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Counting down Northwestern’s roster: 59 to 50

We have more big men and a standout linebacker in this crew.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 24 Illinois at Northwestern Photo by Patrick Gorski/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 move to the 50s, where we find some young linemen with high upside as well as one of this team’s most underrated defensive stars.

57: Cam Kolwich

OL | 6-foot-5, 300 pounds | Junior | Beverly Hills, Michigan

Likely Role in 2019: Competing to get in tackle two-deep

Kolwich hasn’t featured in any games up to this point in his Northwestern career, but as a junior he has a legitimate chance to serve as a backup on either side of the line. He’ll likely be competing with Payne He’Bert and Ethan Wiederkehr for the spots, but Kolwich can prove at camp that his leadership and experience with the program is deserving of that role.

Career Stats: N/A

56: Sam Stovall

OL | 6-foot-4, 300 pounds | R-Freshman | Chattanooga, Tennessee

Likely Role in 2019: Starting guard

After redshirting his first year on campus, Stovall appears primed to slot in to a starting guard position. Departures from the program for Tommy Doles and Blake Hance create openings in both guard spots, and the redshirt freshman will have a big responsibility this year. No matter who he’s protecting, he’ll be one of three new starting linemen in a unit with an immense amount of pressure.

Career Stats: N/A

55: Mark Gooden

DE | 6-foot-1, 264 pounds | Junior | Reynoldsburg, Ohio

Likely Role in 2019: Competing for rotational defensive end snaps

Gooden didn’t feature in his second year on campus, and isn’t in a great spot to crack into the end rotation. There’s solid depth in that unit for NU but Gooden could see some reps if injuries hurt the group or if he makes a solid improvement. It would be surprising if he found consistent playing time this year, but you can never count anyone out with Fitz.

Career Stats: 5 games, 5 tackles

54: Conrad Rowley

OL | 6-foot-3, 300 pounds | Freshman | Independence, Missouri

Likely Role in 2019: Redshirt

The Missouri native enters Northwestern as a three-star with offers from Iowa State, Kansas and Rice. He has nice size for the position and could develop into a solid player in Evanston, but it’s unlikely that he features in enough games this year to burn his redshirt. Rowley may suit up in a number of games, but unless there are drastic injury problems at the position, will almost certainly redshirt the season.

Career Stats: N/A

53 Eku Leota

DL | 6-foot-4, 255 lbs. | R-Freshman | Asheville, North Carolina

Likely role in 2019: Competing to get in the DL two-deep

With solid size and versatility, Leota could be in line to make some noise this year. He scratched the surface of playing time last year, but after a full season of practice and another camp under his belt, he could very well find some opportunities on the line this year.

Career Stats: N/A

52 Sam Gerak

OL | 6-foot-3, 291 lbs. | Sophomore | Avon, Ohio

Likely role in 2019: Backup guard

Gerak didn’t see any action last year, but much like other offensive linemen, the departure of three starters should see a boosted role for the sophomore. While not impossible, Gerak faces an uphill battle to get the starting nod over Stovall or Nik Urban, but he will likely find a spot as a rotational backup offensive line. If anyone on the line gets hurt, especially guards, Gerak should hear his name called.

Career Stats: 2 games played

51 Blake Gallagher

LB | 6-foot-1, 235 lbs. | Junior | Raynam, Massachusetts

Likely role in 2019: Starting at WILL linebacker

One of the standout performers of 2018 for Northwestern was Blake Gallagher, who had an immense season. Amassing 127 tackles and being named third team All-Big Ten highlighted an impressive season for the Massachusetts native, who will be a key figure in the defense this year. Gallagher and Paddy Fisher will lead the linebacking core as one of the best duos in the conference.

Career Stats: 27 games played, 160 tackles, 1 interception

50: PJ Spencer

DL | 6-foot-2, 260 lbs. | Freshman | Prarie Village, Kansas

Likely role in 2019: Redshirt

It will be a learning year for the freshman from Kansas. Spencer is near the bottom of the depth chart and even an impressive camp wouldn’t earn him enough playing time to burn his redshirt. This will be a player to revisit next year when he is more developed and likely to compete for snaps.

Career Stats: N/A