Who saw that Northwestern is now ranked No. 12 by the US News and World Report. The only BCS programs ranked higher are Stanford and Duke. And neither of them have blogs on SB Nation. Which means... I AM THE SMARTEST BLOGGER ON THESE HERE INTERNETS. I ORDER ALL OF YOU TO COMMENCE DEALING WITH IT.
If you don't mind, I'll be off to work on getting my cumulative GPA higher than that of the average football player. (not joking) (although I'm off by a very very small amount)
Days Left Til Football Season: 17 (Damn!)
One Less Day Til Football Season, Post 8: Safety
Who did it last year?: Well, son, the preeminent starters were Brad Phillips (at free safety) and Brendan Smith (at strong safety). They were each multi-year starters and therefore, we sort of knew what we were getting. Brad Phillips was going to hit people as hard as he could, and Brendan Smith could do good things too. However, both guys got injured a little bit. Brian Peters actually spent nearly half of the season subbing in for Smith, earning five starts and picking off three passes - more than the entire starting unit. Which is especially impressive, considering he played with a cast on his right hand. Him and Jared Carpenter actually started the Indiana game. Although safety was touted as one of the team's better units because of all the experience and spectacular plays we'd seen from Phillips and Smith - the Minnesota game interception return from Smith, the Shonn Greene hit from Phillips - injuries and whatnot kept this unit from being overwhelmingly consistent.
Who's got next?: There's no incumbent starters, but there doesn't seem to be much of a battle for the starting spots: Peters will definitely start after playing well last year, and Carpenter seems to have his gig locked down. That's because there's a frightening lack of depth at the safety spot on the roster. The next most experienced player is David Arnold, who was prominent as a starter at linebacker, but suffered a foot injury in week 1 of training camp that will apparently put him out until past the opener, giving a scary opening to what could a very productive season from him. After him, there's Hunter Bates, who has primarily played on special teams, and is best known for a) having the same number and physical appearance as Dan Persa and b) recovering an onside kick against Illinois, and Davion Fleming and Scott Lilja, two guys who have never played snaps featuring NUsports.com bios saying that if all goes well, they will be important factors in the kicking game. Basically, it's on Peters, Carpenter, a potentially healthy Arnold, and Bates - and we don't know what we'll be getting out of Carpenter, Arnold, or Bates.
Is that an improvement?: I suggest you re-read the last sentence of the previous paragraph. Here, I'll write it again. Basically, it's on Peters, Carpenter, a potentially healthy Arnold, and Bates - and we don't know what we'll be getting out of Carpenter, Arnold, or Bates. The only mitigating factor here is that I feel we had an understandable tendency to overrate NU's safeties the year before because they were experienced and likable, so the dropoff here isn't as big as it might seem. But it's a major dropoff. Peters seems like he'll be a menace in pass coverage, and Carpenter hopefully can step up and hit people. But this could be the dagger our defense doesn't need.