Category Archive for Uncategorized

Kevin Trahan
Apr 23, 2014

Returning starters: KR Matt Harris (So.), KR Venric Mark (Sr.), KR Stephen Buckley (So.), PR Tony Jones (Sr.)

Others returning: K/P Hunter Niswander (RS Fr.), P Chris Gradone (Jr.), P/PK Matt Micucci (So.), PK Jack Mitchell (So.), PK Arthur Omilian (Jr.)

Incoming Recruits: None

Projected Depth Chart:

Kicker: Hunter Niswander, Jack Mitchell

Punter: Chris Gradone

Punt Returner: Venric Mark

Kick Returner: Venric Mark OR Matthew Harris

Explaining the Depth Chart:

There are going to be a lot of new faces on Northwestern’s special teams depth chart this year, especially in the kicking game. Hunter Niswander seems like the most likely choice to replace Jeff Budzien, while Chris Gradone is the obvious choice to step in for Brandon Williams, since Gradone replaced Williams in a couple games at the end of last year.

The return game should get a boost. It was pretty clear from last season that Tony Jones absolutely hates to return punts. Venric Mark is one of the nation’s best punt returners, and having him back will be a major upgrade. Everyone will be excited to have Mark back for kickoffs too, though Matthew Harris has actually been a marginally better kick returner. I know, Fitz fans, #StatsAreForLosers, but generally people with better statistics also perform better on the field, and I think there’s a decent chance the coaches will see that they can limit Mark’s injury risk and still have a solid returner by featuring Harris on kickoffs instead.

Stock Up: The coverage units

Full disclosure: We don’t get to see the specialists practice, so it’s tough for us to be able to tell who is gaining and losing ground, aside from what the coaches tell us. One thing that should improve is kickoff coverage. Better recruiting typically leads to better athletes, which typically leads to better coverage units. Given how NU’s recruiting has taken off, the coverage units should continue to improve.

Stock Down: ???

Again, we can’t watch the specialists practice, so it’s not fair for us to make any judgements here.

Position Battle: Kicker

The only place there seems to be a major position battle is at kicker, between Hunter Niswander and Jack Mitchell. While Niswander is considered by most people to be the next man in, Mitchell could certainly make a run. We’ll get a better idea in fall camp.

Biggest Summer Question: What will get better and what will get worse?

Given who was lost and who is coming back, I expect Northwestern’s special teams to be all over the map in 2014. Sometimes it will be really good, and sometimes it will be really bad. That’s how it goes when you have so much inexperience. Let’s take a look at what should improve and what could decline:

Improve: It’s pretty clear that the punt return game will improve, while the kick return game should be just fine. With Mark returning, that’s expected.

Decline: It’s going to be tough for either Niswander or Mitchell to live up to Jeff Budzien’s legacy in year one. In fact, does anybody remember Budzien’s 2011 season? He went six-for-10.

Questions: Punter will be a major question mark, as the lack of punting efficiency really hurt NU’s chances to win in a couple games last year. For NU to be successful, Gradone has to be better than Williams was last year.

It’s hard to know what to make of this mix. Can the freshmen step up? Can Gradone improve NU’s standing in the field position battle? Those are the questions that need answering this summer.

Mar 14, 2014

What a past 12+ hours for Northwestern fans. Less than two hours after the upset over Iowa, the Tribune broke the story about today’s major fundraising announcement. I have outlined all of the significant information below.

Go here for full detail:

-A summary from Chris Johnson

-The Chicago Tribune’s story on the fundraising campaign

-The Chicago Tribune’s story on the athletics angle

-The “We Will” fundraising page and video

-The statement on the athletics facility

Here is the summary on the overall campaign:

-The “We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern” started 18 months ago

-The goal is $3.75 billion, which includes $1.52 billion already raised since September 2011

-The campaign is raising money for facilities on the two campuses, scholarships, aid, endowed faculty positions, academic and research programs

-The four main new buildings cited are the lakefront athletic facilities, the new joint Kellogg and department of economics building next to the lakefill, the new joint music and communications building that is currently being constructed on the south lakefill and expected to finish in the spring of 2015, and a biomedical research building in Chicago on the former site of Prentice

-Other work referenced includes the new visitor’s center currently being constructed along the lake next to Clark Street beach, the improvements made to Deering Library, and $80 million in renovations to Kresge

-Per the Tribune, this is the largest fundraising effort ever attempted in the Chicago area

-Construction on the new Kellogg building is expected to begin in the next month or two
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Kevin Trahan
Dec 20, 2013

Northwestern’s previously scheduled 2014 game at Notre Dame appeared to be in jeopardy when the Fighting Irish announced that they had formed a new partnership with the ACC, stating that Notre Dame must play five ACC teams every year. That meant there was a possibility the Irish would be forced to drop one game among the group of Rice, Purdue, Northwestern and Michigan to make room on their schedule for another ACC game. However, when Notre Dame announced its 2014 schedule today, the Wildcats made the cut.

Only four ACC teams were listed, inconsistent with the original agreement, but ESPN’s Andrea Adelson explained the nuance:

The joint announcement, made Friday, is part of the scheduling agreement Notre Dame made with the ACC when it decided to join the league in all sports but football. Because of previous schedule commitments, Notre Dame will face four ACC teams in 2014. Wake Forest, initially scheduled to play Notre Dame in 2014, will now face the Irish in 2015 — giving Notre Dame six ACC games.

So it looks like NU’s 2014 football schedule is set. The Wildcats will play home games against Cal, Northern Illinois, Western Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan and Illinois, and away games against Penn State, Minnesota, Iowa, Notre Dame and Purdue. That’s a pretty good schedule for NU fans. The Big Ten home slate of Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan and Illinois is intriguing, as are non-conference games against Cal and area MAC power NIU. Away games against Iowa, Notre Dame and Purdue are all easy to travel to.

There’s no word yet on NU’s 2018 home game against Notre Dame, but that game seemed less likely to be shelved than the 2014 on because it was planned so far in advance. Plus, it’s the other end of a home-and-home. So it looks like the Wildcats will avoid another Vanderbilt situation and avoid scrambling to find another MAC school to play.

Kevin Trahan
Dec 5, 2013

For better or for worse, college football fans have short memories, and Trevor Siemian has seen both the love and the hate. At the beginning of the season, fans were calling for him to be the full-time starter. By late October, they wanted him benched for good.

That kind of love/hate relationship comes with the territory when you’re a college football player — the backup quarterback tends to be the most popular guy on the team. But the time it took for Siemian to go from GOAT to goat — well, maybe not that far, but you get the point — is pretty astounding.

As I wrote back in October, there was probably a middle ground between the “never play Siemian” and “start him” crowds, and when both Siemian and Kain Colter were healthy. Northwestern’s coaches actually did a pretty good job of finding that balance. For what it’s worth, I always thought Colter should start, but Siemian should play, too, balanced the way they were during the first half of the Ohio State game.

However, injuries forced NU to play Siemian more than it would have liked in some instances, and less than it would have liked in others. So after a whirlwind season for the Wildcats’ “1.B.” quarterback, the majority of the fan base is calling for him to be demoted to full-time backup, replaced by a redshirt freshman, who has never taken a college snap. Of course, that redshirt freshman, Matt Alviti, has some impressive credentials. He was a four-star recruit and turned down Notre Dame and Nebraska to attend Northwestern, which certainly doesn’t happen every day.

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Kevin Trahan
Sep 17, 2013

For the second straight year, Northwestern will have a sports media alum as its Homecoming grand marshal. ESPN’s Mike Greenberg announced on his radio show “Mike and Mike in the Morning” that he would be will be this year’s grand marshal, a year after ESPN’s J.A. Adande held that honor.

Greenberg was an honorary captain for the Syracuse game and got NU some good publicity on College Gameday thanks to his presence. The Wildcats will get even more of it for the Homecoming game, which is a primetime kickoff against Ohio State. Mike and Mike in the Morning will also broadcast live from NU on October 4.

Chris Johnson
Jul 15, 2013

The biggest untapped talent in Northwestern’s passing game has managed to stay out of most people’s preseason evaluations of the Wildcats receiving corps. That could be a huge oversight if Cameron Dickerson finally gets the opportunities he needs to turn his immense athletic talents into his first productive college season.

Every eyewitness account of Dickerson this offseason implies he can; in spring practice, Dickerson routinely matched up with first team cornerbacks and routinely used his leaping and speed advantages to put said cornerbacks on the losing end of one-on-one battles. He may not be the fastest receiver on Northwestern’s roster – Tony Jones is the rightful owner of that crown this year – but he is the most athletically gifted, and if the Wildcats use those gifts to their advantage when designing passing plays, incorporating Dickerson as a primary target more frequently, the offense will get a jolt of individual perimeter playmaking it barely scratched last season.

Allow me take you back to Northwestern’s 2012 spring game. If you attended, or even read about the controlled scrimmage, there was one play everyone was talking about afterward. The simplest description, so as to not spoil the contents of the video below, is Dickerson beating Northwestern’s best corner, Nick VanHoose, on a 40-yard touchdown grab from Trevor Siemian. See for yourself:

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Jun 24, 2013

We’ve just passed the one-year mark of InsideNU’s existence, and as we move into our second year, we’re looking to add more features for our readers in order to give you the best possible experience with InsideNU. Our latest new feature is the InsideNU Newsletter, which will help fans make sure they don’t miss anything when it comes to Northwestern football, basketball or recruiting.

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