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Counting down Northwestern’s roster: 19-10

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This one includes some pretty important players (hint hint: HJ).

NCAA Football: Holiday Bowl-Northwestern vs Utah Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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 2019.

We now move on to the “teens,” and with it, a variety of quarterbacks, wide receivers, special teams, and safeties, featuring the two most-discussed signal callers, some talented freshmen, and JR Pace.

19 Riley Lees

WR | 6-foot-0, 201 pounds | Junior | Libertyville, Ill.

Likely role in 2019: Starting punt returner/receiver

The Illinois-native has been a primary receiver for the Wildcats for the past two years. The receivers look to be one of the strongest position groups this season, and there is no doubt that Lees will continue to contribute to that depth while also playing an important role in the return game.

Career stats: 35 rushing yards/449 receiving yards/6 touchdowns

18 Cameron Ruiz

DB | 5-foot-11, 180 pounds | Sophomore | Lake Villa, Ill.

Likely role in 2019: Competing for a starting role at cornerback and nickel back, important member of special teams

Ruiz has experience starting in multiple games, but this position group is a question going into 2019 as they try to replace the hole that was once Montre Hartage. His departure will definitely force individual players like Ruiz, Trae Williams and Greg Newsome to step up and try to replicate his consistent coverage, whether that be from the slot or the outside. As he showed last season, Ruiz plays a pretty important role in the third phase too, regardless of how playing time shakes out defensively.

Career stats: 26 tackles/1 fumble/1 punt block

18 Genson Hooper-Price

WR | 6-foot-5, 213 pounds | Freshman | Houston, Tx

Likely role in 2019: Competing for a role in the two-deep at wide receiver

Despite the strength of this unit, Hooper-Price, along with Bryce Kirtz, comes in as one of the top-rated wide receivers in program history. It is relatively likely that both will redshirt, but expect to see Pat Fitzgerald and Mick McCall utilize the new rule allowing four games of action from each to its full advantage. He chose Northwestern over offers from Notre Dame, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Virginia.

Career stats: None

17 Daniel Kubiuk

P | 6-foot-1, 201 pounds | Graduate | Barrington, Ill.

Likely role in 2019: Competing for the job at punter

Though Kubiuk was in the running for the starting punter position, the sixth-year senior will probably not be favored over graduate transfer Andrew David. But his experience in various roles at Northwestern and within the program does give him a bit of an edge in some respects. We shall see how the competition shakes out.

Career stats: 2 punts, 72 yards

17 Bryce Kirtz

WR | 6-foot-0, 175 pounds | Freshman | Brownsburg, Ind.

Likely role in 2019: Redshirt

Again, Kirtz comes into Northwestern as one of the highest-rated receivers in program history. However, the ‘Cats’ receivers already look really strong this year, and so it is safe to assume that the powers that be may elect to redshirt and develop him a bit more. Still expect to see him out on the field, though.

Career stats: None

16 Zac Krause

QB | 6-foot-3, 202 pounds | Freshman | Olathe, Kan.

Likely role in 2019: Redshirt

Krause is at the back of a pretty loaded depth chart at quarterback. He will have plenty of opportunity to learn from those ahead of him this year.

Career stats: None

16 Brandon Joseph

DB | 6-foot-1, 182 pounds | Freshman | College Station, Tex.

Likely role in 2019: Redshirt

All but one of Northwestern’s safeties will be returning this season, and although Jared McGee’s departure will not be an easy adjustment, a lineup that includes JR Pace means Joseph will likely not see playing time at safety. If anything, he will probably compete for a role on special teams.

Career stats: None

15 Hunter Johnson

QB | 6-foot-2, 216 pounds | Redshirt sophomore | Brownsburg, Ind.

Likely role in 2019: Competing for the starting role at quarterback

The five-star recruit topped our list of most important players without ever playing a game in a Northwestern uniform, but is locked in a battle for the starting job with TJ Green and others. It is safe to say the pressure is on the Clemson transfer, but we won’t know until opening day whether he will even get the chance to deliver on it in his first year of eligibility.

Career stats: None

15 Trey Finison

K/P | 5-foot-9, 170 pounds | Freshman | Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Likely role in 2019: Redshirt

With the exception of Jake Collins, Northwestern will return most of its special teams for the 2019 season. Charlie Kuhbander and Drew Luckenbaugh both return as placekickers, so it is unlikely that Finison will see any playing time, and according to special teams coach Jeff Genyk, he is not competing for the punter role.

Career stats: None

14 Malik Washington

WR | 5-foot-9, 190 pounds | Freshman | Lawrenceville, Ga.

Likely role in 2019: Redshirt

Again, given the strength of the receiving unit this year, there is a large chance Washington will redshirt, though the diminutive slot receiver’s speed ensures that the coaches will give him some chances, probably both on offense and special teams. He chose Northwestern over Auburn and Tennessee, among others.

Career stats: None

14 Charlie Kuhbander

K | 6-foot-0, 185 pounds | Junior | Springboro, Ohio

Likely role in 2019: Starting placekicker

Kuhbander has two years of experience as one of Northwestern’s key special teams players. As a true freshman, he set the single-season program record for most field goals (13) and points (82) by a rookie kicker. On the other hand, Kuhbander suffered an injury last season that caused him to be replaced by Drew Luckenbaugh, so he will have to battle for his former starting role.

Career stats: 18 field goals in 25 attempts

13 JR Pace

DB | 6-foot-1, 205 pounds | Junior | College Park, Ga.

Likely role in 2019: Starting safety

JR Pace will return for his junior season as the most experienced player of the safety unit. He had an incredible 2018 season, when he recorded 82 of his 86 total tackles. With the loss of Hartage, the only senior from the 2018 season, Pace will be looked upon as the leader of the secondary.

Career stats: 86 total tackles/6 interceptions/15 pass deflections

13 Andrew Marty

QB | 6-foot-3, 227 pounds | Sophomore | Cincinnati, Ohio

Likely role in 2019: Reserve quarterback

With Johnson and Green both available as starters, the Ohio native will probably not see action this season.

Career stats: None

12 JJ Jefferson

WR | 5-foot-10, 170 pounds | Sophomore | Houston, Tex.

Likely role in 2019: Competing to start at wide receiver

Jefferson appeared in 12 games as a true freshman and showcased some speed that will definitely be useful this season. While Skowronek will follow in Nagel’s footsteps to become the lead wideout, there is definitely room for competition within the other two starting spots.

Career stats: 10 receptions/181 yards/2 touchdowns

11 Aidan Smith

QB | 6-foot-2, 215 pounds | Junior | Fort Wayne, Ind.

Likely role in 2019: Reserve quarterback

Similar to Marty, Smith has some tough competition ahead of him for the starting spot. He saw action only as a redshirt freshman season in Northwestern’s 39-0 victory against Minnesota.

Career stats: None

11 A.J. Hampton

DB | 5-foot-11, 180 pounds | Redshirt freshman | Warren, Ark.

Likely role in 2019: Competing for time at cornerback

Hampton played in three games as a true freshman before redshirting, totaling three tackles. He made our list of redshirts to keep an eye out for in 2019 as a player who could see plenty of time at cornerback, whether within the two-deep or in nickel/dime packages.

Career stats: 3 tackles

10 Jeremiah McDonald

DB | 6-foot-3, 200 pounds | Redshirt freshman | Slidell, La.

Likely role in 2019: Reserve defensive back

The Louisiana-native did not see any playing time during his true freshman season. An early enrollee, McDonald has had a lot of time to develop, and though it is unlikely that he will see too much real action, he is an option in the secondary.

Career stats: None

10 TJ Green

QB | 6-foot-2, 210 pounds | Senior | Leawood, Kan.

Likely role in 2019: Competing to start at quarterback

Green appeared in nine games during the 2018 season. The fifth-year senior brings veteran experience into his battle with Johnson and the others, and could very well be named the starter against Stanford. Again, we won’t know the outcome of this duel until then.

Career stats: 1 touchdown/174 passing yards/22 rushing yards