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A (belated) end of June mailbag

A lot happened off the field during the first month where the on-the-field stuff wasn’t happening.

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

Similar to an NBA game on TNT, this one came later than promised. But following the first month of summer, I figured it was time to answer some questions again, and there were plenty of good ones even with this being the first month of 2021 without any Northwestern sporting events. Let’s dive in!

Brandon Joseph repeats as All-American or nah? - @Davis_Johnson1 on Twitter.

My heart says yes, but my belief in turnover regression says no. Brandon Joseph did a lot of great things on the field in 2020, but nothing tops his incredible feat of recording six interceptions in the pandemic-shortened season. The importance of turnovers in football cannot be understated, especially when you’re a team constantly in close, low-scoring battles as Northwestern tends to be.

But turnovers are also, in general, kind of random. Sure, racking up picks is more skill-based than hopping on a fumble (which is nearly by definition random), but it’s not usually a sticky stat for both players and teams. Additionally, two of B-Joe’s interceptions last season were the result of a pass bouncing off the hands of opposing receiver. Great on him to make the play, but he didn’t create the takeaway more than he ensured to not waste the given opportunity.

That’s all a long-winded way of saying second or third team All-American status might be more likely than a second consecutive first team nod. Most college football media members aren’t X’s and O’s football masters (that includes myself) and will gravitate toward reputation (*stares in Shaun Wade*) and box score production. Another safety somewhere in the NCAA hits the jackpot on the interception lottery this season and he probably could snag Joseph’s spot. He’s a special player who does a lot more than pick off passes, and he very well could prove me wrong, but I wouldn’t bet good money on it just to be cautious.

Which local restaurant/chain should link up with the NWO for a sponsorship? - @TortorelloJohn on Twitter.

(Yes, there were more NIL questions asked for this mailbag, but my sources tell me that they were deemed important enough to receive their own separate articles scheduled for later on this week).

Assuming that this question means what local restaurants should hook up with NU athletes for a sponsorship, Buffalo Joe’s has to be one of the answers. I don’t even go to the place that much but still have it brought to my attention on a weekly basis from someone in the Northwestern periphery. If you’ve spent anytime around NU at some point in your life, you’ve heard of Buffalo Joe’s, so them getting in on the new NIL legislation only seems right.

Second choice is Giordano’s, as I can already imagine the offensive line serving in a sponsor for some kind of buffet or “All you can eat” option and the ads becoming massively popular. I, for one, would eat anywhere Peter Skoronski tells me to, and I’m guessing that most of you would do the same.

What are the features of your ideal Ryan Field renovation? - Ben Chasen, Inside NU Managing Editor.

A hard question for me to answer given that I only really experienced a couple of home games as a freshman and have not seen it since given COVID still raging very hard on us during that time.

One thing that comes to mind is a further utilization of that grassy, hill area behind the south end zone. I know that’s not technically a renovation, but I think using cool little bits of landscaping built into your stadium is a cool thing to do. I realize the worry with allowing rowdy fans and students to be that close to the field of play, but just having it sit as an empty aesthetic attraction feels like a waste to me.

But overall, I don’t know if there’s any other solution for the usual complaints besides making the stadium smaller. It’s too big given the size of Northwestern’s fan base and student population, and rarely gets filled up save for a strong showing from the opposing crowd. Bumping that 47, 130 seat capacity to the 25,000 to 30,000 range could help foster a better atmosphere more akin to Northwestern’s identity, so finding a way to reduce seating or even building a new stadium altogether seem like the best options to me, even if they’re a bit drastic.

How much will we be expecting from the Northwestern offense this year? It seems like a transition season in some ways, but at the same time they got a bunch (for Northwestern, at least) of veteran talent in the offseason. Will it once again be acceptable for this team to lean on their defense the way they have so often in the past decade? - Noah Coffman, Inside NU EIC Emeritus.

I’d expect some small regression from the past year, which on the surface sounds a little pessimistic given the team only cracked over 30 points in two out of their nine contests during 2020. I don’t believe in any of the current options at starting quarterback as much I believed in Peyton Ramsey, who came to NU having already clocked in three seasons of Big Ten experience as a starter. As 2019 taught us, quarterback play outweighs almost everything positive or negative that happens in a collegiate offense, and the potential of a better offensive line and ground game will not make up the gap if there’s a drop off in QB play.

Though, it should be mentioned that this next season will not be as bad as 2019. That offensive showing set the bar so low that the 2021 ‘Cats could trip on their face and still clear it with comfort. For that reason, they should still reach the acceptable level needed to put together a winning season on the backs of ol’ reliable — a Pat Fitzgerald-era defense.

One might be worried that the an offensive regression during the second year of Mike Bajakian’s tenure might say about the OC going forward, but I’d want a bigger sample size when evaluating the coach then that. Down years happen, especially one in which a new guy will be calling the shots behind center, and the leading receiver from the previous year’s team was Cam Porter, a running back who only started the last three games of the season.

For one million dollars, you need to pick one basketball player to make a free throw out of Ryan Young, Giannis, and B*n S*mmons. Who are you taking and why is it not B*n S*mmons? - Mac Stone, Inside NU Deputy EIC (and now enemy of Daniel Olinger).

First of all, how dare you Mac. When the Bulls are forced to trade Coby White for a 2023 second round pick I will dunk on you without mercy.

In all seriousness, this B*n S*mmons you speak of cannot be the selection under any circumstances. That leaves Ryan Young and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who oddly enough have near identical career percentages from the foul line (69.7% and 68.5%, respectively).

However, I value volume of free throws attempted with a shot of this magnitude, as simply getting to the line over and over again helps a player develop more of a comfort in these types of situations. Given that Giannis has attempted at least 9.5 free throws every game for the past three seasons, while Ryan Young has only averaged 3.0 and 2.5 FTA per game in his two seasons as a Wildcat, give me the Greek Freak for the one-million dollar shot.