By: Andrew Bowen
Northwestern football has had some standout performers this season. As a team, the Wildcats were better than their 6-6 record would appear with four of their six losses coming to opponents that were at some point ranked this season. Despite their 6-6 record, the ‘Cats had several superb individual performances over the course of the season. Here are some candidates for team MVP of the Wildcats.
The Front Runner: Austin Carr, Wide Receiver
Carr had a monster senior season: posting 1,196 receiving yards on 84 receptions. He led the Big Ten conference in both of these categories by a healthy margin. In addition to his statistics, Carr was named a finalist for the Frank Biletnikoff award, given to the nation’s best receiver each year. Carr’s impressive senior resume grants him the leading spot for team MVP for the 2016 campaign.
The Challenger: Justin Jackson, Runningback
Jackson rushed for over 1,000 yards for a third straight season this year, compiling a total of 1,510 yards from scrimmage. Jackson was a workhorse back for Northwestern this year, taking up 62% of carries for the Northwestern and was invaluable for the ‘Cats’ offense. Jackson also leads the Big Ten in rushing yards this year, making him a significant opponent for Austin Carr’s chances for MVP
The Outsider: Anthony Walker Jr., Linebacker
A cornerstone of Northwestern’s defense, the junior linebacker compiled 98 tackles over 12 games. Walker forced 3 fumbles this year as well as adding an interception to his stat sheet. Walker didn’t put up the astronomical numbers shown by Carr and Jackson, but his value to the ‘Cats’ defense cannot be understated.
The Dark Horse: Ifeadi Odenigbo, Defensive Lineman
Odenigbo was a force on the defensive line this season. He was able to garner 10 sacks in as many games, leading the ‘Cats and tying for the Big Ten lead in that category. The senior defensive lineman gave opposing offenses something to consider, often having to factor into their game plans. Injuries kept Odenigbo off the field twice this year, limiting his production in the games he did manage to play in.
The Underdog: Clayton Thorson, Quarterback
Thorson posted impressive numbers as a sophomore. He was 4th in the Big Ten in passing yards with 2,968 yards, and tied for 5th in touchdowns with 21 through the air. In one of the toughest conferences in college football, that kind of performance is impressive for only a sophomore. The future is bright for a Northwestern team led by Thorson.
The Long-Shot: Hunter Niswander, Punter
What? A punter as MVP? Yes, you heard me right. This kid has a cannon for a leg and his stats back it up. He is second in the Big Ten with 2,895 gross punting yards on 70 total punts. In addition, he’s averaged 41.4 yards per punt, 4th in the Big Ten. He has made some big punts this season, helping the ‘Cats win the field position game. With a season long of 62 yards, Niswander was able to demonstrate his boot as a valuable asset to the cats this year.
Drumroll please… After much deliberation Austin Carr is most deserving of Northwestern’s MVP this season. There were many solid contenders on and off the list this year, however, the senior standout put up historic numbers. Carr set new school records in receiving yards, touchdowns, and receptions while leading the Big Ten conference in all 3 categories. It’s hard to dispute those kind of numbers.