Spring Preview: Wildcats packed with talent

Hopes are high in Evanston. Northwestern is coming off its first bowl victory since toppling Cal in the Rose Bowl after the 1948 season, winning 10 games for just the third time in school annals and first since the 1995 Rose Bowl squad. Now, the possibilities seem endless for what could be Pat Fitzgerald’s most talented team yet at his alma mater. NU has been to a bowl each of the last five seasons and has a legit chance to win the Legends Division if the defense continues to make strides this spring.

BTN provides live coverage of Northwestern’s spring game at 1 p.m. ET Saturday on BTN2Go only. It will then air at 9 p.m. ET Sunday on BTN/BTN2Go. Track the Wildcats football chatter on our BTN.com Northwestern Connect page.

BACK IN 2013 …

Record: 10-3 overall; 5-3 Big Ten. Beat Mississippi State in Gator Bowl.

Day Date Opponent Time TV Result
Sat. Sep. 1 at Syracuse 12:00 PM ET  ESPN2 W 42 – 41
Sat. Sep. 8 vs. Vanderbilt 8:00 PM ET  BTN W 23 – 13
Sat. Sep. 15 vs. Boston College 3:30 PM ET  BTN W 22 – 13
Sat. Sep. 22 vs. South Dakota 3:30 PM ET  BTN/BTN2 W 38 – 7
Sat. Sep. 29 vs. Indiana 12:00 PM ET  BTN/BTN2 W 44 – 29
Sat. Oct. 6 at Penn State 12:00 PM ET  ESPN L 28 – 39
Sat. Oct. 13 at Minnesota 12:00 PM ET  ESPN2 W 21 – 13
Sat. Oct. 20 vs. Nebraska 3:30 PM ET  ABC/ESPN2 L 28 – 29
Sat. Oct. 27 vs. Iowa 12:00 PM ET  ESPN2 W 28 – 17
Sat. Nov. 10 at Michigan 12:00 PM ET  ESPN L 31 – 38
Sat. Nov. 17 at Michigan State 12:00 PM ET  ESPN2 W 23 – 20
Sat. Nov. 24 vs. Illinois 12:00 PM ET  BTN/BTN2 W 50 – 14
Tue. Jan. 1 vs. Mississippi State* 12:00 PM ET  ESPN2 W 34 – 20

KEY LOSSES

Offense: T Neal Deiters; WR Demetrius Fields; G Brian Mulroe; T Patrick Ward

Defense: S Jared Carpenter; LB David Nwabuisi; E Quentin Williams

OUTLOOK ON OFFENSE

2012 Offense (FBS Rank)
Yards: 5130 (60)
Passing Yards: 2198 (107)
Rushing Yards: 2932 (17)
Points per game: 31.7 (42)
Yards per game: 394.6 (63)
Touchdowns: 45 (54)
Field Goals: 20 (17)

The Wildcats haven’t had too much to work on this spring, as the roster is loaded with talent. After all, this is a team that was just 5:03 from an unbeaten record in 2012. It says so on the shirts the players are wearing in spring drills. Seriously, the Cats need to work on the offensive line, which has three holes to fill. Guards Neal Deiters and Brian Mulroe are gone. Mulroe was the stud. Left tackle Patrick Ward also must be replaced.

The QB duo of Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian continues to be refined. They will throw to another deep collection of wideouts led by Christian Jones. RB Venric Mark will be among the Big Ten’s top backs this fall on an offense that has some intriguing options to run the ball.

OUTLOOK ON DEFENSE

2012 Defense (FBS Rank)
Yards: 4916 (55)
Passing Yards: 3257 (98)
Rushing Yards: 1659 (24)
Points per game: 22.5 (29)
Yards per game: 378.2 (47)
Touchdowns: 34 (30)
Field Goals: 15 (70)

DL Tyler Scott and LB Damien Proby are good building blocks for a unit that teems with potential. In fact, this is the most speed and athleticism NU has had on defense under Fitzgerald. The departure of David Nwabuisi has created a void at weak-side linebacker. Not only was Nwabuisi good—but he was a leader.

Speaking of linebackers, it will be fun to watch Ifeadi Odenigbo, who redshirted last season after arriving with a fat scrapbook. The guy could be a stud but is coming off shoulder surgery for a strong group of linebackers that also features Chi Chi Ariguzo. The secondary needs to emerge. CB Nick VanHoose is sitting out spring drills with injury. And Quinn Evans and Demetrius Dugar are gone. CB Daniel Jones must set the tone and lead the way as the team’s most seasoned corner.

NU was last in the Big Ten in pass defense.

2013 Schedule

Day Date Opponent
Sat. Aug. 31 at California
Sat. Sep. 7 vs. Syracuse
Sat. Sep. 14 vs. Western Michigan
Sat. Sep. 21 vs. Maine
Sat. Oct. 5 vs. 3 Ohio State
Sat. Oct. 12 at Wisconsin
Sat. Oct. 19 vs. Minnesota
Sat. Oct. 26 at Iowa
Sat. Nov. 2 at 25 Nebraska
Sat. Nov. 16 vs. 24 Michigan
Sat. Nov. 23 vs. Michigan State
Sat. Nov. 30 at Illinois

***

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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