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2019 Northwestern football position reviews: Superbacks

Not so super after all.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

With our postseason coverage starting a bit early this year, it’s time to give out some individual grades and a small look at what’s to come in the 2020 season. We’re going to evaluate each position group as we deconstruct what went wrong for the ‘Cats over the course of 2019. Next up are the superbacks.

Overall Grade: C

Prior to this season, the superback had been, for the longest time, an integral part of Northwestern’s offense under Mick McCall. From the likes of Dan Vitale and Garrett Dickerson, both of whom are in the middle of NFL stints, to Cam Green, one of Northwestern’s best ever at the position, the ‘Cats always seemed to lean somewhat heavily on their version of the tight end.

That simply wasn’t the case this year. Northwestern superbacks combined for just seven receptions on the season, none of which were touchdowns.

The reasons for a passing grade? For one, much like our wide receiver grades, a less than ideal passing game severely limited Northwestern superbacks from making an impact on the stat sheet. On top of that, when the superbacks were used to block, they were largely effective, boosting their grade a tiny bit.

Of course, they’re not quite off the hook. Let’s take a look at each of the superbacks who saw the field this year for the ‘Cats and break down their play.

Player Grades

Charlie Mangieri: C

Stats: five receptions, 21 yards, zero touchdowns

Mangieri was the main superback who saw the field for the ‘Cats in 2019, and didn’t make much of an impression following the retirement of Cam Green. Mangieri’s longest recorded reception went for eight yards, and saw the field in only five games this past season. Some of that, of course, can be chalked up to poor QB play and atrocious offensive output.

He is a capable blocker, but Mangieri’s hands are not where they need to be to start as a reliable pass-catcher within the Northwestern offense. Hopefully, next year, he will revert more to the role he was mainly used in during 2018: a primarily blocking-focused tight end. If not, he will need to show significant improvement in the passing game to become a consistent weapon.

Trey Pugh: Incomplete

Stats: two receptions, nine yards, zero touchdowns

Pugh saw the field in the just three games this year, recording his longest reception for eight yards against Minnesota. Like last year, he flashed promise during his time on the field, showcasing an ability to successfully run routes and attract defensive attention.

Unfortunately, he had a significant drop of what would have been an easy touchdown in the season’s final game, which slightly hurt his standing. Regardless, at full strength Pugh can clearly be a weapon in this offense. Let’s hope that promise comes to pass next season.

Trent Goens: Incomplete

Stats: zero receptions, zero yards, zero touchdowns

Goens, when he was playing offense, was used only as a backup and primarily as a blocker in his senior season. There just isn’t enough to go on here.