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Counting down Northwestern’s roster: 89 to 80

There is a Wildcat named Preston Bacon!

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 29 Michigan at Northwestern Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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 second section of the series, bringing you from No. 89 to No. 80: the pass-catchers!

89 Charlie Mangieri

SB | 6-foot-4, 252 pounds | Sophomore | Peoria, Illinois.

Likely Role in 2019: Competing for starting superback position

Outside of Isaiah Bowser, Mangieri was one of the only true first years to see significant time on offense in 2018. The superback quietly appeared in 13-of-14 games, though he didn’t have a reception to show for it. In the spring, Mick McCall mentioned Mangieri’s name as one of the favorites to be the featured superback, but it’s important to note Trey Pugh was injured at that time. Pugh’s health will likely dictate whether Mangieri slides into the featured role or remains primarily a blocker.

Career Stats: 13 games played

89 Preston Bacon

WR | 6-foot-2, 195 pounds | True freshman | Oak Hill, Va.

Likely Role in 2019: Redshirt

Bacon! Given Northwestern’s solid depth at wide receiver this year, it’s hard to envision the walk-on seeing the field this year, but regardless, what an addition to the roster from a ‘cool name’ standpoint. Looking forward to seeing the name Bacon on the sidelines and hopefully on the field one day!

Career Stats: None

88 Bennett Skowronek

WR | 6-foot-4, 215 pounds | Senior| Fort Wayne, Ind.

Likely Role in 2019: Starting X-wide receiver

With Flynn Nagel and Cameron Green gone, Skowronek is far and away Northwestern’s most experienced and proven returning pass catcher. He is the closest thing the Wildcats have to a deep-ball threat and for the past few seasons has only been the guy capable of winning “jump balls” on a team that has severely struggled to complete long passes. Oh, and don’t forget, he also gave NU the most memorable single moment of an incredible 2018 season with this catch.

Career Stats: 98 catches/1276 yards/8 TDs

87 Thomas Gordon

SB | 6-foot-5, 231 pounds | True freshman | Houston

Likely Role in 2019: Redshirt or competing for time at superback

The top-20 tight end coming out of high school has the size and agility to be Northwestern’s next impressive all-around superback, but a redshirt seems likely unless the options above him fail to stay healthy. Gordon will likely see some action in 2019 but, if last year’s treatment of similar first years is an indication, will likely be limited to four games or less in order to maintain his redshirt eligibility.

Career Stats: None

86 Cody Link

SB | 6-foot-3, 250 pounds | Redshirt Junior | Madison, Wisc.

Likely Role in 2018: Reserve superback

The high school standout at linebacker has seen action in just one game since arriving in 2016. With Trent Goens and Tommy Carnifax switching to superback and the arrival of Gordon, Link isn’t likely to see much time this year except maybe in a few running situations as a lead blocker out of the backfield.

Career Stats: One game

86 Wayne Dennis Jr.

WR | 6-foot-3, 190 pounds | True freshman | Tampa

Likely Role in 2019: Redshirt

The Florida native hasn’t headlined Northwestern’s young receiving corps given he’s coming into the program with Genson Hooper-Price and Bryce Kirtz, but he’s still a valuable addition to the unit, providing some serious height at 6-foot-3. Like Bacon, it’ll be tough for him to see playing time in 2019 given the plethora of options above him at WR.

Career Stats: None

85 Jack Kennedy

WR | 6-foot-0, 188 pounds | True freshman | Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Likely Role in 2018: Redshirt

The preferred walk-on comes to Evanston following in the footsteps of uncle Tim Kennedy, who played a season at Northwestern in 1990 before retiring due to injury. The high school track star chose NU over a handful of Ivy League programs.

Career Stats: None

83 Will Lansbury

WR | 6-foot-2, 204 pounds | Redshirt sophomore | Pebble Beach, Calif.

Likely Role in 2010: Scout-team

Like many of his wide receiver comrades here in the 80s, Lansbury faces an uphill battle when it comes to earning playing time out wide among this stacked group. He appeared in one game last season and shouldn’t see much more action than that in 2019.

Career Stats: One game

83 Trent Goens

SB/DT | 6-foot-3, 250 pounds | Senior | Chino Hills, Calif.

Likely Role in 2019: Competing for time at superback and defensive line

Goens is shaping up to be a two-way guy in his final season with Northwestern. The former interior defensive lineman made the switch to superback this spring, but has admitted some expected growing pains throughout his transition from defense to offense. With the Wildcats shaping up to be thin at both superback and defensive tackle, Goens will likely see some time with both units.

Career Stats: 36 tackles/12 TFL/6.5 Sacks/1 INT

82 Alex Oelsner

SB | 6-foot-4, 247 pounds | Redshirt sophomore | Nitwot, Colorado.

Likely Role in 2019: Reserve superback

Guys like Trent Goens wouldn’t have switched to superback if guys like Oelsner planned on seeing the field a lot in 2019. You never know what injuries could open up, but it’s difficult to foresee much playing time for him.

Career Stats: None

82 Braeden Heald

WR | 5-foot-11, 191 pounds | Redshirt freshman | Easthampton, Mass.

Likely Role in 2019: Reserve WR/special teams

The short speedster and 2018 walk-on/training camp star’s best chances of contributing will likely be on special teams or as a reserve slot receiver.

Career Stats: None

81 Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman

WR | 6-foot-2, 203 pounds | Junior | Minneapolis

Likely Role in 2019: In the two-deep at WR

Before we talk about what RCB can do on the field, you should first check out what he’s meant to this NU team outside of football. RCB feels like a guy that could become a safety blanket amongst Northwestern wide receivers in a way that Nagel and Green were for Clayton Thorson in past seasons. He also flashed some big play capability in last year’s Holiday Bowl.

Career Stats: 24 catches/272 yards/1 touchdown

80 Trey Pugh

WR | 6-foot-4, 250 pounds | Junior | Plain City, Ohio

Likely Role in 2019: In the two-deep at superback

Pugh cracked our Top 10 most important player rankings as the team’s probable starting superback in 2019. The 6-foot-4 junior has the perfect athletic frame to replace Cam Green as a safety blanket/red zone target, but has dealt with nagging injuries throughout his first two years with the ‘Cats. If he stays healthy, he’ll be the favorite at superback, but he’ll have plenty of guys like Trent Goens and Charlie Mangieri vying to take his spot and playing time.

Career Stats: 3 catches/29 yards