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Northwestern football depth chart: Spring projections

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Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The are a few different ways to conceptualize a projected depth chart. One is to predict what the depth chart will look like in Week 1. Another is to take a stab at who is practicing with the first and second teams right now. These projections are neither of those.

The following is our well-informed opinion, our well-educated guess as to what Northwestern's depth chart would look like if every player on the roster were healthy, and if the Wildcats were to begin preparing for an opponent tomorrow. It is still just a guess of course. Plenty will change between now and the fall. But most of this isn't just dart-throwing.

Incoming freshmen are only listed to fill in numbers where necessary. Notes and explanations are below.

*denotes a player who will miss all of spring practice due to injury
^denotes a true freshman who will join the program in June

1st string 2nd string 3rd string
Quarterback Clayton Thorson Matt Alviti* Lloyd Yates/T.J. Green
Running back Justin Jackson Warren Long* John Moten/Auston Anderson
X-receiver Austin Carr Marcus McShepard Andrew Scanlan/Macan Wilson
Y-receiver Flynn Nagel Jelani Roberts Cam Green
Z-receiver Solomon Vault Charlie Fessler Steven Reese*
Superback Garrett Dickerson Jayme Taylor Tommy Vitale/James Prather
Left tackle Blake Hance Ben Oxley Sam Coverdale
Left guard Ian Park J.B. Butler Andrew Otterman
Center Brad North Jared Thomas Ian Park
Right guard Shane Mertz Connor Mahoney Graham Bullmore
Right tackle Eric Olson* Tommy Doles Adam Lemke-Bell
1st string 2nd string 3rd string
Defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo Trent Goens Tommy Carnifax*
Defensive tackle C.J. Robbins Jordan Thompson Jake Saunders^
Defensive tackle Tyler Lancaster Greg Kuhar Fred Wyatt
Defensive end Xavier Washington Joe Gaziano Heath Reineke
SAM linebacker Jaylen Prater Tommy Vitale Josh Roberts
MIKE linebacker Anthony Walker Cameron Queiro Nathan Fox
WILL linebacker Nate Hall Joseph Jones Brett Walsh
Cornerback Matthew Harris Trae Williams Alonzo Mayo
Safety Godwin Igwebuike Jared McGee Parrker Westphal
Safety Kyle Queiro Jacob Murray Travis Whillock^
Cornerback Keith Watkins Montre Hartage Roderick Campbell^
1st String 2nd String 3rd String
Kicker Jack Mitchell Mason Weissenhoffer
Punter Hunter Niswander
Kick returner Solomon Vault Jelani Roberts Auston Anderson
Punt returner Matt Harris Jelani Roberts Marcus McShepard
Long snapper Chris Fitzpatrick

Notes and explanations

- Wide receiver is still a mess, but Austin Carr and Solomon Vault seem like surefire starters at this point. Flynn Nagel is still recovering from a bad ankle injury, and both redshirt freshman receivers have a ways to go. Marcus McShepard immediately slots into a second string position based on head coach Pat Fitzgerald's comment that he will have "the opportunity to compete to start right away."

- Fitzgerald said he expects Ben Oxley to challenge to start at offensive tackle. With Eric Olson out for all of spring practice, it will be interesting to see who lines up as the first team right tackle opposite Blake Hance. It would figure to be either Tommy Doles or Oxley.

- Both defensive tackle and defensive end — but especially tackle — are areas where the concept behind this depth chart is important. It's very possible, if not probable, that Jordan Thompson ends up starting at defensive tackle. But for now, he's likely behind both upperclassmen. To a lesser, more speculative extent, the same could be said for Joe Gaziano at end.

- The two starting outside linebacker positions aren't necessarily nailed down. Linebacker coach Randy Bates told Inside NU Tuesday that he "want[s] the next best linebacker in the game. Not the next best [MIKE/SAM/WILL] linebacker. They have to be able to play multiple positions." Bates mentioned Joe Jones as a guy who "is going to play a lot, if not start."

- The coaching staff is going to try Parrker Westphal at safety. Westphal has had some really rough luck with injuries, and really has never been fully healthy ever since he set foot on campus as an early enrollee. He'll have to work his way back up the depth chart.

- Fitzgerald said Tuesday that Matt Harris "might be our punt returner this year." That's an open competition though with Miles Shuler having graduated.

If you have any questions, let us know, and we might answer them in the comments.