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Counting down Northwestern’s roster: 99-90

D-Line showtime.

Michigan State v Northwestern Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

As the days tick away till Northwestern takes the field vs Michigan State and starts their 2021 campaign, we’ve got you covered with all the content you need to be ready for this football season.

Per tradition, we’re counting down the roster by jersey number from 99 to 0, while also providing stats, background and an outlook for each player’s projected role heading into the 2021 season.

The nineties are a defensive line-heavy group, with a few special teamers sprinkled in between, and a whole lot of talent.

99: Adetomiwa Adeboware

DL | 6-foot-2, 265 pounds | Junior | Kansas City, Missouri

Likely role in 2020: Starting defensive end

Getting things started off with a big change, as one of team’s most important returners has swapped his digits from 49 to 99 going into his junior season. What the stat book will show you about Adeboware’s breakout 2020 season is that he wracked up 17 tackles — including six for a loss — and two sacks while starting every contest of the ‘Cats’ Citus Bowl-winning campaign. What it won’t show you is that Adeboware — known better by NU fans simply as “‘Tomi” — was ruthless in his pursuit of the ball carrier, often breaking through the line of scrimmage seemingly with ease and wreaking havoc on a number of plays in critical games with his speed and size.

Career stats: 17 games played, 23 total tackles (16 solo, 7 assisted, 7 TFL), 3 sacks, 2 passes defended

98: Duke Olges

DL | 6-foot-4, 260 pounds | Redshirt Sophomore | Winnetka, Illinois

Likely role in 2020: Reserve defensive lineman

Olges played his high school ball at nearby New Trier and was a standout, garnering offers from Wisconsin, Ole Miss, Michigan State, Iowa and others in addition to NU, while also recording 102 tackles and five sacks in his senior year. Unfortunately for Olges, he happens to play one of Northwestern’s deepest positions and hasn’t seen much playing time thus far. With the return of Samdup Miller and the addition of Jeremy Meiser, that doesn’t seem incredibly likely to change barring injury.

Career stats: 2 games played

97: Sean McLaughlin

DL | 6-foot-5, 260 pounds | Sophomore | Frankfort, Illinois

Likely role in 2020: Redshirt

A true first-year in a 2020, McLaughlin benefited from the COVID-19 season rule that kept the year from counting against any player’s eligibility time, regardless of how much or little they played. Thus, instead of redshirting in a deep defensive line room, he got two looks at the field during the bookends of Northwestern’s season (the season-opener against Maryland and the season-closing Citrus Bowl victory over Auburn) and performed admirably, recording three total tackles across both appearances.

Career stats: 2 games played, 3 total tackles (2 solo, 1 assisted)

96: Trevor Kent

DT | 6-foot-6, 300 pounds | Senior | Pittsburg, Kansas

Likely role in 2020: Starting defensive tackle

In an injury-hindered 2020, Kent only appeared in four games but was productive when he was healthy enough to be on the field. After starting the season off with an appearance against Maryland and missing the Iowa, Nebraska and Purdue games, Kent was particularly noticeable in his return to the field during NU’s landmark defeat of Wisconsin, recording three tackles (a career high) as a part of a menacing defensive performance from the ‘Cats. He’ll be in the mix to start at defensive tackle, alongside fellow elder statesmen Joe Spivak, Jason Gold, and grad-transfer Jeremy Meiser.

Career stats: 19 games played, 16 tackles (4 solo, 12 assisted, 1.5 TFL), 0.5 sacks, 1 pass defended, 1 fumble recovery

94: Jason Gold Jr.

DT | 6-foot-3, 285 pounds | Junior | League City, Texas

Likely role in 2020: Second-string defensive tackle

After playing in six games as a true-first year in 2019, Gold got the start at defensive tackle alongside Kent to start the 2020 season against Maryland. Unfortunately, he left midway through the game with an injury that kept him off the field for the duration of the shortened season. Now, with the emergence of Joe Spivak as a legitimate contributor and the transfer of Jeremy Meiser, the starting job he began the year with last season is no longer guaranteed. Regardless, look for him to be a disrupter on the interior in 2021, whether it be as a starter or as a rotational backup.

Career stats: 7 games played, 9 total tackles (6 solo, 3 assisted, 3 TFL)

93: Joe Spivak

DL | 6-foot, 300 pounds | Graduate Student | Darien, Illinois

Likely role in 2020: Second-string defensive tackle

Perhaps the single most well-liked player on the entire Northwestern roster, the former walk-on and host of “WOW! w/ Joe Spivak” is returning for one final season with the ‘Cats. In 2020, he was an essential (if not somewhat unexpected) piece of the defensive line, filling in for the injured Kent and Gold admirably while putting up career bests in all categories. With Kent and Gold healthy and Jeremy Meiser arriving, he may not start as regularly as he did in 2020, but should still make some meaningful contributions — both in gameplay and in bringing the juice — to the Wildcats’ efforts in 2021.

Career stats: 36 games played, 23 tackles (8 solo, 15 assisted, 2 tackles), 1.5 sacks

92: Jack Olsen

K | 5-foot-9, 180 pounds | Sophomore | Wheaton, Illinois

Likely role in 2020: Second-string kicker

The 4th-ranked kicker in the high school Class of 2020 according to 247Sports, Olsen arrives as a transfer after a season at Michigan State. With Charlie Kuhbander returning for a fifth year, it’s unlikely that Olsen will be propelled immediately into starting status. However, if Kuhbander struggles mightily as he has at certain points in his career, Pat Fitzgerald will at least have the option to turn to Olsen, who will likely take over as starter no matter what in 2022.

Career stats: N/A

91: Samdup Miller

DL | 6-foot-3, 270 pounds | Graduate Student | Houston, Texas

Likely role in 2020: Starting defensive end

Miller, who started all 35 of the games he played in during his first three years at Northwestern, opted out of the COVID-shortened 2020 season. Returning now for a final year in Evanston, Miller — who leads all active players in career sacks — will be an essential piece of the Northwestern pass rush and bring the experience and leadership of a four-year starter that no other returning Northwestern defender has.

Career stats: 35 games played, 114 total tackles (61 solo, 53 assisted, 17.5 TFL), 7.5 sacks, 4 passes defended, 1 fumble forced, 1 fumble recovery

90: Wyatt Blake

DL | 6-foot-4, 305 pounds | Redshirt Junior | Crystal Lake, Illinois

Likely role in 2020: Reserve defensive lineman

In the two years since his redshirt season in 2018, Blake has seen the field in 11 different games. As such, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him get some playing time in the 2021 season, especially if/when injuries to the top-line starters occur. Still, expect his action to be limited given the breadth of experienced options on the defensive line.

Career stats: 11 games played, 3 assisted tackles

90: Jake Genyk

P | 6-foot-3, 200 pounds | Redshirt Junior | Middleton, Wisconsin

Likely role in 2020: Second-string punter

Genyk hasn’t appeared in a single game since arriving at NU prior to the 2018 season. Derek Adams, NU’s 2020 starting punter, elected to return for the 2021 season, so barring injury, don’t expect too much to change for Genyk, who will likely get his shot at a long-awaited starting job in 2022.

Career stats: N/A