We’re nearly at the end of our Top Ten Northwestern Football players countdown here at Inside NU. Before we reveal the top three, however (all of whom you could probably guess), we wanted to give a little shine to some of the players who fell just outside of the final 10. It’s no secret that Northwestern’s season left much to be desired, but these players gave it their all this entire year and their performances deserve to be recognized.
Luke Akers, P
If you have an offense that struggles as much as Northwestern’s did (13.8 points per game), having a good punter becomes critical in giving the team a chance to have some defensive stands. UCLA transfer Luke Akers filled this role for the ‘Cats in 2022, punting 45 times with an average of 41.0 yards per punt. He placed 14 of those punts within the 20 yard line, pinning opposing offenses deep over and over again.
Akers’ best performance came, somewhat ironically, in Northwestern’s only win of the season against Nebraska. He punted six times in that Week Zero showdown, with three falling inside the 10-yard line. This performance contributed to the victory, and assured Wildcat fans that punting would not be an issue in the foreseeable future as the current junior stands to return for at least one more season.
Adam Stage, K
The next honorable mention is also a transfer, and also a special teamer. Kicker Adam Stage came to Northwestern as a grad transfer from North Dakota, going 7-for-9 on field goals, and a perfect 17-for-17 on PATs. He accounted for nearly a quarter of the Wildcats’ points (23%) this season, including two games where he was the only one who scored (Minnesota and Illinois).
Stage was also effective in the kickoff game, taking 38 kicks for an average of 58.4 yards with eight touchbacks. With 2022 being Stage’s sixth season of college football, it is unlikely that he returns to Northwestern, but his contributions were much appreciated.
Rod Heard II, DB
Moving to the defensive side of the ball, DB Rod Heard did an impressive job filling in for an oft-injured secondary. He appeared in all 12 games for the ‘Cats, totaling 67 total tackles (47 solo), one sack and one interception. The redshirt junior flew around the field for Northwestern, making 10 tackles in a pair of games (Maryland and Illinois). His performances this season should keep him in the rotation next season with a chance to be a starter as both A.J. Hampton and Cam Mitchell depart the program.
Sean McLaughlin, DL
Our final honorable mention is junior defensive lineman Sean McLaughlin. Playing in all 12 games, McLaughlin racked up 31 total tackles with four tackles for a loss and a forced fumble. He stood out against Maryland with eight tackles, but his season highlight had to be blocking a kick against Miami (OH). The Frankfort, Ill. native has an opportunity to make an impact next season as one of the only defensive lineman currently on the roster.