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Freshmen who can make an impact for Northwestern football in 2017

Earnest Brown, Trevor Kent, and Gunnar Vogel could be in the mix in 2017.

NCAA Football: Purdue at Northwestern Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern have plenty of veterans on this roster, but there are a few spots open for freshmen to contribute. Here’s an overview of who could find a spot on the roster.

Gunnar Vogel - Right tackle

Gunnar Vogel, like most Northwestern offensive lineman, redshirted in his freshman year. However, with 2016’s starting right tackle Eric Olson graduating, Vogel could find himself in a starting role as a redshirt freshman in 2017. Vogel hails from Westerville, Ohio and was a three-star recruit coming out of high school. In spring, he played a majority of snaps at right tackle. While he could still lose the job in spring to a more experienced lineman like Andrew Otterman, Vogel should still be in position to play a role next year.

Paddy Fisher - middle linebacker

Fisher is competing with redshirt sophomore Nathan Fox for the middle linebacker spot to replace Anthony Walker Jr. Fisher and Fox split time in spring ball, and it looks like an open competition between Fox and Fisher for the middle linebacker spot. It would be strange for Northwestern to throw a freshman into such a key role, but if Fisher can play, he’ll get the job.

Tommy Carnifax, Earnest Brown IV, and Trevor Kent - Defensive end

This is more of a need-based opening than a talent-based opening for Northwestern. With the potential loss of Xavier Washington due to a suspension and no one else to partner Joe Gaziano at defensive end, someone is going to have to get minutes. That could be a boon for these three freshmen (Carnifax is a early enrollee and redshirted his freshman year). Brown was Northwestern’s highest-rated recruit in the Class of 2017 and Kent was not far behind him. Carnifax has more experience and has looked good in practices. They may not keep up Washington’s missing production, but it’s very possible that one of these freshmen will see the field.

Jeremy Larkin - Running back

Warren Long has moved to linebacker, leaving Northwestern with Justin Jackson, John Moten IV and Auston Anderson in the backfield. We only saw a little bit of Moten and Anderson last year because Jackson, as per usual, was usually stretched to 25-30 carries per game. Thus, Larkin could find himself in a supporting role in the backfield at some point this season. Injuries and unforeseen events could happen. Larkin is also quite good.

Riley Lees - Wide Receiver

Lees was a crazy athlete in high school, playing quarterback, running back and wide receiver at Libertyville, Illinois. Lees was the No. 18 player in the state of Illinois during his recruitment and could be a Swiss Army knife for the Wildcats. With Northwestern lacking a proper kick returner and losing Austin Carr/Andrew Scanlan from the wide receiving group, Lees could make an impact at multiple places on the field.

Charlie Kuhbander and Drew Luckenbaugh - Kicker

This kicking competition has the best names, right? Let’s run through our contestants again! Kuhbander was a kicking phenom in high school. Luckenbaugh redshirted last season and is looking for glory. Mason Weissenhoffer, the redshirt sophomore, has been waiting in the wings and was a star kicker in high school. Who will win? Join us for the next season of Can I Kick It?: Wildcat Edition.