After a long offseason of position battles, here are Northwestern's two-deeps for week one vs. Syracuse.
Tailback — Venric Mark, Mike Trumpy
Quarterback — Kain Colter, Trevor Siemian
Y-Wide Receiver — Demetrius Fields, Pierre Youngblood-Ary
H-Wide Receiver — Christian Jones, Mike Jensen
Z-Wide Receiver — Rashad Lawrence, Cameron Dickerson
X-Wide Receiver — Tony Jones, Kyle Prater
Right Tackle — Jack konopka, Paul Jorgensen
Right Guard — Churck Porcelli, Matt Frazier
Center — Brandon Vitabile, Hayden Baker
Left Guard — Brian Mulroe, Geoff Mogus
Left Tackle — Patrick Ward, Paul Jorgensen
Superback — Dan Vitale, Mark Szott
Left Defensive End — Quentin Williams, Dean Lowry
Defensive Tackle — Brian Arnfelt, Sean McEvilly
Defensive Tackle — Will Hampton, Chance Carter
Right Defensive End — Tyler Scott, Deonte Gibson
Sam Linebacker — Chi Chi Ariguzo, Drew Smith
Mike Linebacker — Damien Proby, Timmy Vernon
Will Linebacker — David Nwabuisi, Collin Ellis
Cornerback – Nick VanHoose, Quinn Evans
Cornerback — Demetrius Dugar, Daniel Jones
Safety — Ibraheim Campbel, Jared Carpenter
Safety — Davion Fleming, Jimmy Hall
Place-Kicker — Jeff Budzien
Punter — Brandon Williams
Kickoff — Steve Flaherty
Long Snapper — Pat Hickey
Holder — Brandon Williams
Kickoff Return — Venric Mark, Ibraheim Campbell
Punt Return — Venric Mark, Ibraheim Campbell
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by Chris Johnson (@chrisdjohnsonn)
The Depth chart didn’t offer any major surprises, but here are some quick reactions to the two-deep reveal:
- There were no “OR” positions on the depth chart, meaning Pat Fitzgerald is sticking to his guns in listing the above players as sure-fire starters. You typically see at least a few spots with toss-up implications leading up to week 1. That every starter is locked in one week prior to the season-opener is encouraging on several grounds. These guys earned their spots, and Fitzgerald isn’t waffling on rewarding them with game day depth chart priority. More than that, though, it eliminates any and all speculation in the lead-up to Saturday’s game about who would take the field as a first-teamer. The starters know their role, their responsibility, and they can prepare accordingly over the coming week.
- It’s mildly surprising to see Mike Jensen crack the two-deep at H-wide receiver. After playing mostly on special teams last season, Jensen surfaced as a sure-handed target in the spring practice and made an impact in the spring game. He works well over the middle and could emerge as a productive target in the slot. NU boasts several deep threats, but Jensen brings a different dimension to the offense as a short-pickup slot specialist. His crisp-route running could prove invaluable to coordinator Mick McCall.
- The offensive line played out mostly as expected, though Chuck Porcelli’s starting spot at right guard may have seemed a minor upset several weeks ago. Matt Frazier provided a stiff challenge throughout camp Kenosha, but Fitzgerald understandably went the veteran route. Frazier will get his reps this season; this is a minor disappointment in an altogether positive preseason camp.
- One of two true freshman to crack the two-deep, Dan Vitale has earned the starting spot at superback after flashing great athleticism and overall comprehension of the position at preseason camp. With zero experience under his belt, it would have made absolute sense for Fitzgerald to go with an experienced backup. Think again: redshirt freshman Mark Szott gets the nod and in the process ensures NU’s superback rotation – at least for this week – has never played a down of college football. This is obviously a major change from the halcyon days of Drake Dunsmore, but Vitale and Szott are two talented players with bright futures, capable of fulfilling the position’s manifold responsibilities right away. Expecting Dunsmore-like production in year one feels grossly optimistic; with so many receivers, there won’t be as many passes to go around. Still, the youthful tandem should fare well, all things considered.
- The kick return/punt return duties are Venric Mark's to lose. NU is going with an unexpected backup plan in the event that Mark's increased offensive role cuts into his effectiveness on special teams. Ibraheim Campbell is an athletically gifted player with great speed and quickness. We know this. What we don't know is how he will perform running back punts and kicks. For NU's sake, the hope is that Campbell won't have to make his mark on special teams. If Mark stays healthy and fresh, he should maintain that job throughout the season.