Northwestern Wide Receiver Preview
WNUR’s Ari Ross (@aross50) breaks down the returning WRs for the upcoming Northwestern football season.
Northwestern’s offense hasn’t been known for it’s passing in years past as the ‘Cats passing offense was ranked No. 9 in the Big Ten in 2012. But with the transition to a more pass-heavy offense this past year with Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian, the Wildcats finished ranked No. 5 in the Big Ten in passing offense.
With Siemian expected to start this year, the ‘Cats should to pass the ball more than in years’ previous, leading to a heavier reliance on their wide receivers than in years past.
The Wildcats returns four of their top six pass catchers from last year in Seniors Tony Jones, Christian Jones, Kyle Prater and Junior Cameron Dickerson. In total, the ‘Cats return about 70 percent of their receiving production from 2013, only
losing Rashad Lawrence and Mike Jensen from last year.
In addition to returning starters, the ‘Cats add transfer Miles Shuler from Rutgers, who had five catches for 71 yards in 2012 for the Scarlet Knights. The Wildcats can also expect some production from redshirt freshman Macan Wilson, a three-star recruit from Northwestern’s 2013 recruiting class.
Northwestern’s receiving core for 2014 starts with the two top returnees: Tony and Christian Jones. Last year, the Jones’ combined for 109 receptions for 1,298 yards and eight touchdowns, over half of the ‘Cats receivers production.
With the most experience of the group, as seniors, the Jones’ can be expected to lead this group, starting from day one and putting up the best statistics. Siemian will target both Christian and Tony often in the passing game.
Junior Cameron Dickerson, at 6’3’’ and 195 pounds, showed some flashes last year, and will get a change to prove himself this year. Dickerson, who caught 11 passes for 125 yards last year, an 11.4 average, is projected to start alongside Christian and Tony Jones.
After the Jones’ and Dickerson, the two transfers headline the receiving corps: Shuler and Prater, a 2012 transfer from USC. Both are former four-star recruits, but neither has lived up to expectations yet. Prater was listed on ESPN’s Top 150 prospects coming out of high school as the ninth best receiver in the nation, while Shuler was the No. 30 receiver, but sixth best in New Jersey. If either can live up to their full potential, Northwestern will have a top-flight receiver for Siemian to throw to.
And Prater could be really special. At 6’5’’ and 225 pounds, Northwestern has never had a receiver with his physical attributes. If Prater can find his full potential, he could become one of the best Wildcat receivers ever. But so far Prater hasn’t as he just caught nine passes for 59 yards last year.
Further down on the depth chart are sophomores Andrew Scanlan and Mike McHugh along with Wilson, who are also expected to compete for playing time as backups and could see some playing time if injuries come into play. Neither caught a pass last year for the Wildcats.
Northwestern’s 2014 recruiting class has just one receiver, Nathan Hall, a three-star prospect from Sylvania, Ohio, but similar to previous years, most of the incoming freshmen are expected to redshirt this year.
Overall the ‘Cats wide receiver corps is deep and talented. With four of their top six returning from last year, they have a chance to be one of the top receiving corps in the Big Ten, especially with the transition to a more pass-heavy offense. And if Prater and Shuler can reach their potential, this group could be something special.