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2019 Northwestern football position reviews: Linebackers

It was a frustrating season for the leaders of NU’s defense.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-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 this year.

It’s time to look at a linebacker group that had high expectations in 2019, but didn’t quite deliver upon them.

Overall Grade: B-

There’s no doubt that fans had a lot of faith in this group to be one of the anchors of the defense. With plenty of experience and talent, the linebackers had a chance to become a strong spot for the squad. Ultimately, that didn’t come to fruition, and it held the defense back, if only slightly.

Player Grades:

Chris Bergin: B+

Stats: 86 tackles, six tackles for loss

The walk-on had a solid season, establishing himself as a reliable player. He looked more than competent aside Paddy Fisher and Blake Gallagher, showing that he belonged as a starting Big Ten linebacker. The 5-foot-11, 215 pound Bergin was a ton of fun to watch as he consistently exceeded expectations. He may not have had Fisher’s workload, but he rarely if ever missed a tackle or blew an assignment, remaining consistent for the entirety of the season.

Paddy Fisher: B

Stats: 88 tackles, six tackles for loss, one forced fumble

In a season full of disappointments for the ‘Cats, Fisher, despite a thoroughly competent season, was arguably one of the larger ones, at least on the defensive side. The junior was projected to be a first round pick going into the 2019 campaign, but had his share of rough performances, finishing seventh in the Big Ten in tackles and 94th in the country.

His relatively weak season saw him falling out of the first round in mock drafts, and didn’t help Northwestern’s defense. Fisher just didn’t look the same as the star fans saw over the past two years, and while some of that comes from increased focus from offenses, his team needed him to step up a bit more than he did.

Blake Gallagher: B-

Stats: 88 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss

Gallagher’s stats don’t tell the full story. 88 tackles, a pass defended and three interceptions appears at first glance to represent a strong season for the junior from Raynham, Mass. But Gallagher, like the rest of NU’s defense, missed plenty of tackles throughout the season, including some notable ones against Stanford and UNLV.

If he wants to get his name thrown in the draft conversation next year the outside linebacker will have to shore up his open field tackling in the offseason while stepping up as a leader on the defensive side of the ball.

Erik Mueller: Incomplete

Stats: Seven tackles, 0.5 TFLs

The junior played against Illinois, Umass, Indiana, Iowa and MSU, recording seven tackles in five games. With that said, he wasn’t on the field for a majority of snaps in any of those contests. Averaging over a tackle per game in limited playing time is nothing to scoff at, however.

Bryce Gallagher: Incomplete

Blake Gallagher’s little brother didn’t get enough playing time to earn a fair judgement. Gallagher played three games and recorded three tackles, ultimately ending up redshirting. He didn’t make any glaring mistakes in his three games, and will see more playing time in the future.

Grayson Mann: Incomplete

The freshman appeared against MSU, Umass and Wisconsin, recording one tackle. Mann didn’t get much of an opportunity to show what he’s capable of, but, like Gallagher, will get more playing time in the future.

Peter McIntyre: Incomplete

The sophomore had two tackles in two games against UMass and Nebraska.

Jaylen Rivers: Incomplete

The redshirt freshman failed to record a stat in 7 games of largely special teams-based action. It’ll be interesting to see where Rivers’ future leads him.