4. College Football News Preview 2020: Northwestern Wildcats Defense 3 Things To Know
– The defense did its part. Even with no help from the offense, the D was able to finish 25th in the nation overall, was great against the run, and allowed more than 24 points just four times. And now it’s about to be even better.
Start with the other side. The O should be a whole lot stronger – it can’t be any worse – and that alone will take some of the pressure off. Six of the top seven and nine of the top 11 tacklers are back. This will be a rock-solid sound D, and it all starts with the linebacking corps.
All-Big Ten performer Paddy Fisher is back after leading the way with 89 stops at his spot in the middle of the linebacking corps, but he’s not alone. No. 2 tackler Blake Gallagher returns on the weakside, No. 3 tackler Chris Bergin is back on the strongside, and they’re all seniors.
– The pass rush – experience-wise – is a different story. Joe Gaziano is done after leading the team with nine sacks, but he’s not the lone loss. Three of the four starters are done up front. Sophomore Eku Leota isn’t as big as Gaziano, but he can move. A true anchor has to emerge on the inside – it would be fantastic if one of the freshmen 310-pounders, either Jordan Butler or Te-Rah Edwards could rise up into the role.
– It was supposed to be a transitional period for the secondary last year, but it came through just fine. It was lit up by Ohio State and Minnesota – no shame there – and there weren’t enough interceptions, but it didn’t allow a 300-yard passing day and only gave up 6.6 yards per pass.
Travis Whillock came up with 78 tackles, Cam Ruiz is a good-sized corner who can hit, but the group has to come up with more big plays. Three starters return, but the defensive backs only came up with three picks.