2014 Northwestern: What You Need To Know

Posted Jul 19, 2014

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2014 Northwestern Preview

What You Need To Know...

- 2014 Northwestern Preview 
What You Need To Know About The Offense: After a year of injury and inconsistency all across the board, this year the Wildcats aren’t going to deal with a two quarterback system now that Kain Colter is gone. It’s Trevor Siemian’s offense to run, and that means more of an emphasis on the passing game. Three of the top five pass catchers are back, but it would've been nice if top receiver Christian Jones didn't hurt his knee. Tony Jones has to pick up the slack, and everyone else's numbers should blossom with Siemian as the full-time quarterback. The bigger plus was supposed to be the return of a healthy Venric Mark, but he chose to transfer, meaning last year's leading rusher - Treyvon Green - has to shine. All five starters are back to a line that was never cohesive or healthy. Even with all of the problems and all of the missed parts, the offense still averaged 400 yards per game and had some nice moments. With nine starters back, the pop and production should be even better.

What You Need To Know About The Defense: The Wildcats struggled all season long to come up with the consistent production, giving up 400 yards or more seven times and rarely coming up with a big performance. The pass rush was just okay, and the run defense was fine at times, but the D should be much stronger if the line can return healthy. The secondary has the potential to be fantastic with corner Nick VanHoose and safety Ibraheim Campbell leading a group loaded with experience, and the linebacking corps has as much talent as Pat Fitzgerald has ever worked with. Can it all mean a more dominant season? After allowing close to 5,100 yards, there’s room for improvement.

Players You Need To Know
1. LB Chi Chi Ariguzo, Sr.
While he’s not all that huge at 6-3 and 235 pounds, he’s a great tackler and a top all-around defender finishing second on the team with 106 tackles with two sacks, six tackles for loss and four picks. One of the team’s dominant tacklers last year, he started off with ten tackles against Cal, 12 against Maine, and 14 against both Iowa and Illinois. Very quick and great against the pass, he has the athleticism to be even more of a pass rusher if needed. Perfect on the weakside, he should earn All-Big Ten honors with a great final season.

2. C Brandon Vitabile, Sr.
The 6-3, 300-pound Vitabile took over the center job three years ago and never let it go. A top recruit, he was considered one of the nation’s best center prospect for the pivot with great athleticism and perfect size for the position, and even though there have been problems up front, he’s been great earning all-star honor. With all five starters back up front – assuming everyone gets and stays healthy – it’s Vitabile’s line to run.

3. S Ibraheim Campbell, Sr.
With 73 tackles and a sack with a team-leading four picks and five broken up passes, the 5-11, 205-pounder is the tone-setter for the secondary, making ten stops against both Nebraska and Michigan State doing a great job against the run. A great hitter, he came up with 188 tackles in his first two seasons, and while he might not be perfect against the deep ball – even with 12 broken up passes in 2012 - he’s a sure-thing open-field tackler who should come up with a great final season.

4. OT Paul Jorgensen, Sr.
At 6-6 and 295 pounds, Jorgensen has a good frame and enough experience to turn in a big final year. Able to work at either tackle spot, he has mostly worked on the right side, but this year, with more of an emphasis on the passing game, he’ll likely get a longer look on the left side. He’s a strong, physical blocker with good athleticism for his size. Solid, the former tight end can move and has turned into one of the team’s most reliable blockers.

5. CB Nick VanHoose, Jr.
Growing into a star corner, he lived up to expectations two years ago making 33 tackles with three sacks and seven broken up passes, and last year he was even better with 61 tackles with a team-leading eight broken up passes with five tackles for loss. At 6-0 and 190 pounds, he has good size to go along with his quickness – he was a high school running back. This year, he should be even more of a No. 1, shutdown performer and great in the open field against the run. At least that’s the hope over the next few years.

6. QB Trevor Siemian, Sr.
Kain Colter is gone, and now it’s Siemian’s offense to run. Great this offseason, he showed he’s ready to make Northwestern a one-quarterback team. The 6-3, 210-pounder isn’t a statue, but he’s not going to run like Colter did – he’s a passer. Last year he completed 60% of his passes for 2,149 yards and 11 touchdowns with nine picks, and while he struggled to lead the team to wins, he’s in more command now. The Florida native has 300-yard passing ability and can push the ball down the field well and spread the ball around. With a good, experienced receiving corps to work with, an experience line up front, and Venric Mark back, Siemian could be a threat for massive numbers – he could be one of the Big Ten’s sleeper stars.

7. LB Collin Ellis, Sr.
Third on the team with 78 tackles, the 6-3, 230-pound veteran came up with ten stops against both Ohio State and Illinois with 5.5 tackles for loss with three picks, starting out the year with two pick-sixes against California. A hand injury kept him down a few years ago, but he got healthy and he started to show what he could do. Like a big safety playing linebacker, he moves around well and packs a wallop, and now he should be an even bigger statistical star working at times in the middle after spending most of his time on the strongside.

8. WR Tony Jones, Sr.
Back and the outside X is the 6-0, 185-pound Jones, a good deep threat who led the team with 55 catches for 630 yards and four touchdowns. A decent punt returner, he averaged 7.1 yards per try, but his most work was done as a receiver. He lit up Syracuse for nine catches for 185 yards and a touchdown, but he failed to catch a touchdown pass over his final five games. With tremendous speed, he might come up with far bigger numbers now that Trevor Siemian is the full-time quarterback.

9. FS Traveon Henry, Jr.
The 6-1, 200-pound veteran settled into a safety spot last offseason and made the job his, finishing foruth ont eh team with 77 tackles with four tackles for loss and a pick. While he's solid when the ball is in the air, he's at his best against the run. With good size and toughness, he's able to hold up fine making 13 tackles against Michigan and ten against Iowa, but he missed the regular season finale against Illinois - he has to stay in one piece.

10. WR Christian Jones, Sr.
This was supposed to be when he became a much bigger name, but he suffered a knee injury and will miss the season. The team’s leader in receiving yards, he came up with 54 catches for 668 yards and four touchdowns, working more as a steady target than a big play performer until the season finale, catching 13 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns against Illinois. Even so, at 6-3 and 225 pounds, he has the size to go along with decent deep speed to come up with a few more game-changing moments - someday. One of the team’s top recruits when he came aboard, the Houston native had the potential to go someplace far bigger before tearing his ACL. He worked to become 100% again, but now it's back to rehab.

- 2014 Northwestern Preview