In continuing our summer football coverage, we are counting down Northwestern’s Top 10 most important players in 2022. We’ve created a composite averaging the rankings of each of our staffer’s respective lists, revealing who we believe to be the most crucial to the Wildcat’s upcoming success.
However, we know that is up for interpretation. For some, it could mean the value of one player over his backup. It could mean players in crucial roles. It could also mean players who have underperformed and need to step up.
Only one thing is known: no two lists from our staff members are the same. That’s why for each player, we’ll have at least one member break down their placement for the aforementioned player.
No. 2, DB Cam Mitchell
Sarah Effress (10)
Cam Mitchell made a significant jump in playing time in 2021 compared to his previous two years at Northwestern. Tasked with filling the gap in pass coverage left by now-Cleveland Brown Greg Newsome II, Mitchell finished the season with 37 solo tackles and six assisted with five passes defended. And, as his recent appearance at Big Ten Media days would suggest, expectations for the junior this season are even higher.
With the loss of Brandon Joseph in the secondary who settled in with the second most solo tackles and four passes defended in 2021, the pressure is on the entire Sky Team, corners and safeties, to find a way to improve from last season with a new identity. Now, with two coaches between the group, Matt MacPherson for DBs and Ryan Smith for corners specifically, it feels like there is a shift beginning in Jim O’Neil’s defense with Cam Mitchell, A.J. Hampton and Coco Azema leading the way.
I put Mitchell relatively low on my list compared to most because I view Hampton and Azema as more important for the secondary to function as a whole. However, Mitchell’s individual talent is clearly on the up and up, with some of his better performances coming in the latter end of last season like his nine-tackle performance against Purdue. Now with three years of experience under his belt heading into his redshirt junior season, the sky really is the limit for him.