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Is there any young receiving talent?

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The future for Northwestern's pass-catchers doesn't look too bright.

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

It's no secret that Northwestern's passing attack has been one of the team's biggest weaknesses in 2014. The Wildcats' receiving corps has been largely average this season as most receivers have struggled to create separation from defenders and some key drops have plagued the offense at critical moments during the season.

The position is grouping is a veteran one but, in Northwestern's case, a new crop of receiving talent may not inspire too much confidence moving ahead.

Below, I breakdown how Northwestern's wide receivers and superbacks project over the next four seasons.

2014

Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Elig. Stars Catches Yards
Stephen Buckley WR 6-0 190 SO 2 7 74
Pierre Youngblood-Ary WR 6-3 185 JR 2 5 77
Macan Wilson WR 6-0 185 RS FR 3 -- --
Miles Shuler* WR 5-10 180 JR 4 28 261
Andrew Scanlan WR 6-2 210 SO 3 1 5
Kyle Prater* WR 6-5 225 SR 5 49 405
Jordan Perkins WR 6-0 180 JR 3 -- --
Mike McHugh WR 6-3 200 SO 3 4 71
Tony Jones WR 6-0 195 SR 3 113 1301
Christian Jones WR 6-3 230 SR 3 105 1275
Cole Johnson WR 6-1 200 RS FR -- -- --
Mark Gorogianis WR 6-0 190 RS FR -- -- --
Tom Fuessel WR 6-4 185 RS FR 3 -- --
Cameron Dickerson WR 6-3 210 JR 3 29 329
Austin Carr WR 6-1 195 SO -- 4 40
Cermak Bland WR 5-11 185 JR -- -- --
Quinn Baker WR 5-11 185 RS FR -- -- --
Corey Acker WR 5-9 165 RS FR -- -- --
Dan Vitale SB 6-2 235 JR 2 88 952
Jayme Taylor SB 6-4 230 RS FR 3 7 37
Mark Szott SB 6-4 260 JR 3 2 29
Jack Schwaba SB 6-4 260 SO 3 -- --
Eric Lutzen SB 6-6 250 FR -- -- --
Tom Hruby SB 6-3 240 JR -- -- --
Tim Hanrahan SB 6-0 220 SR -- 1 1
Doug Diedrick SB 5-10 215 JR -- 1 13
Garrett Dickerson SB 6-3 250 FR 4 4 51
TOTAL --
--
--
--
--
448 4921

The 2014 group has had mixed results. Senior Kyle Prater leads the team in both receptions and yards with 29 and 286, respectively, on the season. Not a single underclassmen wide receiver or superback has double-digit catches for the Wildcats this season. Part of this may have to do with Northwestern's emphasis on recruiting defense the past few seasons. When Northwestern has recruited an athlete who can play either defense or offense, the overwhelming tendency has been for Pat Fitzgerald and his staff to move him to defense. Matt Harris, for example, was commonly projected as a wide receiver coming out of high school, but he plays cornerback at Northwestern. Now, I'm not saying that Harris should have played wide receiver, I am just pointing out an example of when Northwestern has chosen for a player to play defense instead of offense. Also, Northwestern did not recruit a wide receiver in the 2014 recruiting class.

2015

Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Elig. Stars Catches Yards
Stephen Buckley WR 6-0 190 JR 2 7 74
Pierre Youngblood-Ary WR 6-3 185 SR 2 5 77
Macan Wilson WR 6-0 185 SO 3 -- --
Miles Shuler* WR 5-10 180 SR 4 28 261
Andrew Scanlan WR 6-2 210 JR 3 1 5
Jordan Perkins WR 6-0 180 SR 3 -- --
Mike McHugh WR 6-3 200 JR 3 4 71
Christian Jones WR 6-3 230 SR 3 105 1275
Cole Johnson WR 6-1 200 SO -- -- --
Mark Gorogianis WR 6-0 190 SO -- -- --
Tom Fuessel WR 6-4 185 SO 3 -- --
Cameron Dickerson WR 6-3 210 SR 3 29 329
Austin Carr WR 6-1 195 JR -- 4 40
Cermak Bland WR 5-11 185 SR -- -- --
Quinn Baker WR 5-11 185 SO -- -- --
Corey Acker WR 5-9 165 SO -- -- --
Cameron Green WR 6-2 195 FR 3 -- --
Charlie Fessler WR 6-4 195 FR 3 -- --
Jelani Roberts WR 5-8 153 FR 3 -- --
Lloyd Yates ATH 6-1 180 FR 3 -- --
Dan Vitale SB 6-2 235 SR 2 88 952
Jayme Taylor SB 6-4 230 SO 3 7 37
Mark Szott SB 6-4 260 SR 3 2 29
Jack Schwaba SB 6-4 260 JR 3 -- --
Eric Lutzen SB 6-6 250 RS FR
-- -- --
Tom Hruby SB 6-3 240 SR -- -- --
Doug Diedrick SB 5-10 215 SR -- 1 13
Garrett Dickerson SB 6-3 250 SO 4 4 51
TOTAL --
--
--
--
--
285 3214

Looking forward to 2015, Northwestern does get back senior Christian Jones from a season-ending knee injury. He could have been Northwestern's best target in 2014, but Northwestern gets to squeeze another year out of the big-bodied pass-catcher. Other than Jones, senior-to-be Miles Shuler will be the team's secondary option on the outside. Superback Dan Vitale is a weapon for Northwestern but has been used inconsistently throughout his time as a Wildcat. In 2015, he, along with Jayme Taylor and Garrett Dickerson, will have to be relied on to provide even more of a spark to Northwestern's passing game as the group will be largely unproven.

2016

Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Elig. Stars Catches Yards
Stephen Buckley WR 6-0 190 SR 2 7 74
Macan Wilson WR 6-0 185 JR 3 --
--
Andrew Scanlan WR 6-2 210 SR 3 1 5
Mike McHugh WR 6-3 200 SR 3 4 71
Cole Johnson WR 6-1 200 JR -- --
--
Mark Gorogianis WR 6-0 190 JR -- --
--
Tom Fuessel WR 6-4 185 JR 3 --
--
Austin Carr WR 6-1 195 SR -- 4 40
Quinn Baker WR 5-11 185 JR -- --
--
Corey Acker WR 5-9 165 JR -- --
--
Cameron Green WR 6-2 195 RS FR/SO 3 --
--
Charlie Fessler WR 6-4 195 RS FR/SO 3 --
--
Jelani Roberts WR 5-8 153 RS FR/SO 3 --
--
Lloyd Yates ATH 6-1 180 RS FR/SO 3 --
--
Jayme Taylor SB 6-4 230 JR 3 7 37
Jack Schwaba SB 6-4 260 SR 3 -- --
Eric Lutzen SB 6-6 250 SO -- -- --
Garrett Dickerson SB 6-3 250 JR 4 4 51
TOTAL --
--
--
--
--
27 278

Northwestern currently has three wide receivers and one athlete committed for the 2015 class. The headliner of that group is Cameron Green out of Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois. He's not the fastest receiver, but he has good size and hands. Along with Green, Charlie Fessler brings another one of the tall receivers that Northwestern has utilized over the past few seasons. Jelani Roberts and Lloyd Yates (who is a high school quarterback and could play QB at Northwestern) are both smaller but they bother, especially Roberts, are quicker. Along with Mike McHugh, who has shown signs of his potential this season, and the continued development of Taylor and Dickerson at superback -- who could both be studs -- Northwestern's receiving group will largely unknown in 2016.

2017

Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Elig. Stars Catches Yards
Macan Wilson WR 6-0 185 SR 3 -- --
Cole Johnson WR 6-1 200 SR -- -- --
Mark Gorogianis WR 6-0 190 SR -- -- --
Tom Fuessel WR 6-4 185 SR 3 -- --
Quinn Baker WR 5-11 185 SR -- -- --
Corey Acker WR 5-9 165 SR -- -- --
Cameron Green WR 6-2 195 SO/JR 3 -- --
Charlie Fessler WR 6-4 195 SO/JR 3 -- --
Jelani Roberts WR 5-8 153 SO/JR 3 -- --
Lloyd Yates ATH 6-1 180 SO/JR 3 -- --
Jayme Taylor SB 6-4 230 SR 3 7 37
Eric Lutzen SB 6-6 250 JR -- -- --
Garrett Dickerson SB 6-3 250 SR 4 4 51
TOTAL --
--
--
--
--
11 88

Northwestern will obviously need to add recruits to this list because only Taylor and Dickerson have any experience. The Wildcats have already offered four-star wide receiver Austin Mack and superback Cary Angeline to help bolster the group for 2016, according to 247 sports. Someone from the recruiting class of 2013, whether it's Macan Wilscon, Tom Fuessel or a walk-on, will need to emerge as a target on the outside over the next couple of seasons. If Northwestern gets no wide receiving talent from its recruiting classes of 2012, 2013 and 2014, it could be a long few years for the Wildcat passing game. The superback position looks to be in decent hands over the next few seasons as Vitale will be able to pass playmaking responsibilities over the middle to Taylor and Dickerson, both of whom look like ample targets.