Over the next couple of 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. A veteran corner comes in at No. 7.
It was last August when I first heard Nick VanHoose speak.
It was Northwestern football media day and the then-sophomore corner stood, leaning against a staircase. Reporters peeled Damien Proby, Kain Colter and Tyler Scott away from his side. The lights from the television cameras shined brightly on those around him, some of it seeped through and landed on him, but he turned away.
I approached VanHoose because I wanted a one-on-one interaction. He seem surprised that I wanted to talk to him but almost immediately, VanHoose deflected any of my questions about him specifically.
I asked about his training camp. He said it was fine, then launched into a few sentences about other players in the defensive backfield:
Sophomore cornerback Nick VanHoose had high praise for the youthful defensive backs, citing freshmen Godwin Igwebuike, Keith Watkins and Matthew Harris, along with redshirt freshman Dwight White. “You can just see, from the film and playing with them, their quickness to the ball,” VanHoose said of the defensive backs. “This is a different speed, completely, when you get out there and when you can adjust faster, you can tell when someone can do that.”
As was the case then and still is now, pretty much all of the writing about Nick VanHoose comes in the form of posts about his younger counterparts at defensive back. And VanHoose, so it seems, likes it that way.
While all of the drama last season following the injury to Daniel Jones in the season-opener was on the opposite side of the field, VanHoose continued to go about his business in a consistent and quiet manner. He started all 12 games at corner and led the team with 8 pass breakups.
And while he, like many of his teammates, came into the season with a lot of hype surrounding them, it seemed as though VanHoose was able to push it aside and focus on the field.
Over the last couple of seasons, Northwestern's recruiting has showed a shift in the playing style of its cornerbacks. While VanHoose has strong technique, Pat Fitzgerald and his staff have started to integrate more athletically gifted corners like Harris and freshman Parrker Westphal. VanHoose, now in his third season starting at cornerback, will not only play an integral role in stopping opposing teams' wide receivers, but also in teaching the younger, potential-filled players the technique that makes him a successful corner.
For a cornerback, it's often better not to hear your name in the media because it usually means you're not doing anything wrong. For Northwestern, that's exactly the role VanHoose plays: he rarely makes a major mistake.