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 Wildcats’ 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.
Now that we’ve made it through our top 10 rankings, here are a few other significant names on Northwestern’s roster that some of our staff members noted — just not enough to get them in the top 10.
There was only room for one wideout in the top 10 — Malik Washington at No. 6 — but the emergence of a second option for whoever QB1 is remains a necessity for this team. The redshirt junior has shown great flashes, as he led the team in both receptions and receiving yards over the first four weeks of the season before suffering a season-ending injury.
Here’s a stat for you: Wildcats kicker Charlie Kuhbander converted an NCAA-worst 46.2% of his field goals (6-of-13) in 2021. That’s right, Northwestern had the worst kicking performance in the entire FBS last season! The duties now fall onto the shoulders of presumed starter Jack Olsen, a former Michigan State transfer who will look to turn around what was a terrible showing from his predecessor.
After four years and four different college programs (there’s a great feature by our own Michael Barthelemy right here!), Holmes comes to Northwestern as a tough, run-stopping D-Lineman who should help shore up a unit that was the worst rushing defense in the Big Ten last season.
If Ryan Hilinski loses the QB job to a more mobile backup who has less of an arm, such as Brendan Sullivan, could it be possible that we see a lot more check downs and tight end usage as pass-catchers? Now a graduate student, Mangieri has the most experience among the options, but has yet to even top a 100-yard season. He may have mostly been used for blocking so far in his career, but it’s very possible that he gets more required of him receiving-wise in 2022.
Josh Priebe, Charlie Schmidt, and Ethan Wiederkehr
It’s time to see the top-tier recruiting job that Kurt Anderson has done turn into results on the field. The offensive line returns four starters, three of which (Peter Skoronski at LT, Priebe at LG, Wiederkehr at RT) will likely stay in their same position. The unit is older now, and with the return of Cam Porter and emergence of Evan Hull, the big guys up front should look to be a much better group than 2021. The big question mark is Schmidt, who presumably moves from RG to center to replace Sam Gerak.
Genson Hooper Price
Depending on Kirtz’s injury recovery, the big-bodied receiver may have an opportunity to take up the mantle of No. 2 wideout. GHP only had two catches for 15 yards last year along with a handful of drops, but the physical tools are there if he is able to take the leap.
Ray Niro III
The recipient of the prestigious No. 1 jersey, Niro proved last season that he could be a dangerous threat in the return game. The senior led the Wildcats in kick return yards in 2021 and averaged over 20 yards per return on punts.