#51 Northwestern Football 2012 Preview

Northwestern Wildcats

Overall Rank: #51
#9 Big Ten Conference
Northwestern College Football 2012 Team Preview
Northwestern Team Page


Northwestern has reached four consecutive bowl games, although they have yet to win any of those games. That streak should continue this season, but the Wildcats have been slowly slipping down the Big Ten standings from season to season during that stretch. The success of the team this year may fall on the offensive line. A group that allowed way too many sacks last season lost two four year starters in Ben Burkett and Al Netter. Replacing those two will not be easy and the new and relatively inexperienced group of skill players on offense will need time to make plays and the Wildcats offensive line has not proven that they can provide it.

2011 Record: (6-7, 3-5)
2011 Bowl: Meineke Car Care Bowl vs. Texas A&M (L 22-33)
Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (40-36 at Northwestern, 40-36 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mick McCall
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Hankwitz

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Kain Colter, QB, 654 yards
Passing: Kain Colter, QB, 673 yards
Receiving: Kain Colter, QB, 466 yards
Tackles: Ibraheim Campbell, S, 100
Sacks: Quentin Williams, DE, 3.0
Interceptions: Ibraheim Campbell, S, 2

Other Key Returnees: LB Collin Ellis, WR Demetrius Fields, WR Rashad Lawrence, G Brian Mulroe, LB David Nwabuisi, LB Damien Proby, DE Tyler Scott, C Brandon Vitabile, OT Patrick Ward

Key Losses: DE Vince Browne, G Ben Burkett, DT Jack DiNardo, TE Drake Dunsmore, WR Jeremy Ebert, CB Jordan Mabin, CB Jeravin Matthews, OT Al Netter, QB Dan Persa, S Brian Peters, RB Jacob Schmidt

Even if the line is the same it was last season, the Northwestern offense will still be potent. Kain Colter is stepping into the starting quarterback role to replace Dan Persa. Colter is actually the team’s returning leader in passing, rushing and receiving. There is a statistic that one does not see too often. Colter was too good to keep off of the field last season and now Coach Pat Fitzgerald wants him running the show full-time. However, do not be surprised to see Trevor Siemian under center with Colter moving out wide or into the backfield on occasion. Colter does not have a great arm, but he will make plays with his legs. The departure of leading receivers Jeremy Ebert and Drake Dunsmore sounds bad, yet there are plenty of other options in the receiving corps. Demetrius Fields is an experienced senior, Christian Jones is poised for a big year after showing promise as a freshman and Evan Watkins, a former quarterback, has the size to replace Dunsmore at Northwestern’s version of the tight end position. But all of those guys will take a backseat to Kyle Prater if he is eligible this season. The transfer from USC has only one career catch under his belt, but he was ranked as one of the best receivers in his class a few years back. Northwestern is awaiting word from the NCAA on his eligibility this season. The ground game will again likely be by committee with a scrambling Colter leading the way. Mike Trumpy is a bruiser if he can stay healthy after an ACL injury last year and Treyvon Green had some decent outings as a true freshman. Newcomers Malin Jones and Jordan Perkins will be in the mix too but, as always, Northwestern will pass first and try and steal a few yards on the ground when they can.

If Northwestern was going to have a good defense, it should have been in 2011. They didn’t. The front line loses Vince Browne, Jack DiNardo and Niko Mafuli, leaving a very inexperienced group in the middle and no proven pass rusher on the end. Quentin Williams will try to turn into a consistent pass rushing threat during his senior season, but he tallied just three sacks last season. However, that was enough to tie for the team high. The secondary is in even more turmoil. Safety Ibraheim Campbell is the lone returning starter to the unit and he had to do way too much last season. Now he will be surrounded by inexperienced players. The corners could be in for a long year. Redshirt freshman Nick VanHoose and sophomore Daniel Jones are penciled in as the starters for now and they will be thrown right into the fire. The Wildcats do return some experience in the middle of the defense. Linebackers Collin Ellis, Damien Proby, David Nwabuisi and Chi Chi Ariguzo all saw plenty of action last season and will be asked to help out the front four and the secondary as much as possible.

The Bottom Line:
The problems on the defensive side of the ball could be negated as long as the front four finds a pass rusher. This is the Big Ten after all and having inexperienced cornerbacks can be less of an issue than it would be in more pass happy conferences. Fortunately, Northwestern does not have to play themselves when it matters. Replacing Persa will be tough and if things start going bad, Coach Pat Fitzgerald may mix things up on offense and go with the stronger arm of Siemien. That would allow Colter to make plays while moving around the entire field. Defenses would hate that, but they will not like Colter’s abilities no matter where he lines up.

Projected Bowl: Meineke Car Care Bowl

2011 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 166.62 (45th in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 254.23 (38, 1)
Total Offense: 420.85 (34, 2)
Scoring Offense: 28.92 (51, 5)
Rushing Defense: 177.31 (84, 10)
Pass Defense: 230.38 (71, 12)
Total Defense: 407.69 (80, 11)
Scoring Defense: 27.69 (66, 10)
Turnover Margin: .23 (40, 5)
Sacks: 1.31 (106, 12)
Sacks Allowed: 3.23 (114, 11)

Madness 2012 Football Recruit Rankings:
#66 Ifeadi Odenigbo