Returning starters: WR Christian Jones (Sr.), WR Tony Jones (Sr.), SB Dan Vitale (Jr.)
Others returning: WR Corey Acker (RS Fr.), WR Quinn Baker (RS Fr.), WR Cermak Bland (Jr.), WR Austin Carr (Sr.), WR Cameron Dickerson (Jr.), SB Doug Diedrick (Jr.), WR Tom Fuessel (RS Fr.), WR Mark Gorogianis (RS Fr.), WR Mike McHugh (So.), WR Jordan Perkins (Jr.), WR Kyle Prater (Sr.), WR Andrew Scanlan (So.), SB Jack Schwaba (So.), WR Miles Shuler (Jr.), SB Mark Szott (Jr.), SB Jayme Taylor (RS Fr.), WR Macan Wilson (RS Fr.), WR Pierre Youngblood-Ary (Jr.)
Incoming recruits: Solomon Vault
Depth chart projection
WR — Tony Jones, Christian Jones, Cameron Dickerson; SB — Dan Vitale
WR — Kyle Prater, Miles Shuler, Andrew Scanlan; SB — Mark Szott/Jayme Taylor
Explaining the depth chart
The starting line for both the receivers and superbacks is about as obvious as it's going to get when we make these position groups. The Joneses established themselves as starting receivers last year, and Cameron Dickerson was the clear "next man in" after the departure of Rashad Lawrence. Those three have taken the first string reps all spring, and in a new — likely more pass-heavy — era, they have a chance to be pretty good this season. After starting the last two seasons, Dan Vitale is the obvious starer once again at superback.
The second string is a bit more complicated. I know a lot of Northwestern fans have given up on Kyle Prater, but the coaches really seem to like what he's done this spring, and he may finally be able to contribute. Rutgers transfer Miles Shuler has shown a lot of flashes during the spring, as well. There's still room for another player to step up, and my money's on Andrew Scanlan, who the coaching staff is high on. At superback, Mark Szott is the established backup and should retain that position, but I included Jayme Taylor, because the coaches have really liked what he's shown.
Stock up: Cameron Dickerson
Dickerson's stock isn't necessarily up because of anything he's shown in camp, but it's surprising how quickly he went from role player to cemented starter seemingly overnight.
But don't get me wrong, I really like Dickerson's potential. He has done a great job using his big frame to make outstanding catches in tight coverage on the sideline, and with Northwestern likely passing more often this year, I think he'll have a big year.
Stock down: Mike McHugh
There isn't an obvious "stock down" choice here, because in general, the receivers have had a pretty productive spring. Part of that is because of the incredible depth at the position. But after a few years of struggling to meet lofty expectations, the receivers seem to be in position to live up to those expectations.
The reason I list Mike McHugh is because he's dropped a bit since last spring. He was the star of last year's spring and figured to contend for a spot in the rotation. However, he never caught on during the regular season, and he will likely have to battle Andrew Scanlan for a rotation spot.
Position battle: The Transfers vs. The Young Guns
This isn't really a position battle, but it will be interesting to see how the battle for playing time goes behind the top three receivers. Right now, it looks like Kyle Prater and Miles Shuler have a chance to get a lot of playing time, but they'll have to battle Andrew Scanlan, Mike McHugh and Pierre Youngblood-Ary for those spots. Can the transfers live up the the hype? Will the young guys step up? It will be interesting to track the progress of everyone in fall camp.
Biggest offseason question: How will the transfers contribute?
I know I've talked a lot about Kyle Prater and Miles Shuler already, but they're really all anyone wants to talk about. The starters are already set and should have big years as NU looks to pass more, but Prater and Shuler are still unknowns. Can Prater turn into a productive player and live up to the five-star rating he received coming out of high school? Can he at least be a viable endzone threat? Pat Fitzgerald seems to think he is finally able to contribute, which is encouraging, but he's still an unknown.
The same is true of Miles Shuler. He's a quick, athletic receiver who has the ability to make some big plays for NU. But while he might be a star down the line, it might take some time for him to settle into the offense. So be optimistic, but don't set your expectations too high.
Here's what we know about the transfers right now: They're both very promising and very unproven. There's still a long way to go, but this year, it seems like things might fall into place.