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Northwestern releases depth chart for Week 1 vs. Nevada

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Five more days.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Media Days Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The college football season is finally upon us, and Northwestern has released its Week 1 depth chart for Saturday’s matchup against Nevada.

After much speculation throughout the summer, we have early answers to questions that have persisted throughout training camp. Macan Wilson will start alongside Flynn Nagel and Ben Skowronek, with Oregon graduate transfer Jalen Brown, Charlie Fessler and Riley Lees on the second team. The Week 1 depth chart also sheds some light on a murky offensive line situation. We’ve seen Rashawn Slater and Blake Hance taking reps with the first team, but it’s going to be redshirt sophomore Jared Thomas protecting Thorson’s blindside. Hance will start, however, at left guard. The offensive line will be (left-to-right): Thomas, Hance, Brad North, Tommy Doles and Gunnar Vogel. Fitz has said that the best five offensive linemen would start and that has held true.

On the other side of the ball, defensive line has never been a mystery. Northwestern is deep even with the absence of Xavier Washington and will feature Joe Gaziano and redshirt junior Fred Wyatt at the ends with Tyler Lancaster and Jordan Thompson anchoring the inside. Wyatt is a bit of a surprise here, making the transition from interior lineman to the outside, à la CJ Robbins. Mark Gooden figures to factor as an edge rusher in passing situations with Trent Goens, and others, providing depth.

Not much of a surprise at linebacker either with Nate Hall, Paddy Fisher and Brett Walsh getting the first team nods. In practice, Fisher had been seeing most of the first team MIKE reps over Nathan Fox, but both will see the field a lot. Warren Long seems to have made the transition to linebacker smoothly, he’ll play on Saturday. There isn’t a whole lot of depth here and it’s imperative that this group stays healthy.

The secondary is deep despite the absence of Trae Williams, who is inching closer to a return. Keith Watkins and Montre Hartage will be backed up by Brian Bullock and Marcus McShepard while Godwin Igwebuike and Kyle Queiro are the most formidable duo of safeties in the conference.

Charlie Kuhbander won the kicking job and that’s a good thing. He’s looked far and away the most talented kicker in practice. Hunter Niswander retains his punter and holder job while graduate transfer Luke Otto will handle kickoff duties where he excelled at Western Illinois. Notably, redshirt freshman Tyler Gillikin beat out Trevor Stroebel for the long snapper job. Once again, Flynn Nagel will handle punt return duties and Jelani Roberts will be back on kick returns with the task of replacing the injured Solomon Vault.

A small handful of players were left off the depth chart and will be sidelined on Sept. 2 due to injury. We will have the Week 1 injury report on Thursday.

Be on the lookout for plenty of redshirts to be burned on Saturday. Pat Fitzgerald praised his freshmen class last week saying “this group came in ready to compete in the summer.” Of offensive players, watch out for wide receivers Jace James and Kyric McGowan, superback Trey Pugh, and offensive lineman Rashawn Slater to contribute immediately. On the defensive side, keep an eye on linemen Earnest Brown IV, Sam Miller, and Joe Spivak as well as linebacker Blake Gallagher and safety JR Pace. Slater, Miller and Gallagher all cracked the two-deep depth chart while Charlie Kuhbander, of course, will burn his shirt on Northwestern’s very first score of the season.