Freshman Film Breakdown: Quarterbacks + Running Backs
by Andrew Bowen
Editor’s note: The Northwestern Football team begins its season tomorrow against Purdue! Just like any good student of the game, we here at WNUR Sports log plenty of hours in the film room. Over the last five days, our broadcasters have analyzed some of the high school film of the incoming freshman class. Keep in mind, the plays we’ve selected do not define the players. It’s difficult to get a strong grasp on any player just by some high school film, but this series will help us and you to get familiarized with the latest batch of recruits.
In case you missed the earlier sessions of the Freshman Film Breakdown, click here to read about the incoming defensive linemen and linebackers, here to learn about the incoming defensive backs, here for analysis of the incoming wide receivers and superbacks and here to preview the incoming class of offensive linemen.
- Jason Whittaker
- Drake Anderson
- Isaiah Bowser
3★ QB // 6’5”, 208 // Rockford, Michigan
Other notable offers: Iowa State, Indiana
Biggest Strength: Mobility
At 6’5”, 208 lbs, Whittaker sports a frame that can really be developed. The first thing that jumps out watching his film is how mobile he is. He likes to roll out, especially to his right, and can throw on the run. Both of these aren’t typical of most Northwestern quarterbacks, but maybe a player with this type of skillset can help open up the playbook, potentially creating even more lanes for running back Jeremy Larkin. Whittaker is also able to read more than one route, which is a big plus when stepping up to the next level as a passer. Finally, his biggest asset as a passer is accuracy, as he shows a strong ability to put the ball where his receivers can get it.
In terms of points of improvement, he could stand to gain some weight to absorb some of the hits he will take. That will come with time in the weight room, which will also hopefully bring improved arm strength. The ability to throw the deep ball keeps defenses honest and is a big part of being an effective Big Ten quarterback.
Overall, I’m excited for the post-Thorson era. With the transfer of Hunter Johnson from Clemson and some younger quarterbacks like Whittaker behind him, Northwestern should be able to continue its recent surge of success without skipping a beat.
3★ RB // 5’11”, 181 // Chandler, Arizona
Other notable offers: Illinois, Nevada
Biggest Strength: Speed
Northwestern will have a need at running back this year after the departure of Justin Jackson. Jeremy Larkin is poised to take over the workhorse mantle, but the incoming backs also could carve out roles for themselves. Anderson is fast. That breakaway speed is legit. On top of that, he does a good job of cutting in the open field to make defenders miss.
Outside of his raw speed, Anderson also displays good patience with finding holes in his tape. Patience, however, is a double-edged sword: it’s generally a good thing to have as a runner, but considering the Northwestern offensive line’s past performances, too much patience can lead to tackles in the backfield. Adjusting his approach to emphasize a bit more downhill running is Anderson’s best bet for success at Northwestern.
With his speed, it’s possible that he can continue to get to the edge and create big plays with some frequency. That window will be smaller in college, but you really can’t teach speed. With his skillset and the ability to catch passes out of the backfield as well, he should find himself in a 3rd-down and change-of-pace role.
3★ RB // 6’1”, 216 // Sidney, Ohio
Other notable offers: Cincinnati, Navy
Biggest Strength: Vision
Bowser is a sort of ying to Drake Anderson’s yang. Where Anderson is quick and shifty, Bowser is more of a power back. He doesn’t shy away from contact, which is a virtual necessity in the physical Big Ten. While he doesn’t have the pure breakaway speed of Anderson, he runs really well downhill between the tackles and also demonstrates good moves in the open field. His vision, and through it the ability to identify the correct hole and attack it, is his biggest asset.
One thing that Bowser could improve is straightaway speed. He has good vision and fundamentals, which are absolutely what a recruit needs to be good at the next level, but improving straight-line burst through work with college coaches and weight training can turn good into great. Overall, Bowser joins Anderson to form a good 1-2 punch in this recruiting class at running back.
That’s all for the Freshman Film Breakdown from WNUR Sports. Be sure to check back tomorrow as the Wildcats kick off the 2018 season against Purdue at 7 p.m. central. Sam Brief and Fredrick Bugyei will have the call with Ben Bokun on the sidelines.