Spring practice has now finished up for Northwestern and over the past couple of months we've been able to learn about how each position group is shaping up for the fall. Following the "spring game" we will be posting group reviews detailing "The Good," "The Bad" and "The Biggest Question" facing each group. We continue with the offensive line.
Right now, with a few months until the start of the season, there are some healthy options for Northwestern to look to in order to fill the center and one of two tackle positions vacated by seniors Brandon Vitabile and Paul Jorgensen. It helps that the Wildcats have depth at all the line spots due to fewer injuries, even if those players have yet to prove much at the college level. Redshirt freshmen tackles Blake Hance and Tommy Doles have impressed this spring and could push junior Eric Olson. Add in junior Ian Park and senior Shane Mertz, Northwestern has a bunch of guys who could be pretty good this season. So far, head coach Pat Fitzgerald has mentioned that sophomore Brad North has played well at center and that senior Geoff Mogus will start somewhere on the line, but his final spot is still being worked out.
Returning three full-time starters in Olson, Mogus and senior right guard Matt Frazier is always nice, but it's not like those three guys held down the line too well in 2014. Vitabile was the anchor in the middle and, unless one of the upperclassmen steps up, losing him could lead to a lot of sacks of NU's yet-to-be-determined starting quarterback and a lack of running room for Justin Jackson and co. Also, with guys like Hance and Doles not having played a game so far in their careers, they are relative wildcards in terms of production. And the expected starter at left guard, junior Adam DePietro, only started one game last season, so he's not a reliable player inside right now.
The Biggest Question
What's the deal at center?
Brad North, who is a rising sophomore, is penciled in right now at center but doesn't have a lot of game reps, which could be a problem considering how vital the center is to the rest of the offensive line. It's possible that Frazier or Mogus could move from their tackle positions to center, but if not, it'll probably be up to North, who was the No. 9 center prospect in the country coming out of high school. The talent is there, but the college experience isn't, so it will be interesting to see whether he's up for the job, should it be given to him.