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5 true first-years to keep an eye out for in 2019

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Who could have a Bowser-like breakout?

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: JAN 03 Under Armour All-America Game Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the season fast approaching, we here at Inside NU continue to take a closer look at the 2019 Wildcats.

Today, we’ll take a look at some of the key guys joining this NU team for their first year in Evanston. Pat Fitzgerald’s 2019 recruiting class doesn’t jump off the page with its 52nd national ranking (12th in the Big Ten), but there are a plenty of names within the group that could see time or at the very least provide some competition throughout the depth chart.

Genson Hooper-Price (WR)

The 6-foot-5 track star who turned down Notre Dame to play for the ‘Cats will be unlike any body Northwestern has had on the outside in a while. His size and speed instantly makes him an enticing deep-ball threat, but having guys like Bennett Skowronek and Kyric McGowan in front of him might make playing time difficult to come by in his freshman year. A redshirt is still very much a possibility, but Mick McCall would be a fool to not use him and give him a chance to begin his development in the four games allowed to maintain the redshirt. The fact that we’ll likely get at least two full seasons of Hunter Johnson and Genson Hooper-Price is mouthwatering.

Michael Jansey Jr. (LB)

The spring early enrollee has garnered his fair share of offseason hype heading into the 2019 season, which should generate excitement and hope that he’ll see the field despite what promises to be a deep NU linebacking crew. That attention primarily started in January, when Jansey made arguably the play of the game in the annual Under Armour All-America Game for some of the country’s top high school players.

Jason Gold Jr. (DL)

The 270-pound defensive lineman may have a chance to see more playing time compared to guys like GHP and Jansey simply because of the position group he’s entering. Although Northwestern’s defensive line will have plenty of big bodies to choose from in 2019, many are still unproven, thus opening the door for Gold to see more significant action if he impresses early. On top of that, bigger linemen like Joe Gaziano and even Earnest Brown may have to be pushed inside at times to account for weak defensive tackle play, which will give guys like Gold the chance to see more pass rushing opportunities on the outside.

Bryce Kirtz (WR)

Hooper-Price may be the bigger of the two highly touted freshman wideouts, but Kirtz appears to be just as much of a raw talent based on the high school highlight reels. The Indiana native and Hunter Johnson’s former teammate will likely start out in the slot given his elite quickness and smaller frame at 6-feet, 180 pounds. His size and skillset is reminiscent of a guy like Flynn Nagel, and we can only hope that 2019 is the first step in Kirtz becoming the kind of sure hands, go-to receiver that Nagel proved to be throughout his time in purple.

Rod Heard (DB)

Like Gold, Heard hails from a position group that remains one of the Wildcats’ biggest uncertainties heading into this season. The early enrollee will start the season behind experienced guys like Trae Williams and Greg Newsome, but Heard is just one or two injuries away from being thrust into the two-deep at cornerback and getting his shot. If this Northwestern secondary continues its unfortunate recent trend of failing to stay healthy, the former Michigan All-State cornerback could see plenty of action in 2019.