They Collin me! Somewhere along the line, we stopped just getting walk-ons and started getting people who could very legitimately have an important role for the Northwestern Wildcats this year, which is nice. Collin Ellis, a 6'2, 225-pound linebacker from Louisiana. He started at linebacker two years ago, and could very well start again this year. Don't you want to read up on him?
Ellis is from Baton Rouge -- he probably calls it "Neauxrthwestern" -- and went to the Dunham School, named after the girl I hate from "Girls." Ellis was first-team all-district as a junior and a senior, all-state as a senior. He also played running back, punted -- !!! -- and played golf and track for the Tigers, who rival the Evanston Wildkits for college/high school city nickname crossover. But he didn't get a lot of hype: three-star by some services, two by Scout, who considered him a safety, Rivals ranked him as the No. 48 player in Louisiana. When he committed to Northwestern, he didn't have any other offers from out of the Bayou State -- Tulane had offered, as had Northwestern State, making him probably the only player ever to have offers from both Northwesterns -- but it was pretty early in the process. If you want an idea of how much Northwestern recruiting has changed in just three years, Ellis became the first Northwestern commit in the class of 2010 midway through June of 2009, where NU already had nine or ten recruits at the same point this year, most of whom were more highly ranked than Ellis.
Ellis broke into the starting lineup pretty quickly, as a redshirt freshman. He became NU's starter at strong-side linebacker after three games, supplanting Ben Johnson. He even did it with a broken thumb, playing with a big ol' club like thing for most of the 2011 season, making me wonder what would happen if he had an opportunity to make an interception, registering 28 tackles, including 2.5 for loss. As a sophomore last year, though, he'd himself get supplanted, with Chi Chi Ariguzo taking over the SAM spot and spent the parts of the year where he wasn't injured backing up David Nwabuisi on the weakside. Exactly what his injury was isn't clear, but it caused him to miss the Michigan State and Illinois games.
I'm not sure if any of you remember the Northwestern-Illinois game from 2011 -- Northwestern was winning, then ended up not winning -- but Ellis certainly does. It was his first college game, it was a start, and he posted an early highlight was Collin Ellis absolutely wrecking Nathan Scheelhaase's stuff, a loss of 12 yards on a third down as the Illini started to move into field position. I can't find video, but, if I remember correctly, it was a hell of a hit, and it boded well for his future coming in his first game.
Anagram of choice
Discovering the Wildcats' true inner selves through spelling
Collin Ellis, anagrammed, is
ILL IN CELLOS
I bet classically trained musicians don't refer to themselves as "ill" at instruments. Wait, I just thought of the only classical musician I knew at college, and, well, the classical music scene is probably gonna be overrun by an entire crop of classical musicians who call things "ill" in 20-30 years.
Relevant musical selection
"Roll With Me," Montgomery Gentry
I don't know anything about this song, but Ellis used this as his top song on his iPod AND the song that best describes him on his player profile page. Most people switch it up, but Montgomery Gentry is enough for Ellis. Dude's from Louisiana.
How he can help
Ellis is tough -- played through that broken thumb -- we know he can hit, and he's got starting experience. I'm not really sure what caused Ellis to go from starter to backup last year, but he really did show potential early.
Depth chart projection
As we explained in the Drew Smith post, there's a competition for the strongside spot between Ellis and Smith. (In case you couldn't tell, between Ellis, Nwabuisi, who moved from middle linebacker to weakside, and Ariguzo, who has now swapped from weakside to strongside, Northwestern finds the linebacker positions pretty flexible.) With Chi Chi Ariguzo and Damien Proby locked into their spots, its the one up for grabs, but it's in pretty good hands. Smith has earned praise for being a big hitter, but Ellis lays wood too, and he's more built than Smith -- Smith's 205 pounds, Ellis is 225. Both proved early in their careers that they can contribute for Northwestern at linebacker, and both players will contribute this year, but it's up in the air who will actually start. We picked Ellis, simply since he's started ten games in his career and has a year's experience on Smith.