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Northwestern football summer guide: Superbacks

One of Northwestern's strongest position groups should help ease the new quarterback's transition.

Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Over the next few weeks, Inside NU will be releasing its 2015 Northwestern Football Summer Guide, a season preview that will look at each positional unit, address the biggest storylines, and answer the most pressing questions that face the Wildcats this fall.

First up, we have our position previews, which serve as a primer for how things could shake out for each group ahead of fall camp in August. We continue the series with the superbacks, a fullback-tight end hybrid position specific to Northwestern, and a strongpoint of this year's Wildcats team.


Returning Starters: Dan Vitale (Sr.)
Key Losses: Jack Schwaba
Other Returning Players: Jayme Taylor (RS So.), Garrett Dickerson (So.), Tom Hruby (Sr.), Eric Lutzen (RS Fr.), Mark Szott (Sr.)
Incoming Freshmen: None

This year's group of superbacks should be a good one. Leading the bunch is Vitale, a guy who, with good numbers this year, could have a chance to play at the next level. The depth behind him certainly isn't lacking either. Garrett Dickerson, at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, is a beast, and, entering his sophomore season, should improve as both a blocker and a receiver. He was a highly-rated recruit out of high school. Jayme Taylor is a good athlete who even threw a touchdown last year while seeing time primarily as a blocker. The guys behind those three are mainly special teamers.

Key Player

Dan Vitale

The most dependable pass-catcher on this team right now is Dan Vitale, and there's not really a way around it. He has the hands, the speed and the size, and he's played an important role on this team since the day he stepped onto campus his freshman year. Especially considering how shaky/up-in-the-air both the quarterback situation and the wide receiver situation are, Vitale is the one guy that you can put out there right now and know he'll do his job. That is, if he gets the chance to do so. Which leads us to...

The Big Question

How involved will they be?

Ever since Vitale exploded for a combined 16 receptions and 192 yards in two games against Michigan State and Mississippi State late in 2012, his freshman season, we've been clamoring for Vitale to be more involved in the offense. And many fans have been right alongside us. But for some reason, Northwestern's coaches disagree.

The same situation presents itself this year, and not just for Vitale, but for Dickerson and Taylor as well. These guys are talented athletes that need the ball in their hands. Dickerson is physically imposing. There aren't a lot of guys his size who can move like he can. Even Taylor possesses impressive speed and skill. Mick McCall has weapons at his disposal at superback, he just needs to figure out how to get all three involved. That could even mean even more two-SB packages, which we saw a decent amount of last year.

Projected Depth Chart

1st String 2nd String
Dan Vitale Garrett Dickerson AND Jayme Taylor

Superback is another position, like running back, where simply listing players as starters and reserves can be misleading. All three will have roles to play. Vitale is the leader of the group, but both Taylor and, especially, Dickerson, will see plenty of the field.