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2018 Northwestern football position previews: Superbacks

With Garrett Dickerson gone, Cam Green should see an increased role.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Northwestern Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

For the second part of our 2018 Summer Guide, we move onto position previews. For each position, we’ll outline personnel, key players, and what the big question facing the unit is before finishing up with our projected depth chart for each position.

Up now: the superbacks.

Overview:

Returning starters: None

Expected starter: Cameron Green

Key losses: Garrett Dickerson (887 career receiving yards, 87 career receptions, nine career touchdowns)

Other returners: Trey Pugh (So.), James Prather (Sr.), Alex Oelsner (R-Fr.), Cody Link (So.), Eric Eshoo (So.)

Newcomers: Brian Kaiser (Fr.), Charlie Mangieri (Fr.)

Exit Garrett Dickerson, a mauling blocker and reliable pass-catcher, and enter Cam Green, a converted wide receiver with an explosiveness and shiftiness to his game. Dickerson is undeniably a big loss — he played an integral role as a blocker and found open pockets in the middle of field time after time on third and fourth downs. Green has made some splashes as a receiver, but he’ll have to adjust to an increased role by refining his blocking and proving he can win in the passing game on a consistent basis. Trey Pugh didn’t make much of an impact last season, but he might be the most talented and complete superback on the team. This is one of the most wide-open position groups on the team.

Key player:

Cam Green

I was tempted to go with Pugh here (more on him in a bit), but Green is the frontrunner to start and produce from the get-go. He’s quick and agile for a superback, which should translate to some explosive plays up the seam. Most linebackers can’t run with him, which poses matchup issues for opponents.

The question with Green will be blocking, which is critical for the superback’s in Northwestern’s system. If Green can’t prove his blocking chops, teams will know he’s only in the game to catch passes. Then Northwestern’s offense becomes predictable, Clayton Thorson has to deal with obvious passing downs...you get the picture.

Green doesn’t need to be an elite receiver, but he’ll need to at least make up for a decent chunk of Garrett Dickerson’s production. Having a security blanket in the middle of the field is important, and Green figures to be that guy next season.

Big question:

Who steps up?

This question includes Green, but it’s more general — will Northwestern have a superback (or combination of them) that matches Garrett Dickerson’s value? Dickerson was valuable because he was versatile and could play a bunch of different roles, but, if Green and Trey Pugh could combine to replace what he did (and hopefully more), Northwestern will be fine.

Trey Pugh is an interesting player. He came in as an early-enrollee, and didn’t contribute much last year. He was a highly-touted recruit coming into Northwestern, and he has the most prototypical build of all the superbacks at 6-foot-4 and 236 pounds. He should certainly see the field if healthy if 2018, and could be a potential breakout candidate on offense. He profiles more similarly to Dickerson than Green does, he could be a weapon in the red zone and on third downs.

James Prather made some plays last season, and should see some snaps again.

SB depth

First string Second string Third string Fourth string
First string Second string Third string Fourth string
Cam Green Trey Pugh James Prather Eric Eshoo