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Northwestern football season in review: Grading the superbacks

Cam Green picked up right where Garrett Dickerson left off.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we’ve had some time to reflect after Northwestern wrapped up its 2018 season with a Holiday Bowl victory, it’s time to go back and break down the performance of each position group during the nine-win campaign. We’ll give out some individual grades and also provide an early preview into what that unit will look like in 2019. Next up are the superbacks, led by Cam Green.

Overall grade: B+

Heading into the 2018 season, Northwestern’s primary goal at the superback position was to replace the production of Garrett Dickerson, who tallied 887 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in his 49-game Wildcat career.

In terms of raw numbers, Northwestern accomplished that. Cameron Green, Dickerson’s replacement, finished with 57 catches for 483 yards and four touchdowns, earning Big Ten Honorable Mention honors. Blocking is a bit harder to decipher, and Green is no Dickerson as a run blocker, but it at least appeared NU’s superbacks did their job adequately.

Behind Green, Trey Pugh may have been a slight disappointment in his sophomore season, but Trey Klock more than made up for it with his 20-yard touchdown catch in the Holiday Bowl.

Player grades:

Cam Green: A-

Stats: 57 catches for 483 yards, four touchdowns

In his first year as a starter, Green was one of Clayton Thorson’s favorite targets, finishing first on the team in touchdown catches, second in receptions, and third in receiving yards. Green wasn’t one of Northwestern’s downfield threats, but he was money in the short passing game. The Big Ten Honorable mention honoree had huge games against Akron and Michigan State, logging a combined 201 yards and three scores in those two matchups.

Green’s production slowed towards the end of the year, but the junior proved he could fill the shoes of Garrett Dickerson, at least as a pass-catcher. In 2019, Green figures to be a big part of NU’s offense once again.

Trey Pugh: B-

Stats: Three catches for 29 yards in nine games

A highly-regard recruit, Pugh was an early enrollee in 2017 and played in 11 games as a true freshman. We pegged Pugh as somewhat of a breakout candidate this year as NU’s back-up superback. Cam Green ended up getting the lion’s share of the snaps at superback, so we didn’t see Pugh as much as expected. Still, the sophomore’s performance was often uneven, at least in the passing game, where he had some trouble with dropped passes and injuries early in the season. The Ohioan had three catches in nine games and saw plenty of action as a blocker inside the red zone.

James Prather: B

Stats: Three catches for 32 yards in 13 games

At 6-foot-4 and 256 pounds, Prather’s primary job was to block. Without reviewing every snap Prather played in, it’s a bit hard to evaluate his performance. He played in 13 games with three total catches. NU loses its two biggest superbacks in Prather and Trey Klock, and the Wildcats will need to find someone else to fill the role of “huge eligible receiver who can maul defensive lineman and linebackers at the line of scrimmage.”

Trey Klock: A+

Stats: One catch for 20 yards, one touchdown

A Georgia Tech transfer, Klock put on for big fellas everywhere with his 20-yard touchdown reception in the Holiday Bowl. It was awesome. Klock appeared in 12 games in 2018, making his first career catch during his final game in a Wildcat uniform. Talk about riding off into the sunset.

Looking ahead to 2019:

NU is on solid ground at the position headed into 2019. Green is Sharpied in as NU’s starter at superback. He’ll be counted on as one of NU’s top pass-catchers in 2019. Pugh figures to reprise his role as NU’s backup superback and one of the bodies the Wildcats rely on in short-yardage and goalline situations. Junior Eric Eshoo (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) and sophomore Charlie Mangieri (6-foot-4, 233 pounds) both saw limited action in 2018 and should slot in as slightly smaller versions of James Prather.