The Replacements: Top 5 Northwestern players to replace

The Replacements: Top 5 Northwestern players to replace

Northwestern has made it to back-to-back bowls, following up a 10-win season in 2015 with a trip to the Pinstripe Bowl, where the Wildcats knocked off Pitt. Yes, NU didn’t become bowl eligible until a season-finale win vs. Illinois. Still, Northwestern continues to show it is one of the most consistently successful programs in the conference.

The Wildcats will return plenty of talent in 2017, but they will miss these five players.

WR Austin Carr. He enjoyed a sensational senior season, winning Big Ten Receiver of the Year honors after making 90 catches for 1,247 yards and 12 TDs. All three of those totals led the conference. In fact, Carr’s closest competitor had 74 receptions. The former walk-on entered his senior season with just 23 catches for 402 yards with two TDs. No Big Ten player was more of a surprise in 2016, as Carr and QB Clayton Thorson developed great chemistry.

DE Ifeadi Odenigbo. It took a while, but Odenigbo finally lived up to his hype as a senior after arriving on campus as one of Pat Fitzgerald’s most touted recruits. He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the media and a second-team choice by the coaches after ranking third in the Big Ten in sacks with 10 and also tallying 12 TFLs for a Northwestern defense that No. 6 in the league in scoring (22.2 ppg) and No. 5 vs. the run (139.2 ypg). Odenigbo finished 2016 with 22 tackles.

DE C.J. Robbins. He tallied 29 tackles with 5.5 TFLs and three sacks for one of the better defenses of the Pat Fitzgerald era. He formed a nice end tandem with Ifeadi Odenigbo to help NU total 27 sacks on the way to a trip to the Pinstripe Bowl, the Wildcats’ second bowl in succession.

WR Andrew Scanlan. He was part of a revitalized Northwestern passing attack, grabbing 29 passes for 331 yards for a Wildcat attack that was No. 4 in the Big Ten (245.1 ypg) in passing and No. 5 (398.2 ypg) overall. The effective passing game helped Wildcat running back Justin Jackson pace the Big Ten in rushing with 1,524 yards.

LB Anthony Walker Jr. He opted to turn pro early after a decorated career that saw him become one of the best linebackers in school annals. A second-team All-Big Ten pick by the coaches and a third-team selection by the media, Walker notched 98 tackles last season, which ranked second on the team, with 10 TFLs and two sacks. He was the quarterback of the defense and an anchor on the interior.


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Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.