Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, August 16, 2015

Not long ago, Northwestern was coming off a 10-win season, capped by the program?s first bowl win since the 1948 season. But since then, the Wildcats have posted consecutive 5-7 marks.

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What?s up? Is this the season Pat Fitzgerald gets his alma mater back on track?

Questions loom, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

Here are three things I?ll be watching at NU practice.

1. Offensive line. The staff has shuffled and tinkered with this unit the last two seasons. It?s time for some stability. It?s also time for some hard-nosed, tough play. The center spot bears close scrutiny. Brad North may be the guy-or maybe not. Geoff Mogus is the bellwether who needs to settle in–somewhere. Is he a left tackle or left guard? Eager to see redshirt freshmen Blake Hance and Tommy Doles.

2. QB. The search is on for a starter. Zack Oliver and Matt Alviti have some experience-but they haven?t really wowed. Redshirt freshman Clayton Thorson is a talented and tantalizing prospect. Making matters tough on the new signal-caller is the fact the receiving corps has issues. Is Christian Jones OK after missing 2014 with a knee injury and a spring knee surgery?

3. Linebackers. This is the most inexperienced aspect of the Wildcat defense. Can Anthony Walker hold up in the middle? He took over inside last year after Collin Ellis has forced out due to concussions. Drew Smith is a veteran anchor on the strong side. He must lead. The other outside linebacker is new with Chi Chi Ariguzo gone. Guys like Nate Hall, Brett Walsh and Joseph Jones are in the hunt.


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, read all of his work at, 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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