What You Need To Know About The Northwestern Defense
– Brilliant over the second half of last season, the Northwestern defense only gave up more than 24 points once, and it came in the 39-31 overtime win over Michigan State. Six starters return, but three of the top five tacklers are gone and three key parts of the secondary have to be replaced.
The key losses are at safety, where Godwin Igwebuike and Kyle Queiro formed an effective tandem, especially against the run. 6-1, 220-pound Jared McGee is the team’s top safety option for one spot, but it’ll take the fall camp to find the right parts. Corner Montre Hartage is about to grow into a star, coming off a three-pick, 57-tackle season.
– Paddy Fisher is the team’s new big-time linebacker. The 6-4, 245-pounder led the team with 113 stops as a freshman from his spot in the middle, and running mate and second-leading tackler Nate Hall is back. 33-tackle Blake Gallagher should be able to fill in for Brett Walsh on the weakside.
– The line was fantastic against the run – the D allowed just 108 yards per game – with enough plays behind the line to be consistently disruptive. 315-pound Tyler Lancaster is gone from the interior – taking away a terrific, bulky run stopper – but the rest of the front four returns intact.
Joe Gaziano is a 280-pound pass rusher who led the team with nine sacks, and Samdup Miller is a factor on the other side coming off a strong freshman season. There’s a good enough rotation on the inside to fill in for Lancaster, but 6-3, 290-pound Jordan Thompson is the anchor now.
Biggest Key To The Northwestern Defense
Yeah, the secondary had talent last year and now has to replace three parts, but it also finished last in the Big Ten in pass defense, giving up 250 yards per game.
Just about everyone threw for 220 yards or more, and Nevada and Wisconsin each came close to hitting the 200-yard mark. The 17 interceptions made up for a slew of problems, but the defense struggled a bit on third downs and got hit for 3,244 yards on the year.
To be fair, the pass D was an improvement after a rougher 2016, but with Purdue coming up in the opener, clamping down in the defensive backfield will be a must.