The InsideNU spring guide is back as we get set for Northwestern’s spring football practice. Practice starts February 26 and runs through the spring game on April 12, with a break for finals and the school’s regularly scheduled spring break. We’ll run through each position unit to let you know what to watch once practice begins.
Returning starters: CB Nick VanHoose (Jr.), CB Dwight White (So.), CB Matthew Harris (So.), S Ibraheim Campbell (Sr.), S Traveon Henry (Jr.)
Others returning: CB Joe Cannon (Sr.), CB Daniel Jones (Sr.), CB Marcus McShepard (RS Fr.), CB Troy Sheppard (So.), CB Keith Watkins II (RS Fr.), CB Parkerr Westphal (Fr.), CB Jarrell Williams (Jr.), S Terrance Brown (So.), S Jimmy Hall (Sr.), S Godwin Igwebuike (RS Fr.), S Tommy Odell (RS Fr.), S Kyle Queiro (RS Fr.)
Incoming recruits: CB Parrker Westphal
Biggest spring question: What impact can some of the younger players have this season?
In 2011, then-redshirt freshman Ibraheim Campbell stepped into his role as a starting safety and excelled. He led the team with 100 tackles and was named to numerous all-freshman teams by national media.
Now, three seasons later, Campbell is the veteran leader of the defense, a talented senior with NFL hopes.
He is surrounded, this spring, with players that have meaningful college experience.
But last season, players such as Nick VanHoose didn't live up to the expectations he set during a really successful 2012 campaign.
No one leaves Northwestern's defensive backfield, but there's an influx of young talent looking to see the field.
Although redshirt sophomore Dwight White struggled at times last season, he should improve with one full season under his belt. Likewise, sophomore Matthew Harris can only get better after playing extensively for a freshman last season. Even senior Jimmy Hall saw action last season at nickelback.
Along with White, Harris and Hall, redshirt freshman Godwin Igwebuike impressed during practice last fall and true freshman Parrker Westphal enrolled at Northwestern early to get a head start on acclimating himself to college football.
With Campbell and Traveon Henry entrenched at safety, all of this young talent will be battling to see the field.
Right now, VanHoose still has a hold on the top corner spot, but the second spot is wide open. As Daniel Jones continue to recover from the season-ending knee injury that he suffered in Northwestern's season-opening win at Cal, Harris and White seem to lead the pack.
Harris has a ton of upside with his speed and natural instincts. He is also bigger than White. It will be hard to keep Harris off the field after an impressive end to 2013.
Wesphal and Igwebuike are also extremely talented pieces that will undoubtedly play major roles in future seasons at Northwestern. Unless either one of them excels during spring practices, there may not be room for them on the field in 2014, which is a testament to the increasing level of talent at Northwestern.
As mentioned above, the biggest battles will be between the young, talented players trying to break through. Jones, White, Harris and even Westphal may all have a shot to start opposite VanHoose and spring practice will go along way in deciding who does.
Our best guess at the depth chart
CB - Nick VanHoose, Daniel Jones
S - Ibraheim Campbell, Jimmy Hall
S - Traveon Henry, Godwin Igwebuike
CB - Matthew Harris, Dwight White