After having an outstanding 10-3 season in 2012, topped by a very impressive 34-20 win over the SEC’s Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl, the Northwestern Wildcats had high hopes for 2013. They opened the season at 4-0, then lost 7 straight and finished up at 5-7.
From what we know of former Northwestern LB and current head coach Pat Fitzgerald, he is going to do whatever it takes to makes sure that doesn’t happen again.
The Northwestern Wildcats have almost everybody back on both sides of the ball with 18 returning starters. 10 of those returners are on offense including everybody on the Offensive Line. It’s always great to have experience up front and at QB.
The Wildcats did lose Kain Colter but their other QB Trevor Siemian (6-3, 210) returns for his senior season. Siemian threw for 2,149 yards in 2013. Colter was the better runner out of the QB position, but Siemian was probably a better passer and has another year of experience under his belt. He threw for over 1,100 in 2012 so he’s been at war for the Wildcats before.
Matt Alviti (6-0, 185) should be Siemian’s back up and may even battle for the starting spot at some point. He was the number 2 rated dual threat QB coming out of high school and picked Northwestern over Notre Dame and many others. Alviti is one of those guys with excellent feet that can make throws on the run.
Zack Oliver (6-4, 235) a junior from Baton Rouge, Louisiana is probably going to be the third guy. Christian Salem (6-3, 190) is a redshirt sophomore out of Santa Monica, California that has not played yet. 4 star incoming freshman Clayton Thorson (6-4, 200) is an old school drop back style of QB that should redshirt.
Running Back Venric Mark (5-8, 175) missed most of last season but ran for over 1,300 yards in 2012. Mark is also an excellent return man. Treyvon Green (6-0, 215) rushed for 736 yards and 8 TDs last season and is back for his senior year. Stephen Buckley (6-0, 180) rushed for 265 yards as a back up last season.
Redshirt Freshman Xavier Menifield (5-10, 190) and true freshmen Auston Anderson (5-9, 180) and Justin Jackson (5-11, 175) could be in the mix.
Northwestern plays a slot back that they call their Super Back. Last year, the Super Back was Dan Vitale (6-2, 225) and thankfully he is not related to basketball announcer, Dick. Vitale caught 34 passes a year ago and 3 TDs. The Super Back does not run the ball much and he had 27 yards rushing.
Mark Szott (6-4, 240) should be the back up here again. Jack Schwaba (6-4, 250) is a sophomore, and Jayme Taylor (6-4, 225) is a redshirt freshman.
The best of the bunch may be Garrett Dickerson (6-3, 235) a former 4 star recruit that will be a freshman this season. They have the option of redshirting him if necessary.
Then, there is the other Jones, Tony Jones (6-0, 195) who caught 55 passes. Cameron Dickerson (6-3, 200) caught 11 passes in 2013 and Kyler Prater (6-5, 225) caught 9. Prater is a transfer from USC. Miles Shuler (5-10, 175) is a transfer from Rutgers that should help this coming season.
A team strength for the Wildcats is returning all 5 starters up front in the Offensive Line.
Jack Konopka (6-5, 300) is back at Left Tackle and is a senior with 3 years experience. Geoff Mogus (6-5, 295) returns beside Konopka at Left Guard.
Center Brandon Vitabile (6-3, 300) is one of the better ones in the country.
Ian Park (6-4, 295) started at Right Guard as a redshirt freshman. Paul Jorgenson (6-6, 295) is a returning senior at Right Tackle.
This should be one of the better Offensive Lines in the Big 10 and one of the better in the country due to experience alone.
Defense returns most everybody as well, but they did lose leading tackler Damien Proby at LB and excellent DE Tyler Scott.
Deonte Gibson (6-3, 260) should take Scott’s spot and he is an up and coming star. He had 3 sacks a year ago and 7 tackles for losses. Dean Lowry (6-6, 265) started quite a few games a year ago at the other end spot and had 4.5 sacks and also 7 tackles for losses. He also picked off 2 passes returning 1 for a TD.
Ifeadi Odenigbo (6-3, 235) is more of a pass rush specialist and had 5.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for losses. Max Chapman (6-3, 230) played some last year and comes back to add some depth.
Tyler Lancaster (6-3, 250) redshirted a year ago. James Prather (6-4, 240) is a 3 star incoming freshman.
Chance Carter (6-3, 295) started at Defensive Tackle last season and had 2 sacks and 5 tackles for losses. Sean McEvilly (6-5, 290) started a few games but injured his foot.
Greg Kuhar (6-3, 300) and C.J. Robbins (6-5, 285) played in every game last season and provide good depth. Connor Mahoney (6-4, 260) and Eric Joraskie (6-4, 260) are young guys that will need to develop more.
Chi Chi Ariguzo (6-3, 235) returns to the Weakside LB as the team’s second leading tackler. Should be all Big 10 this season. Drew Smith (6-1, 215) should be the primary back up.
MLB returns Collin Ellis (6-2, 230) who was the team’s 4th leading tackler a year ago. Backing him up should be Jaylen Prater (6-0, 235). Prater played in 3 games before being lost to injury in 2013.
Senior Jimmy Hall (6-1, 205) was the team’s 9th leading tackler in 2013. He will be the strong side LB in 2014. Joseph Jones (6-1, 210) should be his back up.
The Wildcats secondary is really talented.
Cornerback positions are returning stars Nick VanHoose (6-0, 190) and Matthew Harris (5-11, 180) were among the top tacklers on the team. Dwight White (5-10, 185) and Daniel Jones (5-11, 175) are both talented guys that bring quality depth.
Traveon Henry (6-1, 200) and Ibraheim Campbell (5-11, 205) are the safeties and they are really good. Henry was 3rd on the team in tackles and Campbell was 5th and had 4 interceptions.
Kyle Queiro (6-3, 195) and Parrker Westphal (6-1, 190) are talented back ups.
Northwestern Wildcats had a lot of bad breaks last season and with all the experience they have returning, they should be much better this season.