4. Northwestern Wildcats College Football Preview 2021: Defense
– The D turned it up several notches, leading the nation in pass efficiency defense and allowing 341 yards and 16 points per game. It wasn’t always a rock, but it was fantastic at getting off the field. But defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz is gone, and in comes Jim O’Neil from the Las Vegas Raiders to keep it all going. It’s a Pat Fitzgerald defense. It’s going to be good no matter what, but …
– Only five starters are back. The linebacking corps gets gutted with Paddy Fisher and Blake Gallagher done. The secondary loses CB Greg Newsome to the Cleveland Browns, top pass rusher Eku Leota to Auburn, and S JR Pace is gone, too.
However, Chris Bergin is a smallish, solid tackler for the linebacking corps, Joe Spivak is a sound force in the interior, and the secondary has several nice parts even with the key losses.
– There’s a little bit of a next-man-up thing happening here – the program is used to finding linebackers who do big things when given the shot. Brandon Joseph should be an All-Big Ten safety and AJ Hampton is a good all-around corner. Again, though, in this super-senior year when so many teams are full of veterans, Northwestern not having four of its top six tacklers is a hit.