2008 Northwestern Football Preview

Big Ten football fans

2008 Northwestern football preview

2007 Record: 6-6, 3-5
Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald

Players Drafted: None Drafted

Top Recruits:
Jeff Radek - OL - 6’6” - 280 - Naperville, IL
Chuck Porcelli - OL - 6’8” - 285 -Lombard, IL
Brian Mulroe - OL - 6’6” - 265 - Wilmette, IL
Nick Adamle - OL - 6’5” - 295 - Wheaton, IL
Brett Nagle - LB - 6’4” - 225 - Lemont, IL
Alex Daniel - RB - 5’11” - 190 - Roswell, GA
Brian Arnfelt - DE - 6’5” - 245 - Stillwater, MN
Stone Pinckney - LB - 5’11” - 210 - Columbia, SC

Key Players Returning:
Tyrell Sutton - RB - Sr.
Kevin Mims - DE - Sr.
Joel Belding - RG - Sr.
C.J. Bacher - QB - Sr.
Ross Lane - WR - Sr.
Eric Peterman - WR - Sr.
Rasheed Warren - WR - Sr.
John Gill - DT - Sr.
Prince Kwateng - LB - Sr.
Adam Hahn - DT - Jr.
Brad Phillips - SS - Soph.
Sherrick McManis - CB - Jr.

Northwestern Wildcats 2008 Offensive Outlook

Quarterback C.J. Bachér piled up 3,656 passing yards and threw for 19 touchdowns in 2007, but the senior will need to improve his accuracy this season. Bachér led the Northwestern offense to solid numbers in terms of yardage, but he threw 19 interceptions last year, and the Wildcats were often faced with situations that relied on the arm of Bachér.

Senior RB Tyrell Sutton is back at full strength after missing seven games last season due to an ankle injury. Sutton is a crafty runner who is considered by many one of the top runners in the nation. His ability to catch passes out of the backfield will provide Bachér with a target that could keep him from forcing balls downfield. Omar Conteh, also a senior, saw plenty of action last season in Sutton’s absence and provides a nice replacement to spell Sutton.

Three more seniors bring veteran leadership to the Northwestern offense. Eric Peterman, Ross Lane, and Rasheed Ward give Bachér a well rounded corps of pass catchers. Peterman led the Wildcats with 66 receptions in 2007 for 744 yards. Ross Lane was Bachér’s top TD threat with seven receptions for scores. Junior Andrew Brewer will start as the fourth receiver and brings tremendous speed and athleticism.

While the backs and receivers look to be set for the Wildcats, the offense line comes with many questions. The loss of three starters from last season leaves Pat Fitzgerald with a line that will be young. The inexperience up front with three new starters could be a factor in both the running and passing games. One bright area is the progress of redshirt freshman tackle Al Netter. Netter is expected to start at LT, and the coaching staff feels he could hold that position for the next four years. Senior Joel Belding moves over to C from his RG position last year. Junior Kurt Mattes returns as the starter at RT. Seniors Alex Rucks and Keegan Kennedy and sophomore Keegan Grant will battle to land starting positions at guard.


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Northwestern Wildcats 2008 Defensive Outlook

With former linebacker Pat Fitzgerald leading the Wildcats, the emphasis on defense should eventually be evident. The Wildcats will look for signs of improvement this season as Fitzgerald is working to fit pieces together to solidify the defense. The defensive line will look to improve after a rough 2007, but all four starters return. Senior DT John Gill led the team with four sacks last season. He is joined by junior DE Corey Wooten on the left side of the line which gives the Wildcats stability up front. Junior DT Adam Hahn and senior DE Kevin Mims round out the unit that has the most experience returning for the Northwestern defense.

The starting linebacker positions are not set because there is competition at each spot to improve a unit that Fitzgerald is passionate about. Senior Malcolm Arrington is making a case to land the MLB position, but sophomore Nate Williams also is giving the Wildcats reasons to put him in the middle. Senior Prince Kwateng and Sophomore Quentin Davie lead the competition to start at the OLB positions. Senior Mike Dinard and redshirt freshman Bryce McNaul are making a push for more playing time as well.

The secondary ranked eighth in the Big Ten last season allowing 243.3 passing yards-per-game, but there are some young players who are expected to upgrade the pass defense. Sophomore CB Justan Vaughn and Junior FS Brendan Smith step in as new starters, but the depth of the secondary has improved, and redshirt freshman Mike Boldin and Jordan Mabin will push Vaughn at CB. Junior CB Sherrick McManis is back as a starter for the Wildcats and broke up six passes in 2007. Junior Brad Philips returns as the starting SS. The depth will help this group improve pass coverage, and turnovers will come if the front four can get pressure in the backfield.

Northwestern Wildcats 2008 Special Teams

Senior Amado Villarreal is back as the place kicker after up and down 2007 campaign. Villarreal connected on 12 of 18 field goals last season, but has the ability to hit from 50 yards. Sophomore Stefan Demos averaged 40.1 yards-per-punt last season, but will contend with an injury that caused him to have leg surgery during the offseason. Demos will also hand the kickoffs for the Wildcats.

Sherrick McManis and Stephen Simmons give Northwestern and nice duo to return kicks. McManis averaged 23.2 yards on his return attempts last season and Simmons returned one kickoff for a TD. Eric Peterman returned punts last season but averaged just over 6 yards on his 11 returns. Simmons will get the first opportunity to handle the punts, but Fitzgerald will not hesitate to try others to give the special teams a boost.

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Northwestern Wildcats 2008 Prediction

The Wildcats have a good opportunity to begin the 2008 season with four straight victories over non-conference teams. Those four games will not be easy, but they are all winnable games. The offense should put up good numbers this year, but the key will be for the Wildcats to take advantage of opportunities to score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals. The defense needs to get off to quick start and give the offense the chance to win games. Last year the defense struggled overall, but they will not have to be great this year for the offense to outscore opponents.

The Wildcats have three games at the end of the season against Ohio State, at Michigan, and Illinois which will be very difficult to win. If Northwestern gets into a bowl game this season they will need a great run in October when they face Michigan State and Purdue at home, then travel to Indiana. Those three games may be the key to successful season.

Northwestern Wildcats 2008 Football Schedule

August 30 - Syracuse
September 6 - @ Duke
September 13 - Southern Illinois
September 20 - Ohio
September 27 - @ Iowa
October 11 - Michigan State
October 18 - Purdue
October 25 - @ Indiana
November 1 - @ Minnesota
November 8 - Ohio State
November 15 - @ Michigan
November 22 - Illinois



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