Preview 2019: Previewing and looking ahead to the Northwestern Wildcats season with what you need to know.
– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
– Top Players | Key Players, Games, Stats
– What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
– Recruiting Class Analysis | Schedule Analysis
– Northwestern Previews 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015
2018 Record: 9-5 overall, 8-1 in Big Ten
Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald, 14th year, 96-70
5. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NORTHWESTERN OFFENSE
– The offense was the 12th best in the Big Ten, there was little to no running game for stretches, the passing game was wildly inefficient, and there were massive power outages against Rutgers and Duke. The Cats seemed to like living on the edge, though, and the overall formula worked.
Five starters are gone, but considering how mediocre the O was throughout last year, it’ll almost certainly be better because …
– Hunter Johnson is a more talented quarterback than Clayton Thorson. The Philadelphia Eagles thought enough of Thorson to take him in the fifth round, and he’s not the passer Johnson is. The yards were there, but Thorson also threw 15 interceptions along with his 17 touchdowns and 3,183 yards.
Johnson’s biggest negative is that he’s not Trevor Lawrence, which is why the former superstar Clemson recruit is now in Evanston, with senior TJ Green a capable and experienced backup. It’ll also help that …
– The receiving corps is solid. Leading man Flynn Nagel is done after catching 68 passes for 780 yards, but 64-senior Bennett Skowronek is a reliable target who made 45 grabs. Junior Kyric McGowan and sophomore JJ Jefferson are deep playmakers averaging over 18 yards per grab.
The loss of second-leading receiver Cameron Green from the Superback position hurts, forcing junior Trey Pugh to play a bigger role and elevating sophomore Charlie Mangieri.
– The running game took a massive hit when Jeremy Larkin was forced to retire, but freshman Isaiah Bowser stepped up as the season went on to finish with a team-high 866 yards with six scores. 209-pound John Moten is a tough senior who has to prove he can carry the load.
– After giving up way too many plays behind the line – finishing dead last in the Big Ten in sacks allowed – the offensive front has a whole lot of retooling to do. Three starters are gone, but Jared Thomas is a veteran center and 314-pound junior Rashawn Slater can work at either tackle spot. There’s not a whole ton of bulk, but all of the key backups from last year return to fill in the gaps.