2012 Northwestern Preview – Offense
Northwestern WR Demetrius Fields
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Northwestern Wildcat Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Offensive coordinator Mick McCall was able to get 29 points and 421 yards per game out of an inconsistent attack, but there are plenty of areas that need lots and lots of work. It all starts up front with a line that couldn't pass protect and couldn't blast away for the running game. There's plenty of height and experience, but the production has to be better. It would help to have a good No. 1 running back to work around, and there are plenty of options with Treyvon Green likely the best on the lot. The best runner is quarterback Kain Colter, a baller who was excellent when pressed into duty early on. Now he has to be a better deep ball passer and has to make the green receiving corps better.
Star of the offense: Junior QB Kain Colter
Passing: Kain Colter
55-82, 673 yds, 6 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Kain Colter
135 carries, 654 yds, 9 TD
Receiving: Kain Colter
43 catches, 466 yds, 3 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore RB Treyvon Green
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Tony Jones
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Patrick Ward
Top three all-star candidates: 1) OG Brian Mulroe, 2) Ward, 3) Colter
Strength of the offense: Colter, Receiver Potential
Weakness of the offense: Pass Protection, Proven Running Backs
When Dan Persa needed a while to fully recover from his Achilles heel injury, junior Kain Colter stepped in and served as a terrific relief pitcher leading the way to a win over Boston College and running for 109 yards and three scores in the win over Eastern Illinois. The 6-0, 190-pounder is a great athlete, fast, and smart enough to have the offense down, but he has a mediocre arm and he's never going to make big things happen down the field. The team's leading rusher, even in his limited action, he ran for 654 yards and nine scores to go along with 673 passing yards with six scores and a pick, completing 67% of his chances. When Persa came back, Colter turned into a receiver finishing with 43 grabs for 466 yards and three scores. Now he's just a quarterback and he should be among the Big Ten's dual-threat playmakers.
6-3, 210-pound sophomore Trevor Siemian is a good passing prospect out of Florida with a live arm and the deep ball ability that Colter doesn't have. He stepped in for a few stretches and completed 16-of-26 passes for 256 yards and three scores with a pick, and he showed he could run a little bit when he had to. He'll fight for the No. 2 job with redshirt freshmen Zach Oliver and P.J. Carollo, two interesting options with big upside. The 6-4, 235-pound Oliver was taken out of Baton Rouge as one of the team's top recruits last season. Accurate and smart, he's a pure passer, while the 6-1, 180-pound Corollo is a baller with good accuracy and mobility.
Watch Out For … Siemian. Colter could be too dangerous in a variety of other ways to just keep at quarterback, if that makes any sense. There might be times when the offense needs more downfield passing plays, and that's where Siemian will step in.
Strength: Colter's athleticism. Northwestern has had some talented quarterbacks over the years, but it hasn't had anyone who can move like Colter. A phenomenal all-around playmaker, he can keep the team in games all by himself.
Weakness: Backup experience. Siemian has been on the field a bit, but considering Colter is going to get smacked around from time to time when he takes off, everyone will be holding their collective breath on a regular basis. The Wildcats have to get the young reserves meaningful time now and then.
Outlook: Persa was a special player who had a magical quality when he was healthy. However, he wasn't quite right last year after the injury and Colter was more than able to produce when he got his chances. Colter won't wing the ball all over the yard, but he could be a threat to run for 1,000 yards and throw for 2,000.
Unit Rating: 7.5
The Wildcats have to get something out of one of the starting running backs. Junior Mike Trumpy was the team's starting running back to start last year after taking over the role in 2010 finishing with 530 yards and four touchdowns. At 6-1 and 210 pounds he has great size and toughness, but he can't stay healthy. After getting knocked out for the year two years ago with a wrist injury, he was lost last season to a torn ACL after running for 182 yards and a score, averaging 5.2 yards per carry, in just three games before getting hurt.
Is Treyvon Green ready to blossom? The star recruit in the 2011 class, he stepped in as a backup finishing third on the team running for 362 yards and four scores. The 5-10, 215-pounder is extremely fast with good toughness and a nose for the hole and cranking out the big play. Also a receiver, he caught ten passes for 39 yards but wasn't able to break off anything big. The coaching staff will never be afraid to keep feeding him the ball.
5-8, 175-pound junior Venric Mark is a special kick and punt returner who needs the ball more in the offensive flow. He ran for 104 yards with a score averaging 6.9 yards per carry, and he caught a pass for four yards, but he's too dangerous in the open field to not get the ball more.
Watch Out For … lots and lots of options in an attempt to get the ground game going. Green was brought in last year to be the main man, but Trumpy will be a good No. 2 option, at worst. 220-pound senior Tyris Jones is a pounder who ran for 69 yards, and Jordan Perkins was a three-star recruit with big-time upside.
Strength: Kain Colter. The team's best rushing option might be the quarterback, taking the pressure off the running backs a little bit. There are enough backs to rotate around to find the hot hand, but it'll be Colter who carries most of the load.
Weakness: Production. The Wildcat rushing attack finished averaging a solid 167 yards per game, but the running backs failed to scare anyone. It would be really, really nice if one back could grow into a true No. 1 back for defenses to focus on.
Outlook: It's been years since Northwestern had anyone to worry about at running back, but Green or Perkins could turn out to be the new star depending on the blocking up front and the opportunities. The backs will all get their chances to show what they can do, but Colter will be the best runner on the lot.
Unit Rating: 6
The Wildcats lose leading receiver Jeremy Ebert and top tight end Drake Dunsmore, so now it'll be up to senior Demetrius Fields to shine at the Y. At 6-0 and 205 pounds he has decent size and good experience making 32 catches for 382 yards and three scores saving his best for last catching seven passes for 73 yards against Texas A&M. More steady than spectacular, now he has to be better.
Working on the inside will be 6-2, 195-pound junior Rashad Lawrence, who started the first five games of the season before going to a backup role making 19 catches for 203 yards with a score. A dangerous athlete with speed to go along with size, the Orlando native has all the tools to go along with a little bit of experience. He'll combine at the position with 6-3, 200-pound Cameron Dickerson who brings good size and athleticism to the spot. While he wasn't a top recruit, he might be needed to add more bulk at the Z.
6-3, 225-pound sophomore Christian Jones got into the equation right away as a true freshman making 16 catches for 195 yards. One of the team's top recruits, the Houston native had the potential to go to a much bigger program before tearing his ACL. Northwestern wanted him and might have gotten a steal for the H. He'll combine with the lightning fast Drew Moulton, a 5-11, 180-pound junior who can fly, and like Jones he scared off teams with a torn ACL in high school. After getting in a little bit of work making four catches for 40 yards, he's poised and ready to do far more.
Very fast and very promising, sophomore Tony Jones will be the deep threat on the outside. He stepped in as a true freshman making 11 grabs for 157 yards and a score, but he got hurt with a shoulder injury. Last year he suffered a knee injury just before the season began, but he's going to be ready to roll. 6-3, 185-pound redshirt freshman Pierre Youngblood-Ary is big and can move. The Orlando native is an elite athlete who can jump out of the stadium on the outside.
When will junior Kyle Prater be ready to roll? The superstar USC recruit never panned out after getting hurt and finished with just one grab for six yards before deciding to transfer closer to home. At 6-5 and 215 pounds he has size and a world of talent. Based on the recruiting rankings he's the most talented target the program has ever brought in.
Drake Dunsmore finished second on the team in a Superback role, and now it'll be up to several players to pick up the slack. 6-6, 245-pound sophomore Evan Watkins is a former quarterback with a big-time arm and great athlete, and now he'll be used as a receiver. 6-3, 220-pound former linebacker Tim Riley is a physical option who can move, catching a pass for two yards. The real star is going to end up being redshirt freshman Tim Szott, a 6-4, 240-pound top recruit last year with great hands. He's a pure route runner and a terrific athlete.
Watch Out For … Jones. The offense really, really needs a deep threat, and Jones should be it. Even with Ebert coming up with a big year the attack missed a field-stretcher. Jones, if healthy, can be a big-time producer.
Strength: Lots and lots of options. The potential is through the roof. If Jones can go, and if Prater is ready, and if Dickerson can build on a strong spring and Fields can step up as the No. 1, the receivers are in place to come up with a nice year.
Weakness: Kain Colter's arm. While he was accurate when under center, he was shaky at times this spring and doesn't push the ball deep. He was at his best as the team's third-leading receiver, and now he has too many of the untested targets better.
Outlook: The potential is there to be good, but the corps is missing 120 catches and 1,602 yards and 17 touchdowns with the loss of Jeremy Ebert and Drake Dunsmore. With the 24 catches of Jacob Schmidt gone and the 43 catches of Colter moving
back to quarterback, most of the production is gone. However, if Colter is great, then the receiving corps will be good enough to shine.
Unit Rating: 6.5
The line that struggled so much in pass protection last year will be undergoing a few changes. Right tackle Patrick Ward will get a long look on the left side to replace mainstay Al Netter, but now he needs to use his experience – a starter since his freshman year - and 6-7, 310-pound frame to be a bit more of an anchor. If he goes back to the right side, 6-7, 315-pound senior Chuck Porcelli will step in after spending his career as a key reserve. A massive blocker, he's not necessarily great on the move but he has the right frame.
Likely working on the right side will be 6-6, 295-pound sophomore Paul Jorgensen, a strong, physical blocker with good athleticism for his size. He could end up working on the left side as a key pass protector if needed, while massive 6-8, 295-pound redshirt freshman Shane Mertz was one of last year's top recruits with long arms and the body to be a rock of a tackle on either side.
6-3, 300-pound sophomore Brandon Vitabile took over the center job last season and started all 13 games. A top recruit, he was considered one of the nation's best prospects for the pivot with great athleticism and the perfect size for the position. He'll be the quarterback up front for the next three years.
Senior Brian Mulroe is back at left guard for the second straight season and he should be in for a great year after earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. The 6-4, 295-pounder has grown into the job showing good movement at a blasting ability for the ground game when needed. Looking to get a little time in before taking over next year is 6-5, 280-pound redshirt freshman Geoff Mogus, a nice recruit and a pure guard with the size and toughness to become a mainstay once he gets his chance.
Senior Neal Deiters is built like a tackle at 6-8 and 315 pounds and can work outside it needed. After spending last year as a backup guard the spot on the right side should be his with impressive size and experience. 6-3, 295-pound junior Taylor Paxton has been a reserve and key practice player, but he has just enough upside to get a shot at one of the guard spots in a rotation.
Watch Out For … lots of shaking up. After a rocky spring with no consistent production in pass protection and without much blasting away for the ground game, consider the depth chart to be written in pencil.
Strength: Height. This is a really, really tall line. The projected starting five averages around 6-6 with long, tall frames. Now it has to translate in some way to more production.
Weakness: Blocking. To be fair, last year's line had to try to protect mobile quarterbacks who weren't exactly into dumping the ball away, but the pass protection was mediocre and it didn't look any better this offseason.
Outlook: The Wildcats have to be much, much better here. A stunning disappointment last season, there's enough experience and enough size to expect to be better, but it's going to take more consistency and steadier play. Considering all five starters played all 13 games last year, the hope is for the same injury luck to go along with more production.
Unit Rating: 6
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