After nearly a month, we’ve hit the conclusion of our summer football previews. To finish it off, we assembled all these previews into one post for you to review our Big Ten projections and the prospects for each of Northwestern’s position groups.
Northwestern Position Groups
Quarterbacks – Three men are still in the running for the starting role, but redshirt freshman Clayton Thorson looks primed to earn the spot. We think.
Running Backs – Justin Jackson’s sophomore campaign will be backed up by a trio of solid backs with a variety of skill sets.
Superbacks – Dan Vitale looks to have a stellar senior season, and Garret Dickerson has the potential for a breakout year in the passing game.
Wide Receivers – It may be one of NU’s weaker position groups, but Christian Jones returns from a medical redshirt season while Cameron Dickerson and Miles Shuler still pose deep threats.
Offensive Line – Big losses at center and the tackle spots will be filled by Geoff Mogus and several young guns. Can the Wildcats re-gain solid pass protection with a new crew?
Defensive Line – Perhaps Northwestern’s deepest position group, the defensive line proved strong in run stopping last year. Now, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Dean Lowry and the Wildcats’ other speedy ends will seek a better pass rush.
Linebackers – The linebacking corps is fairly inexperienced, but there are big expectations for sophomore Anthony Walker at the MIKE spot this season.
Defensive Backs – Despite the loss of Ibraheim Campbell, the secondary could very well be the Wildcats’ best position group. Igwebuike, Henry, VanHoose and Harris? Not a weak spot to be found.
Special Teams – There are a fair amount of questions for the special teamers. Can Jack Mitchell stretch his Notre Dame heroics into a stellar season-long stint? Will Hunter Niswander perform well at punter? And can NU develop a decent return game?
Big Ten West
1. Wisconsin – Our staff likes the Badgers to win the west division, even with a new coach and Melvin Gordon departed for the NFL.
2. Nebraska – Huge offensive weapons in Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Bell are both gone, and all of Big Ten country is disappointed in the loss of Faux Pelini. But Nebraska is still projected for 6-2 in conference.
3. Iowa – The Hawkeyes should have a very strong defensive front again, but the offense loses integral pieces after a subpar showing in 2014. Even with a huge buyout in his contract, Kirk Ferentz might be on the hot seat if he cannot land Iowa at third or better in the west. Note: Running back Damon Bullock is no longer a Hawkeye, but his Vine account lives on.
4. Minnesota – Over 15 years of coaching division one football, Jerry Kill has only posted two seasons where his team took a step back from the prior season. WNUR thinks this might be his third. The Golden Gophers have a tough conference slate and lose big pieces on both sides of the ball.
5. Northwestern – WNUR projects to finish 6-6 overall and 4-4 in conference. You can check out all of our Wildcat position group previews above.
6. Illinois – Amid several allegations against the Illini athletic staff, Tim Beckman aims to take Illinois to back-to-back bowl games.
7. Purdue – Will Purdue get out of the west division cellar this season? Probably not. But is a turnaround brewing for the Boilermakers? Maybe.
Big Ten East
1. Ohio State – The Buckeyes are still going to be very good at football. Their quarterbacks are so good that Braxton Miller is moving to wide receiver. WNUR has the reigning national champions going undefeated.
2. Michigan State – Unfortunately for the Spartans, Ohio State is in their division. Michigan State will likely be the second best team in the Big Ten still, and if they’re lucky, they’ll be competing for a chance in the College Football Playoff.
3. Penn State – Christian Hackenberg looked rather mediocre against Northwestern last year, but Nittany Lion fans are still riding the Hackenberg hype train into 2015. If Penn State builds more pieces around their junior quarterback and the defense remains strong, they should have third in the east easy.
4. Michigan – One of the most talked about programs in the country won’t leave the spotlight anytime soon. The addition of Jim Harbaugh and the biggest quarterback battle in the country have all eyes on Ann Arbor right now. But will Michigan be better than mediocre this season?
6. Indiana – There is one upside to watching the Hoosiers play: lots of points! Indiana’s defense is more porous than a sponge. Plus, Nate Sudfeld’s aerial attack gets the ball down the field in a hurry. Losing Tevin Coleman is going to hurt big time though.
7. Rutgers – WNUR isn’t very high on
Buttgers Rutgers, even though the Scarlet Knights went 8-5 and got a bowl victory in their first season in the Big Ten.