2008 Northwestern Football Preview
2008 Northwestern football preview
2007 Record: 6-6, 3-5
Players Drafted: None Drafted
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.
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.
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
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