Rare De-Commit for Northwestern Can Be Rectified with Outback Bowl Win

Aaron MorseCorrespondent IDecember 15, 2009

EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 31: Head coach Pat Fitzgerald of the Northwestern Wildcats signals to his team as they take on the Penn State Nittany Lions at Ryan Field on October 31, 2009 in Evanston, Illinois. Penn State defeated Northwestern 34-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Normally, when a recruit gives a verbal commitment to Northwestern in the Pat Fitzgerald era, you can safely assume they'll be on campus the following fall.

A number of factors typically influence this, mainly the strict academic standards NU adheres to. If you commit to NU, you're fully aware of the challenges in the classroom you'll be facing, because Fitz emphasizes academics more than any other Big Ten coach. He constantly talks about trying to find kids who are not only talented, but the "right fit" as well for NU.

Shontrelle Johnson might end up being the right fit for NU. But for now he's decided to rescind his verbal commitment to the Wildcats. It's a surprise, that's for sure. But it kind of makes sense.

The 5'10'', 180-pound running back was considered too small by a lot of the bigger programs before he had an absolutely outstanding senior year at DeLand High School. Now programs such as the once-great Florida State and the currently great Georgia Tech have thrown their hat in the ring.

It's critically important for NU to woo Johnson back. He was the only running back in the 2010 class, and now they have no one. We've already seen NU's running game struggle this year, so the more guys they can get competing to carry the rock, the better.

He never took an official visit before he committed earlier in the year, but now he does plan to take one in January. I'm always wary of prospects visiting in the winter, simply because the weather in Evanston is so awful. With Johnson being from Florida, that could be a big factor.

But a bigger factor, and one that could go NU's way, is if NU wins the Outback Bowl.

Florida State will almost certainly be demolished by West Virginia in their bowl game, and all of sudden NU fans might want to actually root for Iowa when they take on Georgia Tech.

A bowl win, in Johnson's home state of Florida, over a SEC opponent, would probably go a long ways towards getting Johnson back in the fold. The fact that he still plans on making an official visit is nice; Hopefully Coach Fitz's powers of persuasion will outweigh the awful weather he'll encounter.

Either way, this Outback Bowl is about more than getting the 1949 monkey off NU's back; It could have major recruiting ramifications as well.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.