To kick off a summer of football at Inside NU, we are counting down Northwestern's Top 10 Most Important Players in 2015. We've put our heads together as a staff, used the power of democracy, and come up with a list that will undoubtedly cause plenty of disagreement.
We've chosen to loosely define the criteria for our list as the players "who will have the biggest impact on the overall outcome of the season." However, we recognize that that's still open to interpretation. For some, it could mean the value of a player over his replacement. It could just mean best player. It could mean players in crucial roles. It could mean players who have underperformed who need to step up.
One thing is certain though: no two lists will be the same. That's why for each player, we'll enlist two of our writers to debate the merits of the player in question.
At No. 4 is the third offensive lineman in our top 10, Geoff Mogus — who could play either left guard or left tackle. Henry Bushnell and Jason Dorow discuss:
Jason Dorow (Mogus rank: NR): The departures of Paul Jorgensen and Jack Konopka made the tackle spots immediate positions of importance and need going into 2015. And based on Northwestern's practice during spring ball, it seems that Pat Fitzgerald and offensive line coach Adam Cushing want an experienced offensive lineman protecting the quarterback's blind side. Goeff Mogus got a lot of reps at left tackle during the spring, so we at Inside NU have projected Mogus to start there this fall, making the move over from left guard.
The 6-foot-5, 305-pound redshirt senior has accumulated 23 starts at left guard in the past two seasons, proving to be one the most reliable bodies on the offensive line. And considering two of NU's other top tackles are a pair of redshirt freshmen, the move shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. In general, the offensive line has been one of the thinnest (not literally) position groups on the roster in the past couple seasons. Obviously Mogus's presence will be valuable this season, but Henry, what makes him particularly important to the Wildcats' success in 2015?
Henry Bushnell (Mogus rank: 2): Mogus's importance comes down to a few factors. First of all, specific to him as a player, he is probably Northwestern's best offensive lineman. It's always tough to judge individuals on the line, but all of Northwestern's other linemen are either unknown quantities (North, Hance, Doles, DePietro, etc.) or notably struggled in 2014 (Frazier, Olson). Mogus wasn't a standout, but he seemed at least somewhat reliable, and with 23 career starts, he's easily the most experienced of the lot.
What pushes him so high in my rankings is the potential move to tackle. Now let's be clear, we have no idea if this is going to happen or not. It was most likely a spring experiment as Fitzgerald and offensive line coach Adam Cushing search for a way to "get the best five guys on the field." And we won't know whether Mogus will actually make the move until August at the earliest. If he does though, it's a huge storyline. He looked shaky there during what we saw of spring ball — granted, a small sample size — and his adaptation will be key. Left tackle is arguably the second most important position on the field, so if Mogus can become a rock there, it'll be a huge help to Northwestern's offense; but if he can't, we could see him moved in and out of the role, and the entire line could be in flux.
And even if Mogus remains at guard, he still needs to be that rock. With an inexperienced center, Mogus needs to take over the leadership role that Brandon Vitabile occupied for so long, and needs to provide some stability on what I think is Northwestern's most important unit as a whole.
Jason Dorow: Looking back, it was definitely a mistake to leave Mogus off my list of top 15 most important players, but with some alterations, I doubt I'd throw him in the top 10. The offensive line is one of the most important position groups for Northwestern this season. We've seen in the past couple seasons how much the O-line's play affects the success of a quarterback, namely Trevor Siemian, and a running back, ala Justin Jackson.
However, I don't think from a tackle spot, or even the left guard spot, Mogus can truly be the "rock" that Vitabile was. Having a great center to direct traffic, point out adjustments in the defense and be in sync with the quarterback seems to have a greater effect on the group's success as a whole. Left tackle is certainly a key position, but the on-field dynamic is much different there so I don't think the same leadership role can really follow suit with Mogus.
Despite some lingering questions about Mogus's ability to play tackle, we know what we are getting with him more so than at any other O-line position. He is going to be solid, maybe not great, but at least he will be solid wherever he is on the line. Of the other four O-line positions, two or three of them could go in a lot of different directions. There's more variability in the performance of this group than any other on the team, and for that reason, I'd de-emphasize the importance of Mogus's slot and focus on getting proper fits across the board on the O-line.
Henry Bushnell: That's fair. The one concession I'll make is that if Mogus does stay at guard, he would fall down my list a bit, and I probably should've factored that possibility (which is still significant) in more. But where I disagree is when you say that he'll be "at least solid wherever he is on the line." If he's at left tackle, I think he could be anywhere from above average to a complete liability. And that's why I think he's so important.
Henry Bushnell: 2 | Michael Odom: 3 | Kevin Dukovic: 3 | Josh Burton: 5
Ian McCafferty: 5 | Josh Rosenblat: 7 | Ben Goren: 8 | Zach Pereles: 9
Jason Dorow: 16
What are your thoughts on our rankings of Mogus? Also, can you guess who our top three will be?