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State of the Roster: Where Northwestern stands a week into the transfer portal

An NIL fund would really come in handy right about now.

Photo by Ryan Kuttler/Northwestern Athletics

Since it opened one week ago, 1,171 NCAA football players have entered the transfer portal.

Now more than ever, with record numbers of athletes in the portal and several NU departures for the NFL, it is imperative that the Wildcats make a splash. If not, Northwestern may be doomed to a just as bad, if not worse season in 2023 as this year’s 1-11 campaign.

While the new era of college football has been kind to some teams (ahem... USC), it hasn’t been great for the schools that don’t particularly have a lot of NIL money floating around. Northwestern welcomed in seven transfers last year — Luke Akers, Henrik Barndt, Wendell Davis Jr., Taishan Holmes, Ryan Johnson, Jeremiah Lewis and Vincent Picozzi — although the additions were met by a far more significant loss in former All-American Brandon Joseph, who left for Notre Dame.

Over the last week, you’ve probably seen hundreds of tweets, texts and posts about all the names on the move in college football. But fear not! Here, we’ve compiled a list of every Evanston departure so far this winter, along with every name currently listed on the roster in a ~very loose~ depth chart to keep you up to date on all the latest moves.

*Note: High school commitments were not included, and will likely fill out much of the 2023 roster.

Transfer Portal

WR Wayne Dennis Jr., WR Malik Washington, LB Wendell Davis Jr., DB A.J. Hampton Jr., DB Tyler Haskins, DL Jordan Butler, DL Jason Gold Jr., DL Austin Firestone

With Washington and Hampton not anticipated to return after their senior years anyway, this year’s transferring-out class definitely wasn’t anything unexpected, and it didn’t have the same “shock” as losing Joseph in 2021. However, the biggest issue lies in the fact that three defensive tackles — including Northwestern’s third-highest 2022 recruit in Firestone — announced they would be leaving, dealing a tough blow to the depth of the front line. It makes sense with the recent firing of DL coach Marty Long, but the rotation cabinet now appears barren for the unit.

Declared for NFL Draft

RB Evan Hull, DB Cameron Mitchell, WR Donny Navarro III

Both redshirt juniors, it was a little unexpected that Hull and Mitchell declared for the draft; however, given the seasons both had, it certainly makes sense. In Hull’s case, the running back room has the depth to replace the dual threat RB. On the other hand, the secondary now loses its two best corners in Mitchell and Hampton, and will have to rely on inexperienced defenders to pick up the slack.

While it’s far too early to make any predictions, I see Mitchell as a mid-round pick, likely the fourth, but he could go higher if he tests well. Hull absolutely has the talent to make it onto at least a practice squad, if not an NFL roster, but the 2023 running back draft class is loaded, so it’ll be tough for him to hear his name called in the draft.

No announcement yet, but not expected to return

DB Jeremiah Lewis, DB Trent Carrington, DL Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL Henrik Barndt, DL Taishan Holmes, DL Ryan Johnson, DL Devin O’Rourke, DL Jaylen Pate, K Adam Stage, LB Declan Carr, LB Khalid Jones, OL Vincent Picozzi, OL Charlie Schmidt, OL Peter Skoronski, OL Ethan Wiederkehr, RB Andrew Clair, TE Charlie Mangieri, WR Ray Niro III

*Note: OL Conrad Rowley also announced his medical retirement earlier this season.

All signs point to Skoronski and Adebawore joining the names above in the draft pool (and likely getting selected), but with both parties taking their time with an announcement, anything may be on the table.

Northwestern’s biggest loss has to be the departure of the bulk of its offensive line. If the All-Big Ten left tackle enters the draft, the Wildcats would lose its entire starting five (minus Josh Priebe, who started over Picozzi before Rowley’s retirement). The result, if not fixed with transfers or quickly developed recruits, would be detrimental for whoever’s under center.

Current Offensive Expected Depth Chart

*Note: Reserve players were listed by grade, alphabetically.

QB: Brendan Sullivan

Expected Losses: None

Also on Roster: Ryan Hilinski, Carl Richardson, Cole Freeman, Jack Lausch

RB: Cam Porter, Anthony Tyus III, Joseph Himon II

Expected Losses: Evan Hull, Andrew Clair

Also on Roster: Connor Newhouse, Marcus Cisco, Jake Arthurs, Albert Kunickis III

WR: Bryce Kirtz, Genson Hooper Price, Jacob Gill

Expected Losses: Malik Washington, Donny Navarro III, Ray Niro III, Wayne Dennis Jr.

Also on Roster: Preston Bacon, Jack Kennedy, Donnie Gray, Calvin Johnson II, Jasper Stratton, Reggie Fleurima

TE: Thomas Gordon, Marshall Lang, Duke Olges

Expected Losses: Charlie Mangieri

Also on Roster: Hunter Welcing, Lawson Albright, Chris Petrucci, Blake Van Buren

OL: Josh Priebe, Caleb Tiernan, Ben Wrather, Zachary Franks, Josh Thompson

Expected Losses: Peter Skoronski, Ethan Wiederkehr, Vincent Picozzi, Charlie Schmidt, Conrad Rowley

Also on Roster: Dom D’Antonio, Max Skidmore, Luka Trifunovic, Jackson Carsello, Braeden Edwards, Nick Herzog, Deuce McGuire

Offensive Notes

Boy, the offensive line sure does look thin when it’s put like that. With the top five guys all likely done, Kurt Anderson will have to turn to a lineup that features a guard who had a season-ending leg injury and two reserves who struggled for much of the year. After them, it’s anyone’s guess who will play. Franks and Thompson are listed since they received the most snaps in the season-finale against Illinois, but it’s a toss-up who will really be manning the line come September.

Otherwise, the biggest loss is the wide receivers. Washington’s transfer opens up a huge hole, and neither Kirtz, Hooper Price nor Gill has shown they can be the No. 1 guy yet. There were plenty of garbage time options who got snaps against Illinois, like Donnie Gray and Reggie Fleurima, so perhaps one of those two prospects or the others listed will get their chance.

Current Defensive Expected Depth Chart

DL: Sean McLaughlin, Aidan Hubbard, Najee Story, P.J. Spencer

Expected Losses: Adetomiwa Adebawore, Henrik Barndt, Jason Gold Jr., Taishan Holmes, Ryan Johnson, Devin O’Rourke, Jaylen Pate, Jordan Butler, Austin Firestone

Also on Roster: Jaiden Cameron, Carmine Bastone, Brendan Flakes, Anto Saka, Peyton Warford

LB: Bryce Gallagher, Xander Mueller, Greyson Metz

Expected Losses: Declan Carr, Wendell Davis, Jr., Khalid Jones

Also on Roster: Owen Bergin, Cullen Coleman, Mac Uihlein, Braydon Brus, Miles Crutchley, Jason Reynolds II, Kenny Soares Jr.

DB: Rod Heard II, Devin Turner, Jaheem Joseph, Coco Azema, Garnett Hollis Jr.

Expected Losses: Cameron Mitchell, A.J. Hampton Jr., Jeremiah Lewis, Trent Carrington, Tyler Haskins

Also on Roster: Joe DeHaan, Nigel Williams, Ore Adeyi, Theran Johnson, Garner Wallace, Robert Fitzgerald, Jack Oyola, Evan Smith, Braden Turner

K: Jack Olsen

Expected Losses: Adam Stage

Also on Roster: Jacob Tabiban

P: Luke Akers, Hunter Renner

LS: Will Halkyard

Defensive Notes

The linebackers may stay solid, but the defensive line and cornerbacks will be undergoing a a major makeover in 2023. In regards to defensive tackles alone, Northwestern is projected to lose six, making depth along that front a top priority. The ‘Cats may have struggled to defend the run the last two years, and a completely new D-line certainly would not help flip the switch.

The secondary takes another big hit, losing its top two corners as well as its starting strong safety in Lewis. There are some solid replacements left, as Heard just finished off a strong campaign and Turner earned significant reps in his first year, and it certainly helps that Azema will probably return from injury. However, Heard and Turner will need to make big leaps to show they can become lockdown top corners after spending much of the year guarding the second and third options.