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Preseason Mailbag: Position battles and Halloween!

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We are almost there.

Massachusetts v Northwestern Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Northwestern football is just around the corner, so our editors answered your most pressing questions about the anomalies of a season ahead.

@yungdatt: Which player did the extended time off help the most?

Lia: I think this time off has definitely benefitted Peyton Ramsey a lot. While they may have not been able to have organized team practices throughout, Ramsey arrived in Evanston months ago and was able to start building camaraderie with his receivers and other offensive teammates. As a transfer, that is huge and will certainly serve him well in a few weeks.

Eli: Ramsey’s a good answer. After Andrew Marty’s comments a couple weeks ago about taking time to review fundamentals, I can’t help but think a lot of players a little bit lower on the depth chart benefitted a lot as well. I think it’s easy to lose sight of how much time is spent on game planning and conditioning and how it’s hard to find time during the season to simply go over fundamentals.

@jimcarper: Is there a freshman with the potential to be a starter this season?

Lia: It’s always tough to know how true freshman will perform once they get in game action, but there is certainly high expectations for some of Northwestern’s redshirt freshman this season. Evan Hull had a standout game with 220 yards and four touchdowns against UMass last year, and Coco Azema shined at both running back and defensive back, especially in the season-closer against Illinois. As for true freshman, Northwestern’s strongest unit in the class is the O-Line, which is convenient given all the losses the line faced this offseason. Peter Skoronski is the star of the class as the No. 4 center in the nation for his year. However, he will likely have some developing to do before he joins the starting lineup. While many of these younger players will contribute, expecting them to start at this moment is a little overly-eager.

Eli: I’d have to look at the offensive line as well, especially since there are two true freshman, Josh Priebe and Peter Skoronski, who could come in and challenge for playing time. Would I have said this a few months ago? No. But after the extra year of eligibility was extended to all fall athletes (and no, we don’t know if NU will honor all scholarships for another year), and following the loss of Slater and Stovall, those two freshmen are talented options that could be thrown in the fire earlier than initially expected.

@danbaren: Any chance Slater opts back in?

Lia: Unfortunately, no. It has been confirmed that Slater will go straight to the draft and still forgo the season, even though it was pushed earlier. Honestly, as much as we would love to have him, this is the right decision for him, and as a projected first-round pick, he doesn’t have much to gain by playing.

Eli: Nope. Other notable players who didn’t sign with agents have opted back in, but Slater is full steam ahead for the NFL draft. This isn’t Ohio State, where he’d be missing out on a potential national title run if he didn’t play.

Blackie Lawless: What are the expectations of the O-Line this season?

Lia: If you had asked me this question a month and a half ago, I would’ve said they were extremely high. Now, I’m not so sure. At first, the primary question was who would replace Jared Thomas at center. But now, the ‘Cats will have to fill Thomas’ void as well as that of Rashawn Slater. To make matters worse, they lost Sam Stovall who medically retired last week and was set to be a significant contributor. Luckily the line has one of its best recruiting classes ever, but it’s still unclear how and if those young players will contribute. Kurt Anderson certainly has his work cut out for him.

Eli: Uncertain. So much for all that continuity! But we still saw last year that an o-line replacing three starters in a poor offense can hold itself together. I’ve got faith in Kurt Anderson, and it’s time for his work on the recruiting trail to pay dividends. Iowa week two will present a challenge, but no opponent really scares you with its defensive line until Wisconsin week six. By that time the line may be more cohesive.

Greg Armstrong: What happens at QB? Is there a competition for Ramsey’s job? Will Marty, Green or Johnson ever see the field?

Lia: While the program hasn’t clearly announced a starter, it seems all signs are pointing to Ramsey. Before the season last year, while we assumed it would be HJ, it was still largely up in the air. Now, in media availabilities, they have been talking as if it would be Ramsey without blatantly saying it, so I am confident he will at least begin the season under center. As for the others, I wouldn’t count them out because we saw what happened last year. I still believe Johnson has the potential to be a great quarterback, so I would hope to see him at least get a chance to take the field this season.

Eli: All indications would point to Ramsey. It’s kinda funny because most people are assuming Ramsey as the number one, so Fitz hasn’t even had to field many questions about it and give non-answers. But it’s clear in the way Fitz talked about him and his experience last week that he’s the guy. As for the other guys, it’s a weird year, and we’ve seen the injury bug hit the position for NU before, so you can’t rule out seeing them take snaps.

@FakeCoachFitz: Why won’t @UnderArmour make COVID masks with the throwback logo affectionately known as Cocaine Cat on them?

Lia: Great question. I’d buy one.

Eli: Inside NU would purchase masks for the entire staff if they rolled them out.

@MacStone00: Will you be trick-or-treating this year? What will you be dressing up as?

Lia: I don’t know about you but I’m hoping to be in Iowa City in Halloween getting a W. That’s all I’m thinking about.

Eli: What Lia said. Should that be off the table and the game finish before evening, I will be dressing up as either PJ Fleck since I own basically all necessary clothing articles—for Northwestern, of course—or Paul Chryst, since I too like loose crewneck sweaters and have a hint of being a fat ass.

@dan_olinger: Who is most likely to replace all the meme production we got out of Mick McCall last year?

Lia: The McCall memes will never die.

Eli: I mean, seriously? You think that just because McCall is gone fans won’t continue to milk the content from his tenure?

Miles Pondelik: How many games will Nebraska lose?

Lia: All of them.

Eli: Six.