 23-5A Offensive MVP ... 2003 Touchdown Club of Houston preseason All-Greater Houston team ... Named to 2003 NFL Global Junior Championship USA team, which played four other foreign teams during Super Bowl week in January 2004 ... Led all Class 5A rushers and the Houston area in 2002 with a school-record 2,294 yards and 25 touchdowns ... Named a second-team all-state selection as a junior ... Totaled 1,688 yards on 221 carries (7.2 ypc) and 19 touchdowns in 2003 ... Also had 20 receptions for 273 yards and six touchdowns in 2003, including an 80-yard scoring reception that won a game ... Set the Oilers' single-game rushing record with 347 yards vs. Baytown Lee in 2002 ... As a sophomore and junior, played with current NU center Trevor Rees, a freshman starter for the 2003 Wildcats ... The Oilers compiled a 31-4 record during his three-year tenure, including a 10-0 mark as a sophomore when he ran for 1,243 yards and 15 TD's ... Also lettered in track ... Recipient of school's Distinguished Presidential Award ... Houston Chronicle Boys Athlete of the Week ... Coached by Tony Heath.
Personal: Born Brandon James Roberson on 10/17/85 ... Son of Glenn and Marcia Roberson ... His first cousin, Earl Cooper, played for the NFL's 49ers and Saints ... Plans to major in communications ... Chose NU over Utah and Kansas.
5-11 * 175
Richton Park, Ill. * Rich South
Projected Position: Wide Receiver
High School: Named an all-conference wide receiver by the Star Newspapers, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune and Daily Southtown ... An all-area cornerback by the Star Newspapers and honorable mention all-area by the Sun-Times ... SuperPrep All-Midwest special mention ... Totaled 16 receptions for 297 yards his senior year ... Notched 55 tackles (27 solos), 19 pass deflections and four interceptions as a cornerback ... One of state's fastest players, finishing sixth in the 100-meters at the 2003 state meet ... In a playoff game vs. ICA, totaled six receptions for 106 yards, two rushes for 22 yards and six tackles ... Against Bremen, registered 85 receiving yards, 65 rushing yards and two rushing TD's, and a 65-yard interception return for a TD ... Playing in Public League vs. Suburban League All-Star game in June ... Helped the Stars finish 8-3 and reach the second round of the state playoffs for the first time since 1988 ... Played against fellow NU recruit André Butler ... Four-year letterwinner in track ... Coached by Rich Tarka.
Personal: Born Jeffrey W.C. Yarbrough on 5/8/86 ... Son of Jeff and Carmelitta Yarbrough ... Plans to major in religious studies ... Chose NU over Indiana.