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Counting down Northwestern’s roster: 79-70

This last one is pretty important.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Conference-Football Championship-Northwestern vs Ohio State Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve gone through a litany of predictions for Northwestern’s upcoming football season as over the course of this summer. Now, we’re counting down the roster from 99 down to 0 (thank you, John Raine). We’ll provide stats, background, and an outlook for each player’s role headed into 2020.

Next up is 79-70, a group that consists of mainly offensive lineman (including one very important one).

79: Zachary Franks

OL | 6-foot-6, 290 lbs. | R-Freshman | Baltimore, MD

Likely role in 2020: Reserve player

After redshirting his first year on campus, the three-star prospect will finally get to compete for playing time this season. Though the starting O-Line is definitely cemented, Franks will see some good opportunities for development in 2020.

Career stats: one game played

78: Luka Trifunovic

DL | 6-foot-4, 280 lbs. | R-Freshman | Carlsbad, CA

Likely role in 2020: Reserve player

With a deep defensive line, it is unlikely that Trifunovic will see the field this season. Instead, 2020 will be another year of development for the California-native.

Career stats: N/A

77: Peter Skoronski

OL | 6-foot-4, 275 lbs. | Freshman | Park Ridge, IL

Likely role in 2020: Second-string guard

Skoronski is the first of a few highly anticipated incoming OLs this fall. As a top-20 linemen recruit, the Illinois-native should step into the O-Line rotation pretty quickly. OL coach Kurt Anderson will likely put him at a guard position or maybe at center.

Career stats: N/A

76: Ethan Wiederkehr

OL | 6-foot-5, 290 lbs. | Junior | Wading River, N.Y.

Likely role in 2020: Second-string tackle

After playing three games in his redshirt freshman season, Wiederkehr jumped to appear in 12 games in 2019. This year, he will likely be one of the main backup options for the ‘Cats to fall back on.

Career stats: 15 games played

75: Connor Foster

OL | 6-foot-7, 300 lbs. | R-Freshman | Milford, Ohio

Likely role in 2020: Reserve player

The three-star prospect out of Ohio played in just one game before redshirting his first season, and though he likely will not see significant playing time this year, he will definitely be able to compete for space in the lineup.

Career stats: one game played

74: Payne He’Bert

OL | 6-foot-4, 300 lbs. | Sophomore | Pearland, TX

Likely role in 2020: Second-string tackle

He’Bert first appeared in a game for the ‘Cats in 2019, playing in the win against UMass in November. This season, he will have the chance to prove himself and potentially serve as a main backup at tackle.

Career stats: one game played

73: Gunnar Vogel

OL | 6-foot-6, 300 lbs. | Senior | Columbus, Ohio

Likely role in 2020: Starting tackle

As a veteran of this position group, Vogel will once again fill the starting spot at right tackle this fall. He has more experience than the bulk of the lineman and will have a shot at leading the unit along with fellow seniors Rashawn Slater and Nik Urban. Though he lost his starting spot for a short period at the end of 2019, he remains one of the more seasoned players. If Vogel can show more consistency this season, he may see some real success in his senior year.

Career stats: 14 games played

71: Ben Wrather

OL | 6-foot-6, 285 lbs. | Freshman | Powell, Ohio

Likely role in 2020: Redshirt

Of the new lineman coming in, Wrather is the most likely of the three to redshirt this coming season. A three-star prospect out of Ohio, Wrather is more likely to cement a spot in the lineup in 2021.

Career stats: N/A

70: Rashawn Slater

OL | 6-foot-4, 315 lbs. | Senior | Sugar Land, Texas

Likely role in 2020: Starting left tackle

Ranked our third most important player for this coming season, Slater is considered one the best player in this Northwestern offense. Last year, Slater earned a 90.1 grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF). He was the highest-graded returning run and (!) pass blocker in the Big Ten and was recognized as an All-Big Ten player three years in a row. He is arguably the most important player on this ‘Cats team and will be a key leader in his senior season.

Career stats: 38 games played, three total tackles (two solo, one assisted)