Recruiting needs: Northwestern Wildcats

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The skill positions will top Pat Fitzgerald's wish list as the Northwestern head coach wraps up a small recruiting class on the heels of a 9-4 season.

Northwestern loses its starting quarterback (C.J. Bacher), its top two running backs (Tyrell Sutton and Omar Conteh) and its top three wide receivers (Eric Peterman, Rasheed Ward and Ross Lane). Mike Kafka steps in at quarterback, but he'll be a senior. The Wildcats need another capable signal caller for 2010, and they think they've found one in commit Evan Watkins.

Running back will be the team's biggest need next fall, and the recruiting class could help. Sutton arrived four years ago as a true freshman and rushed for nearly 1,500 yards. Though undersized rising junior Stephen Simmons did a nice job in relief of Sutton this fall, Northwestern needs to stock up in the backfield.

The Wildcats return some capable possession-type wide receivers (Jeremy Ebert, Andrew Brewer), but adding a player who can stretch the field would be a big plus in this class.

On the defensive side, linebacker likely will be the top priority, as Northwestern loses two starters (Malcolm Arrington and Prince Kwateng). Fitzgerald has always recruited well to his former position and will look to add there. The defensive line loses two starters and another (star end Corey Wootton) after the 2009 season, so building depth up front is vital.

Northwestern also loses kicker Amado Villarreal, a two-year starter, and will award a scholarship to incoming recruit Jeff Budzien.