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Counting down Northwestern’s roster: 79 to 70

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 Holiday Bowl - Northwestern v Utah Photo by Tom Walko/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 down to the 70s now, meaning it’s time to get into the trenches!

79: Zachary Franks

OL | 6-foot-6, 290 pounds | Freshman | Baltimore, MD

Likely Role in 2019: Redshirt

Franks is one of the more promising prospects joining the offensive line this season. The three-star decommitted from Penn State last August to join the Wildcats – a rare situation for Northwestern to flip a player, especially one of his size. He was a dominant force at left tackle in high school and was ranked the 17th best player in Maryland by 247Sports. While it is rare for a true freshman lineman to see the field much, he could get some action even in a redshirt year given the transition year the line will face.

Career Stats: N/A

78: Luka Trifunovic

DL | 6-foot-4, 280 pounds | Freshman | Carlsbad, CA

Likely Role in 2019: Redshirt

While Trifunovic originally joined the team as a walk-on offensive lineman, he is now listed at defensive line. He will be joining one of the deepest groups on the team, one filled with key returners like Joe Gaziano, the Miller brothers, and Earnest Brown IV. Walking on to a group like that will be tough, but he will be able to learn a lot as a redshirt from the veterans.

Career Stats: N/A

77: Jesse Meyler

OL | 6-foot-4, 306 pounds | Junior | Toronto, Ontario

Likely Role in 2019: In two-deep, primarily as second-string right guard

Meyler is one of the few veteran players returning to the offensive line this year, but game experience is not exactly on his side. After playing in 3 games during his redshirt-freshman season, he only appeared in one game as a sophomore. He is currently expected to back up somebody at guard, whether that be Nik Urban, Sam Stovall, or potentially Sam Gerak, but with the line still in flux he could certainly earn a more prominent role.

Career Stats: 4 games

76: Ethan Wiederkehr

OL | 6-foot-5, 290 pounds | Sophomore | Wading River, NY

Likely Role in 2019: In two-deep, primarily as second-string right tackle

After redshirting his first year, Wiederkehr appeared in three games last season. He is currently looking to be the second-string right tackle behind either Gunnar Vogel, who has some experience but struggled in limited action in 2018, or Sam Stovall, who could also play guard. He received endless awards and recognition in high school as the top offensive guard in New York and certainly has the talent to fill the line’s gap this season.

Career Stats: 3 games

75: Connor Foster

OL | 6-foot-7, 300 pounds | Freshman | Milford, Ohio

Likely Role in 2019: Redshirt

Foster’s physicality is unmatched by anyone in the freshman class. The 6-foot-7, 300-pound Ohio-native spent most of his high school career playing tight end but will join the Wildcats’ offensive line this season. By his senior year in high school, he developed as a solid blocker and will be able to hold his own on the line. As a true freshman, his role will undoubtedly be limited, but his size could be a huge asset.

Career Stats: N/A

74: Payne He’bert

OL | 6-foot-4, 300 pounds | R-Freshman | Pearland, Texas

Likely Role in 2019: In two-deep, primarily as second-string left tackle

He’bert redshirted his first season after not appearing in any games. This year, he will likely fill in as the second-string left tackle behind Rashawn Slater, though he could compete on the other side of the line as well. The Texan could see some action, but will probably be more of a depth piece as he transitions towards a starting role.

Career Stats: N/A

73: Gunnar Vogel

OL | 6-foot-6, 300 pounds | Junior | Columbus, Ohio

Likely Role in 2019: Starting right tackle

Vogel will be stepping into a big role this season after a relatively inactive first few years on the team. With Slater moving to left tackle, Vogel is the most likely starter at right tackle after only playing five games so far in his career. His size definitely is an advantage, but he will have to step up and be a leader in a transitioning group of linemen.

Career Stats: 5 games

70: Rashawn Slater

OL | 6-foot-3, 305 pounds | Junior | Sugar Land, Texas

Likely Role in 2019: Starting left tackle

Slater is the most crucial player on the line this season. His position’s importance intensified with his switch to left tackle, putting him in charge of defending the winner of the quarterback competition’s blind side. He has plenty of experience and has proved himself by starting 26 straight games at right tackle including 14 last season, earning Third-Team All-Big Ten honors last year and being named the fourth-rated offensive tackle in the Big Ten by Pro Football Focus (tops in run-blocking). Slater is carrying the weight of the line and much of the offense on his shoulders this year, and expectations are understandably high.

Career Stats: 27 games