I was flipping through NUsports.com as I often do when I get lonely and need the warm embrace of football minutiae, and noticed that a Preseason depth chart is now available. I'm not sure if this is a new development - it could've been up there for a while - but I haven't seen anything written about it anywhere, seen any press release, and remember just a few weeks ago Pat Fitzgerald talking up the whole "nobody's a starter" gig, so, I believe it's pretty recent. At the very least, it's the first time I've seen anything: NU released a alphabetical depth chart with its spring prospectus and this injury-mauled depth chart for media at the spring game, but that was so unrelated to the team NU actually plans on fielding it wasn't worth much.
But now we have something, a precursor to what will get battled out for in camp in about a month.
A peek at a few of the interesting developments despuès del
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- Kicker: Northwestern has a gap to fill with the departure of Stefan Demos, and perhaps the most surprising thing on the chart is that right now there's no definitive answer. I think most people expected NU's likely pick to be Jeff Budzien, the highly-touted kicking prospect who has only seen one game's worth of action since arriving at NU, but he's listed as OR with walkon junior Steve Flaherty, whose most well known for his appearance on NU's trick play in the last play of the 2010 Outback Bowl, where he served as a decoy whose job was to run without the ball on the other side of the play, rather than kick. It's probably best to leave a kicking spot up to whoever can do the best job in camp, so I see where this call comes from.
- Defensive end: The spot opposite Vince Browne is apparently open: Kevin Watt started 12 of 13 games last year, with Quentin Williams earning starts in the other three. But the senior will have to earn the right to keep that gig as he's listed as OR alongside sophomore Tyler Scott. Watt didn't really provide anything to write home about opposite Browne: with all the attention Browne's way, one might have hoped for Watt to rack up some stats a la Kevin Mims when he ran wild with defenses focused on Corey Wootton, instead, Watt didn't sack record any sacks and only 5.5 tackles for loss. Scott played some backup and got his name on the statsheet a few times, most of his appearances on the field came in his special teams duties. Whether or not NU can get production from its second defensive end position will be key to Northwestern: Browne will have to spend his year fighting off double teams while the second end will probably see a second player between him and the quarterback rarely, it will be on Watt/Scott if NU hopes to provide any pressure on the opposing quarterback without bringing additional blitzers. After a year of Wattage without significant returns, let's seeif perhaps Scott can provide more of a spark. As for Quentin Williams, he's listed as Browne's backup and apparently will not be contending for a starting gig.
- Defensive tackle: Jack DiNardo has one spot, and rightfully so, after a solid year in which he started all but one game. The other side is more interesting: Brian Arnfelt and Niko Mafuli are currently listed as co-starters. I've always been intrigued by Mafuli - he's played well in limited time but has struggled with injuries and more importantly, conditioning, as he's listed as 310 pounds. Now he's a senior and he's got his final shot to put it together on the field: he looked good in the spring game and talked about how much weight he'd lost. While Arnfelt got marginally more PT than Mafuli last year, I'm more intrigued by what Mafuli can do, if he's in shape.
- Disappearance of Jared Carpenter and Hunter Bates: Carpenter started seven games at safety last year, Bates confused announcers into thinking he was Dan Persa THEY BOTH WEAR NO. 7 AND ARE IDENTICAL IN HEIGHT WEIGHT AND LAST NAME LENGTH in three starts. But the pair nowhere to be found on the two-deep at either safety spot, behind starters David Arnold and Brian Peters. My first reaction was that Bates was probably still suffering from the repercussions of breaking a leg against Texas Tech in the TicketCity Bowl, but if that injury is the reason he's not in the mix at safety, how come he's listed as a backup punt returner? And Carpenter had no such injury. I suppose this means NU is high on redshirt freshman Ibraheim Campbell, who started all spring, and Mike Bolden, who has shifted from cornerback. B Remember this when somebody writes about how not deep NU's secondary is: contributors last year are apparently out of the rotation. I haven't seen any story why they aren't, curious.
- Right guard: It's a battle between Doug Bartels and Neil Deiters to see who will replace Keegan Grant on the o-line's only open spot. Bartels started three games there last year but saw injuries derail his season, Deiters was primarily a tackle. Northwestern's offensive line again looks to be less than a strong point, Bartels will bring experience and Deiters is, like, 6-foot-8. Either way works.
- Running back: As we'd expect, Mike Trumpy's the starter, but now it's in writing I guess. Jacob Schmidt is listed as sharing the backup slot with Adonis Smith. I don't always comment on the differences between backup running backs on preseason depth charts, but when I do, I prefer Adonis Smith.
- Wide Receiver: I'd write about it here, but this kinda coincides with me wide receiver post which will drop tomorrow.
- Ben Johnson, David Nwabuisi, and Bryce McNaul, linebacker corps: We knew this would happen, but this is so much scarier than Quentin Davie, Nate Williams, and Bryce McNaul. I like Nwabuisi and Johnson, it just sounds alarming.
- Jeravin Matthews, starting cornerback: He's been predicted to be the starting corner for a while now, but, well, it just looks so weird.