After a shortened season capped by a Citrus Bowl victory, it’s time to begin our postseason coverage by handing out grades and taking a look at what’s to come in the fall. We’ll evaluate each position group and discuss how well they performed, as well as what the future might hold. Up next are the linebackers.
Overall Grade: B+
Northwestern’s defense was nothing short of magnificent at times this past season, and the linebacking corps of Paddy Fisher, Blake Gallagher and Chris Bergin was no exception to that. The back three of the Wildcats’ front seven were all over the field all season long, and while they faltered at points, they put together another solid year.
Paddy Fisher: B+
Stats: 86 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery
It was no secret that Fisher is one of the better linebackers in college football, and while his senior season had missteps here and there, he bounced back well from au underwhelming junior year.
In just nine games this season, compared to the 12 he played last year, Fisher came up just two tackles short of what he totaled last season. He was a force to be reckoned with at times, but his speed did cost him at points when trying to track down more athletic backs and receivers. Fisher will now likely turn his attention to preparing for the NFL Draft.
Blake Gallagher: A-
Stats: 87 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery
No one stuffed the stat sheet more for the Wildcats than Blake Gallagher. The senior led the team in tackles and tackles for loss this past season and lived in opponent’s backfields all year long.
Much like Fisher, Gallagher improved from his junior year. His tackling improved, and he fell just one tackle short of his 2019 total despite playing three fewer games. His 9.5 tackles for loss were the most in his career and his one forced fumble was his first-ever for NU. With his college career in the rearview, Gallagher will now aim to play on Sundays.
Chris Bergin: B
Stats: 78 total tackles, four tackles for loss, one interception, four pass deflections
Bergin is the one linebacker from the Irish Law Firm who will be returning next year. The senior posted an impressive 78 total tackles, good for third-best on the team. His four pass deflections were top amongst linebackers. Additionally, the energy he brought to the defense cannot be understated. Bergin will be a leader heading into next season as he’ll hope to only improve upon his performance this year.
Jaylen Rivers: Incomplete
Stats: Three total tackles
Rivers appeared in just four games this season, with all three of his tackles coming in the season opener against Maryland.
Bryce Gallagher: Incomplete
Stats: 13 total tackles
Bryce, Blake’s younger brother, appeared in all nine games for the ‘Cats this year. With his brother moving on, he will likely fill his shoes next season.
Erik Mueller: Incomplete
Stats: Two total tackles
Mueller appeared in eight games this season, recording one tackle against Iowa and one against Illinois.
Peter McIntyre: Incomplete
Stats: Seven total tackles, one tackle for loss
McIntyre played in eight games this year, with four of his seven tackles coming against Illinois.
Grayson Mann: Incomplete
Stats: One total tackle, 0.5 tackles for loss, one QB hit
Mann played in five games for Northwestern this season, with all of his stats being recorded against Auburn.
Khalid Jones: Incomplete
Stats: Three total tackles
Jones saw time in just three games this year.
Troy Hudetz: Incomplete
Stats: Two total tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss
Hudetz saw the field in nine games this year, getting on the stat sheet against Maryland and Auburn.