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’re onto the final section of the series, bringing you from No. 9 to Chad Hanaoka at No. 1.
9 Roderick Campbell
DB | 6-foot, 187 pounds | Junior | St. Louis, Mo.
Likely Role in 2018: Nickel corner/in the two-deep at cornerback
Campbell missed all of last season after suffering a shoulder injury before the season started, yet is still listed as a junior on the roster. He played in nine games as a true freshman, mostly on special teams and in a reserve role. He has good size for a corner, and should see the field a fair amount this season, assuming he can stay healthy. Brian Bullock has taken reps at safety this preseason, which means Campbell should see snaps against formations with four and five receivers split wide. Northwestern had depth issues at cornerback all of last season, so his return to the lineup will be a nice addition.
Career Stats: Two career tackles, one career pass defensed
8 Kyric McGowan
WR | 5-foot-10, 198 pounds | Sophomore | Dalton, Ga.
Likely Role in 2018: Competing to crack the two-deep at receiver
McGowan played in 11 games last season, but mostly saw action early in the season. A former track runner in high school, McGowan is more of a deep-ball receiver, which Northwestern could definitely use. But, he’s probably at least a season away from becoming a stalwart at receiver because of how many established names there are in the receiver room. McGowan should play some, but not as much as others.
Career Stats: Five receptions, 51 yards
7 Jason Whittaker
QB | 6-foot-5, 208 pounds | True freshman | Rockford, Mich.
Likely Role in 2018: Redshirt
Whittaker has the prototypical size for a pocket passing quarterback at 6-foot-5, and he might be the most talented eligible quarterback not named Clayton Thorson (so excluding Hunter Johnson). But, Whittaker probably isn’t better than TJ Green, Aidan Smith or Andrew Marty right now, given that he has only been with the team since the summer. He’ll be a much bigger factor in the QB room going forward.
Career Stats: None
7 Travis Whillock
DB | 6-foot-1, 199 pounds | Sophomore | Katy, Texas.
Likely Role in 2018: In the two-deep at safety, competing to crack the lineup on passing downs
Other than Campbell, Whillock might be the biggest wildcard in the secondary, in large part because he hasn’t taken a snap for Northwestern. He has good size and speed, and could become a real playmaker for Northwestern in the secondary — people within the program have raved about Whillock in the offseason. It seems like JR Pace and Jared McGee will start at safety, but it wouldn’t be that surprising if Whillock starts games this season.
Career Stats: None
6 Jelani Roberts
WR | 5-foot-8, 173 pounds | Senior | Owings Mills, Md.
Likely Role in 2018: Reserve wide receiver/trick play threat
Roberts won’t get regular reps as a receiver because of durability concerns at his size, but should get opportunities more in the vein of an offensive weapon. He has blistering speed, which allows him to be effective on end-arounds and other running plays designed to get him out in space. He probably won’t be a huge part of the weekly gameplan, but could figure in on a few plays per game.
Career Stats: 130 yards rushing, 48 yards receiving, two rushing touchdowns,
5 Charlie Fessler
WR | 6-foot-3, 217 pounds | Junior | Erie, Pa.
Likely Role in 2018: Reserve receiver
Fessler hasn’t played a ton so far in his NU career, and there are a lot of names ahead of him on the depth chart. As a big-bodied target, he has value in the red zone, and came up with a nice play in the bowl game last season when Bennett Skowronek went out with an injury.
Career Stats: Four receptions, 73 yards
4 Solomon Vault
WR | 5-foot-10, 196 pounds | Senior | Gaithersburg, Md.
Likely Role in 2018: Backup Z-receiver/kickoff returner
Vault should be the fourth or fifth receiver if healthy, working as a deep threat. He has game-breaking speed, and returns as one of the best kickoff returners in the country. His route running, especially after a season off, will be important in determining how much success he has in his final year. NU may try to get Vault — a former running back — involved in the offense in creative ways.
Career Stats: 266 rushing yards (3.1 YPC), two rushing touchdowns, 32 receptions, 290 receiving yards, two receiving touchdowns
3 Trae Williams
DB | 6-foot, 209 Junior | Junior | The Plains, Ohio
Likely Role in 2018: Starter at cornerback
After starting last season banged up, Williams went on to start five games at cornerback last season. Like the rest of the secondary, Williams improved as the season went on, but he did occasionally get beat on deep passes. He figures to start opposite Montre Hartage at corner, and will play an important role in determining how good the secondary is this season.
Career Stats: 58 tackles, two tackles for loss, two interceptions, 12 passes defensed
2 Flynn Nagel
WR | 5-foot-11, 195 pounds | Senior | Lemont, Ill.
Likely Role in 2018: Starter at Y-receiver
Nagel has started 24 games in the last two seasons and handled a fair amount of the punt return duties. While he probably won’t return a ton of punts this season in the interest of staying healthy, Nagel will be a major part of the passing game. A quick, sharp route runner, Nagel is good at finding pockets of space and working as a possession receiver. He’s improved on his production every season in Evanston, though only slightly last season. Nagel and Bennett Skowronek should be the leaders on the outside for Northwestern’s offense this season.
Career Stats: 92 receptions 983 yards, four touchdowns
1 Chad Hanaoka
RB | 5-foot-6, 180 pounds | Senior | Honolulu, Hawaii.
Likely Role in 2018: Reserve running back
Voted to wear the honored No. 1, Hanaoka has an inspiring story. Hanaoka started off as an intern for the football team, before eventually working his way onto the team. He won’t play much on the field, but he’ll make his presence felt off it. When he gets a carry this season, we’ll go crazy.
Career Stats: Seven yards rushing