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One Less Day Til Football Season, Post 7: Northwestern's Linebackers

Battles I lose none

I get fools done

I make crews run

Got ten fingers but only use one

I run up like Machine Gun Kelly with a black skelly put one in your belly leave you smelly than take your Pelle Pelle!


Days Left Til Football Season: 23

One Less Day Til Football Season, Post 7: Linebacker

Who did it last year?: Sho nuff, linebacker was one of NU's most dependable units last year. 

At the beginning of the year, we had Ben Johnson on one side, Nate Williams in the middle, and Quentin Davie on the other side. Davie and Williams were spectacular all year long. They finished first and second on the team in tackles, could stop the run, and in Davie's case, get into the backfield, and did everything asked of them, only missing one game - David Nwabuisi was forced to make a spot start at the middle spot against Syracuse due to injury. Despite a interception return for a touchdown in week 2, Johnson left a little bit to be desired, mainly because he seemed scared to tackle people, which is sort of important for a linebacker. Since David Arnold, who is decidedly not scared of tackling people, was way down the depth chart at safety - a position Brad Phillips and Brendan Smith had locked down - he moved into the starting lineup, and did a pretty good job considering the situation he was put into.

Who's got next: Nobody who played linebacker last year graduates. So we have the same crew. Williams and Davie will hold down their respective spots, with Nwabuisi again backing up Williams in the middle. The other spot is a different story: Arnold has returned to his safety position, taking him out of the running. The depth chart lists Ben Johnson and Bryce McNaul as neck and neck, but I'm really not sold on either. Johnson is really really fast, and I think could be a great linebacker - his speed could be exactly the thing we'd need to complete a very, solid unit - but we saw him play last year, so there's that. McNaul, I just don't know anything about, but I've seen nothing in him to match the potential I see in Johnson. I really wouldn't be surprised to see this position go to Roderick Goodlow - a true freshman last year who was one of only three to see his redshirt burned, but ended up playing mainly special teams. He's just about as speedy as Johnson, and I'm assuming the coaching staff saw something in him to use him as a true freshman. If he's not the starter, he'll be in the mix - and if he's not in the mix, he'll back up Davie on the other side, which isn't the worst thing in the world because it means one of those two other guys earned the spot.

Is that an improvement?: Well, not necessarily an improvement. But you take a good unit, and don't graduate anybody, and that's a great thing. If anything good happens on defense for the Wildcats this year, it will have to start with our linebacker corps. We lost three of four starters in the secondary, and we lose Corey Wootton up front. But here we've got two guys who have proved their meddle for several years running, and if Johnson or Goodlow steps his game up to be what I hope they could be, it'd be something to mess with.

Typically, the Big Ten linebacker reminds me of Pat Fitzgerald: ballhawk, hardnosed, a little bit squat, and irrepressably jacked. Quite frankly, this unit doesn't. But they have the potential to start a threesome with height - the shortest guy in the unit would be a tie between Goodlow and Williams at 6-foot-2 -, speed - I get the sense Johnson and probably Davie could outrun some of our wide receivers - and a modicum of hitting ability - pretty much everybody except Johnson has shown they can pack a punch with their hits. It's not your typical Big Ten linebacking corps with a nose for the ball and a fetish for grinding it out. But it'll be pretty damn effective. And that's pretty cool.