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Northwestern football’s most important players — No. 3: Paul Jorgensen

Over the next couple weeks, InsideNU will reveal its rankings of the most important players on Northwestern’s football team. Past production, position and potential, among other criteria, were taken into account. We only ask one thing from you: If there’s one player you believe is pegged too high or low, reserve your venom until after reading the explanation. With that, here’s No. 3, senior offensive tackle Paul Jorgensen.

After the quarterback, what is the most important position on a football team? Some might argue a dynamic pass rusher. Others might contend that running backs or receivers are the most essential. But conventional wisdom holds that offensive tackles, aside from the man they protect, are the most valuable.

What’s the point of having a quarterback if you can’t keep him upright? Offensive linemen, specifically those who protect the quarterback’s blind side, are consistently some of the highest draft picks and highest paid in the NFL. The position is just as important in college football and that’s why Northwestern’s left tackle Paul Jorgensen comes in at No. 3 on our countdown.

He may not have the story that Michael Oher had, but Jorgensen does have two inches on “The Blind Side” protagonist. The 6-foot-6, 295-pound Jorgensen was a three star recruit out of the Dewitt Michigan who turned down offers from last year’s Rose Bowl representatives (MSU and Stanford).

After playing sparingly his redshirt freshman year, Jorgensen became NU’s short-yardage tight-end on limited occassions halfway through his sophomore season, and even caught a 24-yard touchdown against Illinois.  Last season Jorgensen started all 12 games at right tackle, but is making the switch over to the left side in 2014.

It is no secret NU struggled to find consistency in the passing game a season ago. There is plenty of blame to go around, but the o-line was certainly one of the largest culprits (pun intended). The Cats finished 10th in the Big 10 in sacks allowed. In 2012 they allowed the fewest in the conference.

Pass protection will be even more paramount in 2014 since the Cats now lack the luxury of a mobile quarterback who can elude the blitz. It will be Jorgensen’s job to do what senior Jack Konopka failed to do consistenty last season: block the opposing team’s best outside pass rusher and give quarterback Trevor Siemian enough time to find receivers downfield.

No. 10, Venric Mark

No. 9, Dan Vitale

No. 8, Christian Jones

No. 7, Nick VanHoose

No. 6, Chi Chi Ariguzo

No. 5, Brandon Vitabile

No. 4, Ibraheim Campbell