X’s and O’s or Jimmies and Joes? I’ve always been against this debate because I’ve long felt that training is much more important than talent. Nebraska has led the Western Division in the Big Ten in enlistment nearly every year…but has only had one season of wins since Bo Pelini was let go.
Then there is the counterexample: the Northwest. The Wildcats haven’t finished better than 10th in the Big Ten in the recruiting rankings going back to 2011, yet the NW’s have played in the Big Ten Championship for two of the past four seasons. Northwestern does not outsmart their opponents, they outsmart their opponents because Pat Fitzgerald outdoes and outsmarts them. That’s why NFL teams continue to inquire about Fitzgerald’s interest in risking the “coach for life” position at Evanston and taking the risk of getting big money in the NFL.
Multiple teams in the NFL have inquired about Northwestern HC Pat Fitzgerald, and so far, he hasn’t agreed to any of the interviews, per source.
– Adam Scheffer (@AdamSchefter) January 12 2021
Development isn’t one thing, and in 2021 Northwestern only had eight returning players, which means a lot of inexperienced players are entering the field…Unsurprisingly, NW is down to 3-9. (Yes, that’s the same NU record, but the Huskers hit NW 56-7, for what it’s worth.)
This year in attack, Northwestern returned eight starters who finished 2021 116 in total attack and 125 (out of 130 teams) in scoring. The main reason for this was the inability to replace Peyton Ramsey in the middle. Five-star Hunter Johnson struggled in Clemson’s transition again which led to another revolving door in the middle. South Carolina transfer Ryan Hilinsky (6’3″ 235 pounds) started five games, completed 54% of his passes for 978 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions before being replaced by Andrew Marty for most of the rest of the season. Only Hilinski returned, though That freshman Brendan Sullivan (6’3″ 212 pounds) is in the mix even though he didn’t take a shot in college.
At the receiver, young Malik Washington (5’9192 pounds) returns after picking up 44 passes for 578 yards and two touchdowns last season. Freshman Bryce Curtis (6’0″ 180 pounds) played only five games but had 19 passes for 203 yards. Marshall Lang (6’4″ 235 pounds) had 11 passes for 68 yards and three touchdowns last season. Donny Navarro’s Illinois transfer (5’11 in 185 pounds) earned 52 passes for 600 yards in his three-year career at Illini.
If Northwestern is going to be successful offensively in 2022, the linebackers will likely lead them. Pilot Evan Hull (5’11 inches 210 pounds) rushed for 1,009 yards and seven touchdowns last season, averaging 5.1 yards per carry and taking honors from the All-Ten Big Ten. In limited action in 2019 and 2020, Hull rushed for approximately 495 yards and averaged 7.0 yards per carry. Cam Porter (5’10” 220 pounds) is back after losing it last season; he raced for 358 yards and five touchdowns late in the 2020 COVID season. Bowling green transfer Andrew Claire (5’11 inches 202 pounds) rushed for 349 yards and a backup touchdown for Hull season Past.
Up front, Northwestern brought back four starters and added graduate transfer guard VIncent Picozzi, who has seen time in 42 games at Temple and Colorado State. Runner-up Peter Skoronsky (6’4″ 315 pounds) earned the second-team honor last season. Junior Charlie Schmidt (6’4″ 305 pounds) slips from the right guard into the center.
When Northwestern did well, defense led the way, but that wasn’t the case in 2021, with NW placing 12th in the Big Ten in defense scoring (29.0 points/game) and 13th in total defense (429.5) yards/game. ). And with only five players returning for novices in defense, expecting a significant improvement in defense is probably a long way off. Up front, junior defensive end Adetomiwa Adebawore (6’2″ 280 lb.) totaled 36 endorsements including a team that drove 4.5 sacks and 4 tackles for a loss in 2021, earning him honors from the All-Big Ten. But the Wildcats will need to the replacement of three other starters, which sent NW to the transfer gate to find replacements. Defensive End Transfers Stanford Ryan Johnson (6’4″ 275 lbs) started four games in four seasons with 26 tackles, while the defensive tackle was to transfer UMass juniors Taishan Holmes (6’3″ 310 lb.) 6 starts with 18 saves in the last two seasons.
Similarly, only one linebacker has returned from last season: second quarterback Bryce Gallagher (6’2″ 235 lb.) who finished second in the Wildcats with 89 tackles. NW will need to replace the leading striker again as well as their fifth, leaving a gap of 209 endorsements. Pitt’s transfer graduate Wendell Davis (6’2″ 240 lbs.) might be part of the answer; Davis started five games during his Tiger career with 44 tackles.
Three freshmen return in high school, but the hole left by Brandon Joseph’s move to American Safety to Notre Dame is huge. Cameron Mitchell (6’0″ 195 pounds) and AJ Hampton (5’11” 180 pounds) were honorees last season. Mitchell had 48 tackles and six break-ups while Hampton had 40 tackles and 13 breakouts. Coco Azema (5’11” 185 pounds) added 72 passes and four passing breaks. Northwestern’s passing defense was the strong suit last season, placing eighth in the Big Ten in passing defense and 10th in passing efficiency defense. With Joseph losing, it’s hard to predict A lot of improvement from that – especially if the new defensive line isn’t able to generate more pressure.
Will Northwestern be better in 2022? Perhaps…but in my view, the Wildcats have plenty of a gap to make up this season. Improvement in 2022 could mean pot eligibility. Never count on Pat Fitzgerald’s Northwestern side.
And never forget anyone.
What is happening in Dublin?
There just isn’t enough Guiness to take Husker fans’ pain from losing to NW.
It’s close, but Big Red wins another close one.
Irish eyes smile on Nebraska’s season-opening win.
444 votes total