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Counting down Northwestern’s roster: 39 to 30

A whole lot of linebackers in this group.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Northwestern Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve gone through Northwestern’s most important players, positional previews, and opponent breakdowns. Now, as the season creeps closer, we’re counting down the roster, 99 to 1. We’ll provide biographical information, stats, and an outlook for each player’s role headed into 2018.

We trek on to the 30s, which features a whole lot of linebackers, including Nate Hall, perhaps Northwestern’s best defender.

38 Drew Luckenbaugh

K/P | 6-foot-1, 205 pounds | Sophomore | Spring Grove, Pa.

Likely Role in 2018: Backup kicker

Barring an injury, Luckenbaugh won’t see the field in 2018, as kicker Charlie Kuhbander returns after an excellent freshman season. Luckenbaugh is majoring in computer science, which is a challenging major for any Northwestern student, let alone a student who devoted dozens of hours a week to football.

Career Stats: None

37 Donovan Sermons

DB | 5-foot-11, 205 pounds | Redshirt freshman | Pomona, Calif.

Likely Role in 2018: Scout team/emergency defensive back

Sermons came to Northwestern as a preferred walk-on and redshirted his freshman season. He lined up on both sides of the ball in high school but ended up at defensive back at Northwestern. His father, Rodney, played running back at USC, defeating Northwestern in the 1996 Rose Bowl.

Career Stats: None

37 Cody Gronewold

P | 6-foot-1, 180 pounds | Redshirt freshman | Lincoln, Neb.

Likely Role in 2018: Backup punter

Gronewold sits behind Jake Collins and Daniel Kubiuk at punter, so he’ll only see the field if things get really weird. A former three-sport athlete in high school, Gronewold has an impressive academic resume — he’s studying biological sciences, ranked third in his high school graduating class, and captained the debate team.

Career Stats: None

36 Jesse Brown

RB | 5-foot-11, 200 pounds | Sophomore | Lilburn, Ga.

Likely Role in 2018: Will see snaps as third-string running back and on special teams

Brown averaged 7.1 yards per carry in garbage time, scoring against Bowling Green and Illinois. He’s coming back from an injury that sidelined him for the spring, so he could be looking up at Jeremy Larkin, John Moten IV, and Isaiah Bowser on the depth chart at running back by the time he returns. Still, Brown should see the field on kickoffs and punts, where he was a key cog last season.

Career Stats: Nine rushes, 64 yards, two touchdowns, four tackles on special teams

35 Erik Mueller

LB | 6-foot-2, 226 pounds | Sophomore | Wheaton, Ill.

Likely Role in 2018: Reserve linebacker and special teams

Mueller appeared in five games during his true freshman season, getting run on special teams and at linebacker. He’s buried on the depth chart at linebacker, but the Wheaton native might see some snaps on special teams.

Career Stats: Five games, two tackles

34 Chee Anyanwu

LB | 6-foot-2, 211 pounds | Redshirt freshman | Buford, Ga.

Likely Role in 2018: Scout team/reserve linebacker

Anyanwu redshirted in 2017 and will look to crack the linebacker rotation this year. The Georgia native played for the same high school as Steven Reese, and Anyanwu went to the state title game in four consecutive seasons.

Career Stats: None

33 Grayson Mann

LB | 6-foot, 200 pounds | Freshman | Fort Worth, Texas

Likely Role in 2018: Scout team/redshirt

One of three 2018 linebacker recruits, Mann projects as a quick outside linebacker who can bring pressure. This season, however, the Texas native will probably redshirt.

Career Stats: None

32 Nate Hall

LB | 6-foot-2, 231 pounds | Senior | Toledo, Ohio

Likely Role in 2018: Starter at SAM linebacker

After incremental production in 2015 and 2016, Hall broke out in a big way last year. He earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honors after finishing second in the Big Ten with 16.5 tackles for loss. He also proved to be disruptive in the pass game, knocking away eight passes and intercepting two more. Hall missed the Music City Bowl after tearing his ACL during a December practice. His goal is to play Aug. 30, but the senior is still partially limited. One of Northwestern’s best disruptors on defense, Hall’s contributions (or lack thereof) will have an important bearing on the season.

Career Stats: 24 starts, 208 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, 12 passes defensed, five sacks, two interceptions

31 Jaylen Rivers

LB | 6-foot-2, 211 pounds | Freshman | Decatur, Ga.

Likely Role in 2018: Scout team/reserve linebacker

Another 2018 linebacker recruit, Rivers played receiver in high school as well. He’s got great athleticism and reportedly runs a 4.66 40-yard dash. That type of athleticism could earn Rivers some playing time early on, especially with the new redshirt rule, but Northwestern has a lot of depth at the position.

Career Stats: None