Northwestern lands big prize in Prater

National signing day arrives Wednesday, but Northwestern already has added a huge prize.

Wide receiver Kyle Prater has decided to transfer to Northwestern from USC, Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald announced. Prater, who grew up in the Chicago area, visited Northwestern on Friday and Saturday and finalized the decision. As colleague Scott Powers and others have reported, Prater had been leaning toward Northwestern after mentioning Wisconsin and Illinois as other potential destinations when he announced his exit from USC.

NCAA transfer rules require Prater to sit out a season, but the Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein reports Northwestern will consider applying for a waiver to get Prater eligible for the 2012 season. If granted, Prater would have three years of eligibility left.

From a recruiting rankings standpoint, Prater is the most decorated player Northwestern has added in recent memory. ESPN Recruiting ranked him as the nation's No. 45 overall prospect and the nation's No. 9 wide receiver in the 2010 class. He earned prep All-America honors from Parade, Super Prep and other outlets.

"This is one of the best days in my life for me and my family and I'm just happy to be back close to home, my family and my support group," Prater said in a prepared statement. "I'd like to thank USC and their administration for my release. I have the utmost respect for USC and the coaching staff, players, fans and everybody I was in touch with there. This Northwestern degree will take me far and help me become a better person. The dynamics of the school and the team have shown me a lot and I'm just happy to be a Wildcat."

Prater struggled with injuries at USC and had only one reception last season. He decided to leave the school to play closer to home. Northwestern's pass-happy offense and recent track record in developing wide receivers makes this a good fit.

Wide receiver should be a strength going forward with players like Prater, Christian Jones, Rashad Lawrence and Tony Jones. Prater's arrival also could increase the chance Northwestern moves some offensive skill players to the defensive side, where the team is lacking in the secondary.