Two-and-a-half weeks before its season is set to kick off, Northwestern has been dealt a devastating blow. Northwestern announced Tuesday that running back Cam Porter and offensive lineman Zachary Franks each suffered lower-body injuries that will keep both out for the entirety of the 2021 season.
Porter’s absence means even more turnover from 2020 for an NU team that was already set to welcome plenty of new faces to the lineup. According to ESPN writer Bill Connelly’s SP+ model, the ‘Cats return just 34% of their production from last season, a calculation made before accounting for the loss of Porter.
Expectations were particularly high for Porter after a promising close to his true first-year campaign in which he started both postseason contests the Wildcats played in, and for the season he tallied 333 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 81 carries. Porter was also NU’s leader in receptions among returning players. He was placed on the preseason watch list for the Doak Walker Award, presented yearly to the top running back in the nation, and college football expert Phil Steele named him to his Preseason All-Big Ten Fourth Team.
Franks appeared in eight of the Wildcats’ nine contests in 2020 but never started. He redshirted his first year at NU in 2019.
With Porter out, NU will now turn to redshirt sophomore Evan Hull, Bowling Green transfer and two-time All-MAC selection Andrew Clair and true first-year Anthony Tyus III at running back. While the presumed starter amongst the bunch is unclear at this time, Wildcat fans will know soon enough who the team’s go-to ball carrier is, as Northwestern kicks off its season against Michigan State at Ryan Field on September 3, just 17 days from now.