The effects, though, went beyond Fitzgerald gaining an additional scholarship for the class of 2014. It hardly changes the team's overall board, as the staff honed in on several defensive back and defensive end targets to round out this group.
But we can say, almost with certainty, that the remaining two spots would have been designated for another defensive end (even with the crucial verbal from Noah Westerfield) and a defensive back. They cast the net fairly wide, making it an uncomplicated affair. Now, a new opening changes the picture.
Brandon Lee an enormous target
Northwestern landed Nathan Hall earlier this summer to fill its linebacker quota. Understanding the need at that position, Fitzgerald had the Sylvania (Ohio) prospect camp at linebacker. When Hall met NU's lofty offer standard, he needed just more than 24 hours to make his decision. The need was met until now.
The team isn't loaded at linebacker for future seasons, and the loss of Wilson could easily be counterbalanced if the four-star Brandon Lee committed to NU. He's always lauded Pat Fitzgerald, and seems to buy into that "academic" standard. He'll settle on his top five this weekend, and NU will hope even more that its name is included.
One complication: If NU doesn't sign Lee, the staff might find itself in a bind. They barely recruited other linebackers when Hall committed, and although they left one spot open for Lee–and communicated that to him–they understandably saw little reason to pursue other options.
New "best available" vacancy
In the case that NU misses out on its linebacker priority, Fitzgerald is extremely likely to sign the best available player for that third and final spot. He still looks to sign a safety and another defensive end, but the third spot currently screams "best available."
The concept of preferring certain offers to others has provoked much discussion in recent weeks—culminating in a disastrous message board thread related to Adam Soesman. NU is one school fairly selective with offers, and the team would accept–and be happy with–commitments from any players as long as they address needs.
There's an obvious bias towards defensive ends and defensive backs on the current list, but any player on that side of the ball would work just fine in completing the class. They can afford to be very patient as well.
Chance for major sleeper
This loose timeframe might lead to surprise signings. The process could now last well into the fall, and that leaves room for players to make an impression with strong senior season performances. Anything could happen at this point.
Their chances of landing Adam Soesman appear strong at the moment, but after that, it's difficult to identify which players will complete the class.
On the flipside, though, this class could reach 15–the former hard cap–with Parrker Westphal and Garrett Dickerson still uncommitted. If either of those players commits to NU as the 16th member, then sadly, fans would miss Eric Wilson much less.
We'll keep you posted on any and all Northwestern football recruiting updates throughout the year.