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Counting down Northwestern’s roster: 9 to 1

It’s the final countdown.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Northwestern Mike DiNovo-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 conclude our countdown in the single digits, where we meet a handful of wide receivers and defensive backs hoping for breakout campaigns this season.

9: Roderick Campbell

DB | 6-foot, 190 pounds | Senior | St. Louis, Missouri

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

Campbell’s role in 2019 is uncertain at the moment. The veteran cornerback has had an overall inconsistent career when it comes to playing time. After sitting out his entire sophomore season due to a shoulder injury, Campbell appeared in 12 games in 2019, recording 1 tackle and 1 pass breakup. The former Rivals four-star prospect ended up playing a bigger role than expected last season with Montre Hartage and some other key secondary pieces battling injuries down the stretch. Campbell’s experience could be much needed this year, especially in the case of any mental lapses from younger corners.

Career Stats: 22 games, 3 tackles, 2 passes defended

8: Kyric McGowan

WR | 5-foot-10, 200 pounds | Junior | Dalton, Georgia

Likely Role in 2019: Starting kick returner/in the two-deep at WR

McGowan had a strong year in 2018, appearing in 13 games and finishing his sophomore season with 16 catches for 283 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was and will continue to be one of Northwestern’s top deep-ball threats as he averaged an impressive 17.7 yards per catch. He also had ample opportunity on special teams last year as a kick returner and finishing the season with 13 returns for 313 yards. McGowan’s sophomore campaign has kept him in discussion for a starting wide receiver role this year which will be difficult to come by with NU’s strong depth at receiver.

Career Stats: 25 games, 21 receptions for 334 yards, 2 touchdowns, 13 kick returns for 313 yards

7: Jason Whittaker

QB | 6-foot-5, 222 pounds | Redshirt-freshman | Rockford, Michigan

Likely Role in 2019: Reserve quarterback

Whittaker redshirted his first season without seeing any action in 2018. The sizable young quarterback certainly has potential, but the quarterback discussion in Evanston is currently limited to Hunter Johnson and TJ Green. While Whittaker could get an occasional snap or increased opportunity later in his career, he likely won’t see the field in 2019.

Career Stats: N/A

7: Travis Whillock

DB | 6-foot-1, 200 pounds | Junior | Katy, Texas

Likely Role in 2019: Starting safety

Along with his fellow safety JR Pace, Whillock was another Wildcat who had a breakout year in 2018. Appearing in 10 games his sophomore season, he had a standout performance against No. 3 Notre Dame, making 10 tackles including 1 tackle for loss and a pass breakup. He assumed the starting safety duties against Iowa where he recovered his first career fumble with under 5 minutes remaining in the game to send the Wildcats to Indianapolis. Whillock, along with his high school teammate Paddy Fisher, will be a key veteran leader of this NU defense.

Career Stats: 11 games, 57 tackles, 1 sack, 4 passes defended, 2 fumbles recovered

6: Drake Anderson

RB | 5-foot-11, 190 pounds | Redshirt-freshman | Chandler, Arizona

Likely Role in 2019: Backup running back

After losing starting running back Jeremy Larkin to injury early last season, Anderson seemed liked a lock to have his redshirt burned with the Wildcats’ thing at running back. However, the emergence of Isaiah Bowser kept Anderson on the bench for most of the year as he saw action in just two games. With no worry about burning a redshirt in 2019, the young speedy back will see more carries this season although he’ll start behind Isaiah Bowser starting and John Moten IV in the depth chart.

Career Stats: 2 games, 12 attempts for 36 yards

5: Jace James

WR | 6-foot, 192 pounds | Redshirt sophomore | Carol Stream, Illinois

Likely Role in 2019: Competing to get snaps at wide receiver

Like Anderson, James is a part of a competitive position group with a lot of talent. The wide receivers are arguable the strongest group on the field for Northwestern this season. After appearing in 10 games as a true freshman on special teams and as a backup receiver, James redshirted his sophomore season without seeing any action. He showed potential during his freshman year, especially in the Music City Bowl where he converted two big third downs for the Wildcats but has not seen any opportunity since. In 2019, he will continue to fight amongst his highly-talented peers to earn his way back on the field.

Career Stats: 11 games, 3 receptions for 41 yards

4: Berkeley Holman

WR | 5-foot-11, 193 pounds | Sophomore | Irvine, California

Likely Role in 2019: Competing to get snaps at wide receiver

Holman saw the field in 10 games as a redshirt freshman last season. Of his 7 catches, three of them came in the postseason, including one for 24 yards in the Holiday Bowl. Holman is facing a similar struggle as Jace among a competitive group of wide receivers. His undeniable talent is evident is his successful past in high school and small shining moments last season, but 2019 will be another season of fighting for playing time for Holman.

Career Stats: 10 games, 7 receptions for 59 yards, 2 rushing attempts for 15 yards

3: Trae Williams

DB | 6-foot, 203 pounds | Senior | The Plains, Ohio

Likely role in 2019: Starting cornerback

The absence of Montre Hartage will put even more pressure on Williams entering his fifth year in a position often plagued by injury. The returning starting cornerback appeared in 12 games as a junior and was an integral part of the secondary. He finished his junior season with 26 tackles, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. While the secondary has struggled in recent years, especially against the toughest of the Big Ten competition, the returning talent led by Williams looks hopeful to maintain Northwestern’s “bend but don’t break” passing defense.

Career Stats: 33 games, 84 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, 12 passes defended, 3 forced fumbles, 3 fumbles recovered

2: Greg Newsome II

DB | 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Sophomore | Chicago, Illinois

Likely Role in 2019: Starting cornerback

Newsome’s freshman year had its ups and downs as he continually fought for playing time and suffered a few mental lapses and breaks in coverage, but he is returning more experienced and will be thrown into an integral part of this secondary. He earned numerous comparisons to Hartage last year and will now have the opportunity to fill his shoes this season. He appeared in 6 games with 4 starts as a first-year. He finished the season with 23 tackles and broke up 4 passes. While his regular season campaign was solid but not standout, his postseason performance earned him respect and a probable starting role this year. After suffering an injury against Michigan, Newsome missed a chunk of the regular season but was able to return and record 6 tackles and a pass breakup across both postseason games.

Career Stats: 6 games, 23 tackles, 4 passes defended

1: Joe Bergin

DB | 5-foot-11, 190 pounds | Senior | Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Likely Role in 2019: In two-deep as second team safety

Bergin will wear the esteemed #1 jersey this year – an honor bestowed to the one player who most embodies the true spirit of Northwestern football. He appeared in 14 games as a junior, primarily on special teams, making 12 tackles on the year. After walking on as a freshman, he has continually gained respect from his teammates and coaches as an Academic All-Big Ten honoree every year and a reliable member of the special team’s unit and backup in the secondary. Playing alongside his brother Chris, the No. 1 Wildcat will continue to be a menace on special teams and serve as a key senior leader.

Career Stats: 29 games, 24 tackles