Just like last season, an unheralded Northwestern slot receiver is entering his senior season with something to prove and an offense that needs him to produce. In 2016, Austin Carr took full advantage of his final season and produced one of the greatest seasons a Northwestern has even seen. This year, Macan Wilson will have the exact same opportunity. While Carr was unstoppable, someone will need to fill his shoes after he graduated and signed with the Patriots. His immediate successor in the slot could be that guy.
Sure, there has been a lot of hype surrounding Flynn Nagel, who was the No. 2 receiver by yardage last season and has shown loads of talent. Nagel was really good, but there’s plenty of room in Clayton Thorson’s offense for two productive wide receivers. While Nagel is versatile enough to play out wide and in the slot, Wilson’s slot receiver skillset is also perfect fit for Clayton Thorson’s tendencies.
We all know Thorson loved throwing to Austin Carr out of the slot last season. It seemed like on every third down, Thorson was checking downfield to see if No. 80 was open. Even if he wasn’t open, Thorson often threw the ball in his direction anyway, and Austin Carr usually made a play on the ball anyway, because he was 2016 Austin Carr.
Wilson was no slouch himself last season. As second fiddle, Wilson still caught 22 passes for 306 yards last season, an average of 13.9 yards per catch. His one touchdown against Indiana was a perfect display of his skills.
Wilson is speedy and has good hands. He looks even faster than Carr, which is saying something. If he can match 70 percent of the production that Carr caught last year, that would be a huge boost to Northwestern’s offense. Wilson has not seen too much playing time at Northwestern, but then again, neither did Carr before his breakout 2016.
He’s not the best blocker, and he’s still slightly undersized at six feet, but that shouldn’t matter with how Northwestern should utilize his skills. Wilson will be running all the safety blanket slot routes that McCall can devise. It would also be very helpful if he can also develop into a real red zone target like Carr did in 2016.
After a solid spring practice, he looked like a totally different player than when he arrived on the team.
“It’s just so fun for me to watch...You grow up in this whole process of college. For Mac that’s what I’ve seen,” Pat Fitzgerald said in spring practice. “Really, really proud of him, I expect big things from him this year,”
If Fitzgerald’s prediction for Wilson comes to fruition, Northwestern’s passing offense could be deadly with an improved Thorson and Nagel. Throw in Bennett Skowronek and Garrett Dickerson, and suddenly Northwestern’s offense could be a consistent strong suit of the team for the first time in years.