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Brandon Vitabile, Northwestern Wildcats football, No. 66

Brandon Vitabile has turned into probably the best center in the Big Ten. NU will need him to be the rock of a line that will have new starters at five positions.

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Vitabile is one of the more important players on the Wildcats, and I'll explain why! Centers are always important, and especially when every single other player on one's offensive line is more or less an unknown.

Luckily from Northwestern, the 6'3, 300-pound junior has proven to be nothing but really, really, really good at center in his time at Northwestern, and could pick up some hardware this year if he plays at the same level he's played in his first two seasons as a starter. Let's read up about the should-be rock of Northwestern's offensive line.

Origin myth

Brandon's one of three players on the team and two offensive linemen from the Garden State, where he played for Edison (N.J.) Bishop Ahr. Once again, I have no idea where Edison is because I pretty much refuse to set foot in New Jersey, but Google Maps indicates its one of the first towns I go through on the New Jersey Turnpike, which, ewwwww. Rivals had him as the 10th best player in Dirty Jersey, including No. 2 amongst offensive linemen, sixth amongst centers nationally. Anyway, that amounted to three stars and offers from Syracuse and Vanderbilt, but Vitabile chose Northwestern the July before his senior year. He'd break out that senior year, though, finding his way onto a bunch of all-state/all-region teams, which explains the relatively small amount of offers.

At Northwestern

Vitabile redshirted his freshman year, but immediately impressed coaches. So much so, in fact, that when he became eligible to play, they bumped three-year starter Ben Burkett from center to right guard to get Vitabile on the field at his preferred position. He was fine right away, showing both strength as a blocker and acumen in making calls for the line, neither of which are things that come easily to redshirt freshmen. He'd start every game as a sophomore as well, a key member of a really strong offensive line.

Anagram of choice

Discovering the Wildcats' true inner selves through spelling

Brandon Vitabile, anagrammed, is


This is either the name of a horrorcore rap duo or a buddy cop show. AND I WOULD WATCH AND/OR LISTEN TO BOTH. (Also considered: "Nirvana dot bible", a website for a pantheistic religion because all races and creeds can worship Brandon Vitabile, "Tail-driven Nabob," which is what I want to become in life, "Boner Vial Bandit" -- QUICK, HE'S GETTING AWAY! --- and "Deviant loin barb", which is a punishment for sex offenders.)

Relevant musical choice

Every once in a while I make you listen to my friend Brandon who is good at rapping:

Not even my favorite Brandon track, and still hot as hell, guys! Go listen to his choose-your-own-adventure-style mixtape over here.

Brandon tweets

Vitabile is on Twitter at @BVitabile, which is simple enough. Summary: he likes country music and Bruce Springsteen.

Friday Night Lights the movie

Puppy bowl is awesome #competitive #physical #PEDs

— Brandon Vitabile (@BVitabile) February 3, 2013

How he can help

Northwestern loses three offensive linemen, and is going to shift one of the two guys who returns from right tackle to left tackle. That's instability, y'all.

Vitabile's presence is going to go a long way towards quelling that instability. He's a two year starter that showed the maturity of a senior when just starting out, literally -- they bumped the senior that could have played his position over to another position. The other dudes are going to be talented, but green. With a center whose calls they can trust manning the middle, they'll be able to look just fine, and hopefully look like a cohesive unit worthy of their relative recruiting hype thanks to Vitabile's leadership.

>Depth chart projection

Vitabile is going to start for the third straight year, one of the surest things in Northwestern's depth chart. It's tough even figuring out who his backup might be.

Awards projection

Phil Steele has Vitabile as the Big Ten's first-team center, and he's on the endless Rimington Trophy Watch List, which features over a third of the centers in the country.

I think it's pretty reasonable to see Vitabile as the Big Ten's best center, especially after the graduation of all three players who made the media and coaches' first two teams last year: Travis Frederick, drafted in the first round by the Cowboys, Matt Stankiewitch, signed by the New England Patriots, and James Ferentz, who isn't gonna go pro probably but was still good for a second team nod. If Vitabile keeps up the level of his first two seasons, he should be a first-teamer with those guys gone.

I don't think he'll win the Rimington, but he should be a finalist or semifinalist. It's actually interesting to consider Vitabile's NFL prospects. Not many centers make it to the NFL in any given season and even then the league has a tendency to turn college guards into centers, but Vitabile is probably one of the top ten in his draft class.