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updated: 2/1/2012 6:12 PM

Northwestern adds 21 recruits to go with transfer

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Associated Press

The 21-player signing class announced Wednesday by Northwestern is heavy on offensive linemen and defensive backs as the Wildcats try to bounce back from a 6-7 season

The class, the largest in coach Pat Fitzgerald's six seasons at Northwestern, includes four offensive lineman and four defensive backs as well as three linebackers. The Wildcats also are adding a high-profile transfer in former USC receiver Kyle Prater, who is from suburban Chicago.

"There are some tremendous young men from great families and great high school programs who, we believe, fit all our needs and will help us take the next step in becoming a championship program," Fitzgerald said.

The recruiting service Scout.com rates Northwestern's signing class 45th in the country and fifth in the Big Ten.

The signing class includes 6-5, 270-pound offensive tackle Adam DePietro of Lancaster, Pa., and 6-3, 217-pound outside linebacker Ifeadi Odenigbo of Centerville, Ohio. Odenigbo in particular will be looked to for big contributions. His strength is the pass rush, an area where Northwestern struggled in 2011. The Wildcats were last in the Big Ten with 17 sacks.

The class was light on the offensive skill positions, with no quarterbacks, two running backs (6-0, 205-pound Malin Jones of Naperville, Ill., and 6-0, 178-pound Stephen Buckley from Forney, Texas) and two wide receivers (6-3, 185-pound Mike McHugh from Kirkwood, Mo., and 6-2, 200-pound Andrew Scanlan of Royersford, Pa.).

Prater was highly recruited from Proviso West High School in Hillside, Ill., but played sparingly last season as a redshirt freshman at USC as he struggled with injuries. He announced last weekend that he'll move to Northwestern.

The Wildcats finished last season 3-5 in the conference, fifth in the six-team Big Ten Legends Division. After a 6-6 regular season, Northwestern lost 33-22 to Texas A&M in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

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