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Counting down Northwestern’s roster: 19-10

Playmakers galore.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

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 teens are filled with playmakers on both sides of the ball.

19: Jacob Gill

WR | 6-foot-0, 183 pounds | First-Year | Raleigh, North Carolina

Likely role in 2021: Reserve wide receiver

Gill, a first-year wideout from Raleigh, committed to the ‘Cats in July 2020 over a multitude of ACC schools, including Louisville and Duke. He enrolled early at Northwestern, and given the lack of returning production in the receiving corps, Gill could have a chance get on the field in the 2021 season.

Career stats: N/A

18: Garner Wallace

DB | 6-foot-4, 190 pounds | First-Year | Pickerington, Ohio

Likely role in 2021: Redshirt

Although he was recruited by the ‘Cats as a defensive back, Wallace made an impact in all three phases of the game for his high school as a receiver, safety and kick returner. Northwestern has a lot of returning contributors in the secondary, meaning the first-year safety likely won’t see the field much in 2021, but he could be one to look out for in the coming years due to his long frame and athleticism.

Career stats: N/A

18: Genson Hooper Price

WR | 6-foot-5, 215 pounds | Redshirt Sophomore | Houston, Texas

Likely role in 2021: Backup wide receiver

Coming out of high school, Hooper Price chose NU over traditional powers such as Notre Dame and Florida along with other Big Ten rivals Michigan State, Minnesota, and Nebraska. It’s pretty easy to see why he received the offers he did; he was a track star, recording a 10.57 time in the 100M, and also had a very appealing body frame for a wideout. However, even with the athletic gifts Hooper Price has been given, he’s yet to make an impact for the ‘Cats. After redshirting in 2019 and not playing in 2020, this season could be the one where Hooper Price breaks through. His size could give any defensive back problems in the redzone, and his speed could make him a consistent problem behind the opposition’s secondary. With the complete lack of returning production in the receiving game, the redshirt sophomore might be able to make his mark in 2021.

Career stats: N/A

17: Bryce Kirtz

WR | 6-foot-0, 180 pounds | Redshirt Sophomore | Brownsburg, Indiana

Likely role in 2021: Starting wide receiver

Kirtz played in every one of Northwestern’s games last year, and while he didn’t necessarily stuff the stat sheet, he was still a consistent contributor to the offense. That level of game time last season points to an even greater role for the redshirt sophomore in 2021, and if Hunter Johnson wins the starting QB job, Kirtz may become his favorite target, given they attended and played together at the same high school.

Career stats: Nine games played, six receptions, 67 yards

16: Zac Krause

QB | 6-foot-3, 215 pounds | Redshirt Sophomore | Olathe, Kansas

Likely role in 2021: Reserve quarterback

Although Krause likely will not receive any playing time, barring injuries, 2021 could be a pivotal year for him if he is to make an impact as an upperclassman in the future. Another year of development in Mike Bajakian’s offense will, at the very least, make the Kansas native a viable backup in the future.

Career stats: One game played

16: Brandon Joseph

DB | 6-foot-1, 192 pounds | Sophomore | College Station, Texas

Likely role in 2021: Starting safety

After seeing the field in a few games as a freshman in 2019, Joseph exploded onto the national college football landscape in 2020 with an All-American caliber season. He recorded six interceptions, including two multi-pick games against Iowa and Wisconsin as well as this outlandish grab in the Big Ten title game against Ohio State, which you’ve probably seen before, but never hurts to watch again.

Joseph will spearhead a relatively experienced secondary, even with the loss of CB Greg Newsome II to the NFL Draft. The success of the defense in Jim O’Neil’s first year as defensive coordinator may rest on Joseph’s shoulders, and given his talent and ability, that may not be a bad thing for the ‘Cats.

Career stats: 13 games played, 52 tackles (28 solo, 24 assisted, one TFL), six interceptions

15: Hunter Johnson

QB | 6-foot-2, 215 pounds | Senior | Brownsburg, Indiana

Likely role in 2021: Backup quarterback

Entering his senior season, Johnson’s career with Northwestern has been nothing short of interesting. After transferring from Clemson in 2018, the former five-star quarterback looked to be the heir apparent to Clayton Thorson, but after rough start to the 2019 season, Johnson lost the starting job. In 2020, transfer Peyton Ramsey held the starting QB job for the entire year, and that leaves Johnson with one last season to make an impact with the ‘Cats. He will face stiff competition to be QB1 from transfer Ryan Hilinski and senior Andrew Marty, and if Johnson is to be the starter, he will have to show better decision-making and accuracy than he did in 2019. While Hilinski is the current favorite to win this position battle, Johnson hasn’t been ruled out yet, and it may take the coaching staff until the week of the Michigan State game to decide.

Career stats: Eight games played, 50/108 attempts completed, 432 yards, one TD, four INTs, 48 rushes, 64 yards, one rushing TD

15: Trey Finison

K/P | 5-foot-9, 183 pounds | Junior | Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Likely role in 2021: Backup kicker

As a true freshman in 2019, Finison became the kickoff specialist over K Charlie Kuhbander. However, Kuhbander claimed that responsibility last year, and with Kuhbander returning for one more season, Finison will be a backup again, and will likely take over the kicking duties in 2022 as a senior.

Career stats: 13 games played, 34 kickoffs, 1996 yards, 58.7 yards per kickoff

14: Charlie Kuhbander

K | 6-foot-0, 195 pounds | Graduate | Springboro, Ohio

Likely role in 2021: Starting kicker

Heading into this fifth season with the program, and fifth as the starting place kicker, Kuhbander has had a highly accomplished collegiate career. He’s won two Big Ten West titles, three bowl games, has beaten Illinois four times and will be looking to add to all three of those totals in 2021.

Career stats: 43 games played, 115/117 extra points, 37/51 field goals, 53 kickoffs, 3047 yards, 57.5 yards per kickoff

14: Donnie Gray

WR | 6-foot-0, 190 pounds | First-Year | New Haven, Connecticut

Likely role in 2021: Redshirt

The first official commit of Northwestern’s 2021 recruiting class, Gray chose the ‘Cats over a slew of academic powerhouses, including Princeton, Yale, and both the Army and Navy service academies. The true freshman was a three-sport athlete in high school, running track and playing basketball in addition to football, and possesses great speed and agility. There’s a chance he could see playing time this season, but it seems likely that he’s one for the future and will redshirt.

Career stats: N/A

13: Garnett Hollis, Jr.

DB | 6-foot-1, 197 pounds | Sophomore | Nashville, Tennessee

Likely role in 2021: Reserve defensive back

Hollis Jr. didn’t play during his freshman season in 2020, and with the returning players in the secondary, that will likely continue. He played both wide receiver and cornerback in high school, winning the 2019 Tennessee Defensive Player of the Year, and chose NU over Nebraska, Purdue, and Wisconsin.

Career stats: N/A

13: Preston Bacon

WR | 6-foot-2, 195 pounds | Redshirt Sophomore | Oak Hill, Virginia

Likely role in 2021: Reserve wide receiver

In his two seasons with the program, Bacon has made one appearance, which was against Illinois last season. Bacon might move up in the depth chart from 2020 to 2021 with the amount of players who moved on, but he likely won’t see much of the field again this year.

Career stats: One game played

12: Nigel Williams

DB | 6-foot-1, 192 pounds | Sophomore | Richmond, Virginia

Likely role in 2021: Reserve defensive back

Williams didn’t see the field as a true freshman in 2020, and the former three-star recruit, barring injuries, will likely be further down the depth chart again this year. He played both offense and defense in high school, including quarterback, and chose the ‘Cats over Rutgers, UCLA, Virginia and Wake Forest.

Career stats: N/A

12: Ryan Hilinski

QB | 6-foot-3, 225 pounds | Sophomore | Orange, California

Likely role in 2021: Starting quarterback

After relying on a transfer QB in 2020, it looks like that will continue in 2021 with the arrival of Ryan Hilinski from South Carolina. Hilinski started as a true freshman for the Gamecocks in 2019, but lost his QB1 status going into last season, and after committing to South Carolina over a plethora of schools including Northwestern as a recruit, he looks primed to take over the job left by Peyton Ramsey. Still only a sophomore, Hilinski isn’t a finished product, but he has a good football brain and physical tools that could allow him to be a very productive QB for the ‘Cats in the coming seasons.

Career stats: 13 games played, 240/412 attempts completed, 2391 yards, 11 TDs, 5 INTs

11: AJ Hampton

DB | 5-foot-11, 180 pounds | Junior | Warren, Arkansas

Likely role in 2021: Starting defensive back

Hampton has seen a steady increase in game time and responsibility over his three seasons in Evanston, and now will be a full-time starter in the secondary. Hampton ranks third in tackles among returning players with 26, and also leads returning players in passes broken up.

Career stats: 25 games played, 44 tackles (30 solo, 14 assisted, two TFLs), two INTs

11: Andrew Clair

RB | 5-foot-11, 202 pounds | Graduate | St Louis, Missouri

Likely role in 2021: Backup running back

Clair, alongside Hilinski, is another transfer looking to make an impact in the backfield, and after 4 seasons at Bowling Green, will spend 2021 with the ‘Cats. While Cam Porter has laid a claim to the starting RB role, Drake Anderson’s and Isaiah Bowser’s transfers out mean that Clair could be a sturdy backup to Porter alongside Evan Hull.

Career stats: 30 games played, 362 rushes, 1937 yards, 13 TDs, 44 receptions, 330 yards, four receiving TDs

10: Brendan Sullivan

QB | 6-foot-3, 212 pounds | First-Year | Davison, Michigan

Likely role in 2021: Redshirt

A former Michigan state champion and holding a 21-2 record as a starter in high school, Sullivan joins the ‘Cats as someone who will make an impact down the road. With the QB room as it is, the three-star recruit will more than likely sit the season out as a redshirt and learn Mike Bajakian’s offense.

Career stats: N/A

10: Theran Johnson

DB | 6-foot-0, 170 pounds | First-Year | Indianapolis, Indiana

Likely role in 2021: Redshirt

The ‘Cats secondary is pretty full, so expecting any game time for the true freshman from Indianapolis is probably unreasonable. Johnson, an Indiana Mr. Football nominee in 2020, committed to Northwestern over Notre Dame, Dartmouth and Yale.

Career stats: N/A