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Northwestern football announces Week 1 two-deep

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The Wildcats’ depth chart for their clash against Stanford sheds some light on important positional battles.

NCAA Football: Clemson Spring Game Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

With their season-opening trip to Palo Alto on the horizon, Northwestern announced their inaugural two-deep of the 2019 season just before Pat Fitzgerald’s weekly press conference on Monday afternoon.

As anybody who has followed Fitz’s comments over the past several weeks was surely prepared for, there was no further separation between Hunter Johnson and TJ Green in the QB competition. However, there are plenty of takeaways that this depth chart provides that we should discuss:

1.) No sign of Trey Pugh

Pugh does not appear in the two-deep, with true sophomore Charlie Mangieri listed as the starter at superback and recently-converted former defensive end Trent Goens as his backup. Pugh, who many viewed as the sure starter at the position, may well be injured, and we will have an update on his status with Thursday night’s report.

But for now, the story is Mangieri. The Dunlap, Illinois native appeared in 12 games last season as a backup, but did not catch a single pass, and will now be tasked with filling Cam Green’s shoes. It remains to be seen whether he will fill a more receiver-like role in the offense as a starter or if he will remain to function in a primarily blocking capacity.

2.) Nik Urban, Sam Gerak, Gunnar Vogel win spots on the offensive line

The Wildcats have big shoes to fill up front this season with the departure of Tommy Doles and JB Butler on the interior along with Blake Hance at tackle from the 2018 starting o-line. Arguably, the three favorites to fill their shoes have done so.

Vogel had the most experience of any candidate at right tackle after Rashawn Slater’s move to the other side of the line, though the redshirt junior has had issues with consistency earlier in his career. Urban, similarly, participated in seven games last season (starting three of them) as a backup guard, though he acquitted himself more successfully.

Gerak was more of an unknown. The redshirt sophomore and native of Avon, Ohio, has no game experience, but received rave reviews (including some from me) in practice last season. He will certainly be the biggest question mark on a transitioning offensive line, however, and his performance could make or break the offense’s success against Stanford.

3.) Trevor Kent joins Alex Miller on the interior defensively

Though it was bandied about outside the program, Marty Long told me he never considered moving Samdup Miller inside to defensive tackle in non-passing downs, despite the loss of three defensive tackles from last year’s impressive run defense. That left his brother Alex as the only tackle with much experience, and after he added “15, 20 pounds of muscle” in the offseason, he seemed to be a lock for a starting spot.

The position opposite him, however, was up in the air. Trevor Kent, despite a height seemingly more suited for the outside, has now claimed it. The 6’6”, 280-pound Kent seems a bit undersized for tackle, and was listed primarily as an end last season, but he has won the job over Jake Saunders and Joe Spivak and will look to help shore up a run defense that is hoping to repeat an impressive performance.

4.) Drake Anderson listed as the backup RB

The redshirt freshman and son of Wildcat legend Damien came in to the program with Isaiah Bowser, but was relegated to a redshirt season as Bowser blossomed last year thanks to a slow start against Michigan State and Rutgers. But Anderson has plenty of speed, and agility that was on display even during limited action in 2018.

John Moten IV will likely still see some playing time, but it looks like Lou Ayeni and Pat Fitzgerald are looking at Anderson as the backfield’s big-play threat/third down complement to the hard running style of Bowser.

5.) Daniel Kubiuk beats out Andrew David at punter

David, the grad transfer by way of Michigan and TCU, was the more heavily-discussed option at punter, but special teams coach Jeff Genyk and the Wildcats have opted to stick with the player they knew the best. Kubiuk, who walked on to the team and initially was listed as a reserve/scout team quarterback, has only tried two punts in game action during his Northwestern career, but his experience in Evanston may have given him the benefit of the doubt.

The sixth-year senior, who suffered a season-ending injury last year after redshirting his true freshman campaign, is the longest-tenured member of Northwestern’s roster. Kubiuk is a great story, and, after remaining in a backup role at both quarterback and punter for five long years, will finally get his shot.

Honorable Mentions: Chris Bergin retains his starting spot at SAM linebacker, Eku Leota and Devin O’Rourke make their way into the two-deep at end, Rod Campbell and A.J. Hampton look poised to see some time at nickel/dime back, receivers look about as expected.


UPDATE: For those who have trouble reading the attached image, and for the sake of the cut-off parts of the depth chart, we have reprinted the two-deep below in full.

Offense

Position 1st Team 2nd Team
Position 1st Team 2nd Team
LT Rashawn Slater Payne He'Bert
LG Nik Urban Cam Kolwich
C Jared Thomas Sam Gerak
RG Sam Gerak Charlie Schmidt
RT Gunnar Vogel Ethan Wiederkehr
WR Kyric McGowan Berkeley Holman
WR Riley Lees JJ Jefferson
WR Bennett Skowrownek Ramaud Bowman
QB TJ Green -OR- Hunter Johnson Aidan Smith -OR- Andrew Marty
RB Isaiah Bowser Drake Anderson
SB Charlie Mangieri Trent Goens

Defense

Position 1st Team 2nd Team
Position 1st Team 2nd Team
DE Joe Gaziano Earnest Brown IV
DT Alex Miller Jake Saunders
DT Trevor Kent Joe Spivak
DE Samdup Miller Devin O'Rourke -OR- Eku Leota
Will Blake Gallagher Peter McIntyre
Mike Paddy Fisher Erik Mueller
Sam Chris Bergin Jaylen Rivers
CB Greg Newsome II A.J. Hampton
CB Trae Williams Roderick Campbell
S JR Pace Bryce Jackson
S Travis Whillock Brian Bullock

Special Teams

Position 1st Team 2nd Team
Position 1st Team 2nd Team
K Charlie Kuhbander Drew Luckenbaugh
P Daniel Kubiuk Andrew David
LS Tyler Gillikin Peter Snodgrass
KR Riley Lees Berkeley Holman
PR Riley Lees Berkeley Holman
Holder TJ Green Daniel Kubiuk