To kick off a summer of football at Inside NU, we are counting down Northwestern’s Top 10 Most Important Players in 2021. We’ve put our heads together as a staff, used the unruly power of democracy and created a list that has already caused plenty of disagreement.
The list’s criteria simply consisted of players we believe to be the most important to Northwestern football in 2021. However, we know that is up for interpretation. For some, it could mean the value of one player over his backup. It could mean players in crucial roles. It could also mean players who have underperformed and need to step up.
Only one thing is known: no two lists from our staff members are the same. That’s why for each player, we’ll have at least one member break down their placement for the aforementioned player.
Sarah Effress (8)
As I’m looking into Adebawore’s stat-lines more carefully in preparation for this piece, I realize I may have overlooked his potential to impact Northwestern’s defensive play for this upcoming season. Albeit at No. 8 in my rankings, the D-linemen fell lower in my list than any of my InsideNU peers. Was it because I was too invested in the success of last year’s Irish Law Firm and the Newsome-Joseph led secondary to really pay attention to one junior standout on the line (especially with Eku Leota and Earnest Brown also on board)?
Maybe. Nevertheless, Adebawore’s experience and inevitable talent still landed him in the top ten of every staffer who participated in the rankings.
With both Leota, Brown and another handful of last season’s starters onto bigger and better things, in addition to the retirement of legendary defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz, it’s going to be up to Adebawore and returner Samdup Miller to lead not only the line, but the entire defensive side of the ball. Though he won’t be able to do it himself, Adebawore is certainly capable of making a meaningful impact in the wake of so many losses.
The Kansas City native nearly doubled his stat-line from his first to second year, contributing 11 solo tackles along with two sacks and a number of quarterback hurries. Additionally, Adebawore has proven to be a force able to weave through any offensive wall in front of him. He notched a career high five quarterback hurries against Wisconsin this past year as well as one against Iowa, two western conference opponents known for the success of their o-lines.
What can’t be overlooked is the importance of this year’s defensive line in Northwestern’s overall scheme. Though it’s mostly been outlined in our previous review of Adebawore’s co-conspirator Miller, the usual reliance on linebackers of Pat Fitzgerald-coached teams to stop the run is going to have to change with the loss of the Irish Law Firm, and that responsibility is going to have to shift in some fashion onto Adebawore and Co.
Adebawore has the advantage of coming off a season of consistent play, after having showcased his explosive speed (relative to housing 265 lbs. of pure muscle) and ability to hustle quarterbacks in pretty much any situation, the junior is poised to step up as a leader on the defensive front and put the unit on the map. If he continues to finish what he started in his first two seasons as a Wildcat, he is bound to be highlighted on every opponent’s scouting report as a force to be reckoned with.