2018 NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS FOOTBALL PREVIEW

HEAD COACH: Pat Fitzgerald, 13TH SEASON

RECORD AT SCHOOL: 87 – 65

CAREER RECORD: 87 – 65

2017 RECORD: 10 – 3, 7 – 2 Big Ten

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Mick McCall

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Mike Hankwitz

STADIUM: Ryan Field (47,130)

 

2018 SCHEDULE

August 30 at Purdue

September 8 Duke

September 15 Akron

September 29 Michigan

October 6 at Michigan State

October 13 Nebraska

October 20 at Rutgers

October 27 Wisconsin

November 3 Notre Dame

November 10 at Iowa

November 17 at Minnesota

November 24 Illinois

 

2017 RESULTS

Nevada 31 – 20

Duke 17 – 41

Bowling Green 49 – 7

Wisconsin 24 – 33

Penn State 7 – 31

Maryland 37 – 21

Iowa 17 – 10 OT

Michigan State 39 – 31 3OT

Nebraska 31 – 24 OT

Purdue 23 – 13

Minnesota 39 – 0

Illinois 42 – 7

Kentucky 24 – 23

 

2017 STATS – OFFENSE

SCORING: 29.2

RUSHING: 174.2

PASSING: 233.8

TOTAL: 408.0

 

2017 STATS – DEFENSE

SCORING 20.1

RUSHING: 107.7

PASSING: 249.5

TOTAL: 357.2

 

FIVE – YEAR WINNING TREND

2013: 5 – 7

2014: 5 – 7

2015: 10 – 3

2016: 7 – 6

2017: 10 – 3

 

RETURNING STARTERS OFFENSE: 7

RETURNING STARTERS DEFENSE: 6

 

RETURNING LEADERS:

PASSING: Clayton Thorson, 262 – 434 –2,844 – 15TD – 12INT

RUSHING: Jeremy Larkin, 84 – 503 – 5TD

RECEIVING: Flynn Nagel, 48 – 489 – 2TD

TACKLES: Paddy Fisher, 113

SACKS: Joe Gaziano, 9.0

INTERCEPTIONS: Montre Hartage, 3

 

2018 TOP 10 RECRUITS

Devon O’Rourke, DE Mokena, Illinois

Andrew Leota, DE Asheville, North Carolina

Khalid Jones, LB Duncan, South Carolina

Wyatt Blake, G Crystal Lake, Illinois

Greg Newsome, CB Chicago, Illinois

Isaiah Bowser, RB Sidney, Ohio

Jason Whittaker, QB Rockford, Michigan

Jeremiah McDonald, S Slidell, Louisiana

Jacob Jefferson, WR Houston, Texas

Payne He’Bert, OT Pearland, Texas

 

OFFENSE PREVIEW

Northwestern returns seven starters on offense including players in key positions. The Wildcats have a veteran offensive line and expectations are high for a group that returns four starters. LT Blake Hance, LG JB Butler, RG Tommy Doles and RT Rashawn Slater anchor the front five. Slater has the ability to be in All-Big 10 performer.

Quarterback Clayton Thorson will need protection after coming off an ACL tear in Northwestern’s bowl game against Kentucky. He is hoping to be ready for the August 30 season opener against Purdue, but just in case Coach Fitzgerald and his staff are prepping Junior TJ Green, Aiden Smith or redshirt freshman Andrew Marty. Thorson threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2017.

Northwestern’s skill positions are in good shape with the return of leading receiver Flynn Nagel. Nagel caught 48 passes for 489 yards last season. He’ll be joined by Ben Skowronek, Solomon Vault, Jace James, Jelani Roberts and Riley Lees. Cam Green and Trey Pugh will be the top two tight ends.

Coach Fitzgerald must find a way to replace all – time leading rusher Justin Jackson. Jeremy Larkin is the most likely candidate after averaging 6.0 yards per carry as Jackson’s backup in 2017.

 

DEFENSE PREVIEW

This could be the strength of Northwestern football in 2018. The Wildcats have All-Big 10 candidates in junior DE Joe Gaziano, sophomore DE Samdup Miller and sophomore LB Paddy Fisher. Gaziano and Miller combined for 14.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hurries in 2017. Fisher forced four fumbles which tied for the Big Ten lead. Senior linebacker Nate Hall led Northwestern with 16.5 tackles for loss to go along with 5.0 sacks and two interceptions. DT Jordan Thompson will step in for the graduated Tyler Lancaster. Depth at linebacker will be a concern for Northwestern, but Blake Gallagher and Nathan Fox are both expected to vie for playing time on the outside.

CB Montre Hartage is the lone starter in the secondary. He will be joined by corner Trae Williams and safeties JR Pace and Jared McGee. Alonzo Mayo and Roderick Campbell will be solid backups.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker Charlie Kuhbander was solid in his sophomore season, but the Wildcats are hoping he can extend his distance. Only two of his 13 field goals last season were beyond 39 yards. Northwestern will be looking for a new punter this fall, but they will get kick returner Solomon Vault back following an injury.

 

PREDICTION

Northwestern has plenty of momentum after surprising many around the country with 10 wins last season. Much will depend on the health of quarterback Clayton Thorson. He is extremely smart, has a big arm and is a competitor. With question marks about his health and the loss of running back Justin Jackson, the Wildcats will need both the offensive and defensive lines to increase their level of play. The schedule is difficult but the good news is they don’t play Ohio State and Penn State this season.

 

PROJECTED RECORD: 6 – 6, 5 – 4 Big Ten

 

2018 ROSTER

2018 Football Roster

2             Flynn Nagel        WR         5-11       194        Sr.          Lemont, Ill. / Lemont

3             Trae Williams     DB          6-0         212        Jr.           The Plains, Ohio / Athens

4             Solomon Vault   WR         5-10       192        Sr.          Gaithersburg, Md. / Gaithersburg

5             Charlie Fessler    WR         6-3         210        Jr.           Erie, Pa. / Cathedral Prep

6             Jelani Roberts    WR         5-8         172        Sr.          Owings Mills, Md. / The Gilman School

7             Travis Whillock  DB          6-1         205        So.         Katy, Texas / Katy

8             Kyric McGowan WR         5-10       191        So.         Dalton, Ga. / Dalton

9             Roderick Campbell           DB          6-0         193        Jr.           St. Louis, Mo. / Chaminade College Prep

10           TJ Green              QB          6-2         202        Jr.           Leawood, Kan. / Rockhurst

10           Alonzo Mayo      DB          5-11       188        Jr.           Baltimore, Md. / The Gilman School

11           Aidan Smith        QB          6-2         205        So.         Fort Wayne, Ind. / Carroll

13           Andrew Marty   QB          6-3         218        R-Fy.      Cincinnati, Ohio / Wyoming

13           JR Pace                DB          6-1         193        So.         College Park, Ga. / Woodward Academy

14           Charlie Kuhbander            K             6-0         189        So.         Springboro, Ohio / Springboro

15           Jace James          6-0         194        So.         Carol Stream, Ill. / Glenbard North

16           Berkeley HolmanWR       5-11       176        R-Fy.      Irvine, Calif. / Saint John Bosco

17           Jalen Brown        WR         6-1         198        Sr.          Phoenix, Ariz. / Mountain Pointe

17           Daniel Kubiuk     P             6-1         210        Sr.          Barrington, Ill. / Barrington

18           Cameron Ruiz     DB          5-11       168        R-Fy.      Lake Villa, Ill. / Lakes Community

18           Clayton Thorson               QB          6-4         225        Sr.          Wheaton, Ill. / Wheaton North

19           Riley Lees            WR         6-0         193        So.         Libertyville, Ill. / Libertyville

20           John Moten IV   RB          6-0         203        Jr.           St. Louis, Mo. / John Burroughs School

22           Bryce Jackson    DB          6-1         188        R-Fy.      Lantana, Texas / John H. Guyer

23           Steven Reese     WR         6-2         208        Jr.           Buford, Ga. / Buford

24           Alex Bousky        RB          5-11       170        Sr.          Peoria, Ill. / Peoria Notre Dame

24           Montre Hartage CB         6-0         195        Sr.          Cordele, Ga. / Crisp County

25           Isaiah Bowser     RB          6-1         205        Fy.          Sidney, Ohio / Sidney

25           Austin Hiller        DB          6-2         197        R-Fy.      Lakeway, Texas / Lake Travis

26           Brian Bullock      DB          5-11       193        So.         Round Rock, Texas / Round Rock

26           Chad Hanaoka   RB          5-6         188        Sr.          Honolulu, Hawaii / ‘Iolani School

27           Jeremiah McDonald        DB          6-3         187        Fy.          Slidell, La. / Northshore High

28           Jeremy Larkin     RB          5-10       194        So.         Cincinnati, Ohio / La Salle

29           Greg Newsome II             DB          6-1         170        Fy.          Chicago, Ill. / IMG Academy (Fla.)

32           Nate Hall             LB           6-2         230        Sr.          Toledo, Ohio / Southview

34           Chee Anyanwu   LB           6-2         204        R-Fy.      Buford, Ga. / Buford

35           Erik Mueller        LB           6-2         225        So.         Wheaton, Ill. / Wheaton North

36           Jesse Brown       RB          5-11       198        So.         Lilburn, Ga. / Brookwood

37           Cody Gronewold              P             6-1         170        R-Fy.      Lincoln, Neb. / Northeast

37           Donovan Sermons            DB          5-11       185        R-Fy.      Pomona, Calif. / Damien

38           Drew Luckenbaugh          K/P         6-1         206        So.         Spring Grove, Pa. / Spring Grove

39           Mason Weissenhofer      K             6-1         210        Jr.           Planfield, Ill. / Montini Catholic

40           Peter McIntyre  LB           6-2         221        R-Fy.      Perrysburg, Ohio / Saint Johns’ Jesuit

41           Jared McGee      S             6-1         220        Sr.          Mansfield, Texas / Mansfield Legacy

42           Paddy Fisher       LB           6-4         245        So.         Katy, Texas / Katy

43           Tyler Gillikin        LS           6-2         220        So.         Atlanta, Ga. / Westminster

44           Khalid Jones       LB           6-1         225        Fy.          Greenville, S.C. / Byrnes

44           James Prather    SB           6-4         265        Sr.          Memphis, Tenn. / Memphis University School

45           Nathan Fox         LB           6-2         230        Jr.           Houston, Texas / Clear Lake

46           Troy Hudetz        LB           6-2         222        So.         Naperville, Ill. / Naperville Central

47           Joe Bergin           DB          5-11       200        Jr.           Bloomfield Hills, Mich. / Detroit Country Day

48           Peter Snodgrass               LS           6-0         203        R-Fy.      Palo Alto, Calif. / Palo Alto

49           Chris Bergin        LB           5-11       200        So.         Bloomfield Hills, Mich. / Detroit Country Day

50           Jango Glackin     LB           6-0         225        So.         Lebanon, Ohio / IMG Academy (Fla.)

51           Blake Gallagher LB           6-1         221        So.         Raynham, Mass. / Saint Sebastian’s

52           Sam Gerak          OL          6-3         278        R-Fy.      Avon, Ohio / Avon

53           Andrew Leota    DL          6-4         218        Fy.          Asheville, N.C. / Asheville

54           Trent Goens       DL          6-3         254        Jr.           Chino Hills, Calif. / Chino Hills

55           Mark Gooden     DE          6-1         251        So.         Reynoldsburg, Ohio / Reynoldsburg

57           Cam Kolwich       OL          6-5         292        So.         Beverly Hills, Mich. / Orchard Lake St. Mary’s

59           J.B. Butler            OL          6-3         305        Sr.          Plainfield, Ill. / Joliet Catholic

61           Jason Goosen     OL          6-7         302        So.         Virginia Beach, Va. / Tallwood

65           Jared Thomas     OL          6-4         285        Jr.           Indianapolis, Ind. / Cathedral

66           Nik Urban            OL          6-3         300        So.         Willoughby, Ohio / Willoughby South

70           Rashawn Slater  OL          6-3         289        So.         Sugar Land, Texas / Clements

71           Tommy Doles     OL          6-4         292        Sr.          Grand Rapids, Mich. / Grand Rapids Christian

72           Blake Hance       OL          6-5         300        Sr.          Jacksonville, Ill. / Jacksonville

73           Gunnar Vogel     OL          6-6         285        So.         Columbus, Ohio / Westerville South

75           Ben Oxley            DL          6-6         286        Sr.          Avon Lake, Ohio / Avon Lake

76           Ethan Wiederkehr            OL          6-5         273        R-Fy.      Wading River, N.Y. / Shoreham-Wading River

77           Jesse Meyler       OL          6-4         306        So.         Toronto, Ontario / Episcopal (Va.)

79           Trey Klock           OL          6-4         285        Sr.          Hummelstown, Pa. / Lower Dauphin

80           Trey Pugh            SB           6-4         236        So.         Plain City, Ohio / Jonathan Adler

81           Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman     WR         6-2         199        So.         Minneapolis, Minn. / Breck

82           Alex Oelsner       SB           6-4         233        R-Fy.      Niwot, Colo. / Niwot

83           Will Lansbury      WR         6-2         196        R-Fy.      Pebble Beach, Calif. / Stevenson

84           Cameron Green SB           6-3         230        Jr.           Buffalo Grove, Ill. / Stevenson

85           Jackson Tirmonia              WR         6-3         196        So.         Canton, Ohio / Jackson

86           Cody Link            SB           6-3         238        So.         Madison, Wis. / Edgewood

87           Eric Eshoo           SB           6-4         232        So.         Chicago, Ill. / Loyola Academy

88           Bennett Skowronek         WR         6-4         218        Jr.           Fort Wayne, Ind. / Homestead

90           Jake Saunders     DT          6-2         295        So.         Loveland, Ohio / Loveland

91           Samdup Miller   DL          6-3         261        So.         Houston, Texas / Stratford

92           Fred Wyatt         DL          6-4         290        Sr.          Lawrence, Kan. / Free State

93           Joe Spivak           DL          6-0         290        So.         Darien, Ill. / Montini Catholic

94           Tommy Carnifax               DE          6-3         260        So.         Warren, Ohio / Howland

95           Alex Miller           DL          6-3         280        Jr.           Houston, Texas / Stratford

96           Trevor Kent         DE          6-6         262        R-Fy.      Pittsburg, Kan. / Pittsburg

97           Joe Gaziano        DL          6-4         280        Jr.           Scituate, Mass. / Xaverian Brothers

98           Earnest Brown IV             DE          6-5         257        So.         Aubrey, Texas / Billy Ryan

99           Jordan Thompson            DL          6-3         290        Sr.          Cincinnati, Ohio / LaSalle

 

Coaching Staff

Pat Fitzgerald     Dan and Susan Jones Family Head Football Coach

Lou Ayeni            Assistant Coach (Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator)

Adam Cushing    Assistant Coach (Offensive Line)

Jeff Genyk           Special Teams Coordinator

Mike Hankwitz   Defensive Coordinator

Bob Heffner        Assistant Coach (Superbacks)

Marty Long         Assistant Coach (Defensive Line)

Matt MacPherson            Associate Head Coach (Defensive Backs)

Mick McCall        Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach

Tim McGarigle   Assistant Coach (Linebackers)

Dennis Springer Assistant Coach (Wide Receivers)

Chris Bowers      Director of Player Personnel

Cody Cejda         Director of Football Operations and Strategy

Darby Dunnagan              Director of Video Operations

Jay Hooten          Director of Sports Performance for Football

Jacob Schmidt    Director of Player Development and Football Relations

Bryan Payton      Director of Recruiting Communications

Jonny Kovach     Director of Recruiting Operations

John Holloway   Assistant Director of Football Operations

Tim Brandon       Graduate Assistant (Offense)

Erik Frazier          Graduate Assistant (Offense)

Deonte Gibson   Graduate Assistant (Defense)

Kevin Koch          Graduate Assistant (Defense)