2007 Northwestern Preview

Posted Apr 1, 2007

Preview 2007 Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern Wildcats

Preview 2007

By Pete Fiutak

- 2007 NU Offense Preview | 2007 NU Defense Preview
2007 NU Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Northwestern Preview 

Northwestern can be forgiven if it took a major step back production-wise last year finishing 4-8. It was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but the tragic death of head coach Randy Walker, the subsequent thrown-to-the-fire situation for young head man Pat Fitzgerald, and the all the weekly tributes to Walker, made it an impossible season to get through. Now things should be better.  

Fitzgerald and his team got better as the year went on finishing up with a strong second half with expected losses to Ohio State and Michigan, a heart-breaker to Michigan State thanks to an all-timer of a comeback, and wins over Iowa and Illinois to suggest the team is pointed in the right direction. The experience is there with most of the key returning players back, but more importantly, in the coaching staff.

Head coach: Pat Fitzgerald
Returning Lettermen: 40
Off. 18, Def. 21, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best NU Players
1. RB Tyrell Sutton, Jr.
2. DE Corey Wootton, Soph.
3. C Trevor Rees, Sr.
4. OT Dylan Thiry, Sr.
5. LB Adam Kadela, Sr.
6. SS Brendan Smith, Jr.
7. QB C.J. Bacher, Jr.
8. DT John Gill, Jr.
9. DT Adam Hahn, Soph.
10. WR Ross Lane, Jr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-6
Preview 2007 predicted wins

Sept. 1




Sept. 15


Sept. 22

at Ohio State

Sept. 29


Oct. 6

at Michigan State

Oct. 13


Oct. 20

Eastern Michigan

Oct. 27

at Purdue

Nov. 3


Nov. 10


Nov. 17

at Illinois

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 4-8

2006 Record:
Preview 2006 predicted wins

8/31 at Miami Univ. W 21-3
9/9 New Hampshire L 34-17
9/16 Eastern Mich W 14-6
9/22 at Nevada L 31-21
9/30 at Penn State L 33-7
10/7 at Wisconsin L 41-9
10/14 Purdue L 31-10
10/21 Michigan State L 41-38
10/28 at Michigan L 17-3
11/4 at Iowa W 21-7
11/11 Ohio State L 54-10
11/18 Illinois W 27-16

Fitzgerald said all the right things from the day he took over the job and refused to make any excuses; he truly expects Northwestern to be in the hunt for the Big Ten title every year. This team isn’t going to be that good, but it has the schedule to make six wins a must, and seven wins likely if everyone learns from the mistakes of last year.
Star running back Tyrell Sutton won’t be forgotten about, C.J. Bacher will be more consistent under center, and there won’t be the deer-in-the-headlights look the team had far too often, far too early in too many games last year. Last year was just bad enough to allow Northwestern to fly under the radar again, just like the program wants it.
2008 should be the big year. Northwestern traditionally rocks when it has a senior-laden team led by a long-time veteran under center, and it wouldn’t hurt to get a few new playmakers in the linebacking corps who’d like to be the next Fitzgerald. The pieces are there to succeed. Fitzgerald has to show he can make them all fit.

What to watch for on offense: It took an entire year to finally settle on a quarterback to properly run the spread offense, and even then, the best producer turned out to be the one who was the worst fit. Mike Kafka is the type of runner who can crank out big plays in the one-back spread, but Bacher became the far better passer. Sutton will handle the rushing workload, Bacher will be more effective, and the offense will finally start to score.

What to watch for on defense: The defense struggled mightily against the better offensive lines, and it’ll have to take a few more chances to generate more pressure in the backfield. It’s been years since Northwestern hit the quarterback on a consistent basis, and now it finally has a big, experienced front four that should be able to blow things up.

The team will be far better if … it does all the little things right. While the team will be improved on both sides of the ball, it’s not good enough to win if it’s turning the ball over, struggling in the punting game, getting nothing out of the returns, and not moving the chains on third downs. The coaching staff should be able to work a little more on the finer points.   

The Schedule: It’s almost as good as could be asked for. The Wildcats gets Ohio State and Michigan out of the way right off the bat in Big Ten play, don’t play Wisconsin or Penn State, and after the road trip to Columbus, only has to go away from Evanston four times to play Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, Purdue and Illinois. The non-conference schedule is a joke playing Northeastern, Nevada (the one decent matchup), and Duke along with Eastern Michigan.

Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Tyrell Sutton.  A lack of support from the offensive line and passing game resulted in a sophomore slump, but Sutton remains Northwestern’s most menacing weapon and a strong candidate for a tremendous 2007.  He’s a surprisingly physical jitterbug with soft hands who’ll often use his diminutive frame as an asset by getting lost behind his blockers.      

Best Defensive Player: Sophomore DE Corey Wootton.  The sky’s the limit for Wootton, who has the imposing size and wingspan to be one of the best pass rushers to ever play in Evanston.  At 6-7 and 275 pounds, he can simply overpower many tackles, but it’s his footwork, change of direction and overall athletic ability, which has Northwestern coaches suggesting they’ve got a cornerstone defender for the next three seasons.       

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB C.J. Bacher. The quarterback situation was an ongoing issue throughout last season trying to find the right triggerman to replace Brett Basanez. After finally getting healthy after a leg injury, Bacher finally got his shot in the second half of the year and threw for more than 200 yards in the final five games of the year. While he’s not the runner that most Wildcat quarterbacks would preferably be, he has the size and the passing touch to make the passing game far more efficient.

The season will be a success if ... the Wildcats go bowling. The schedule is favorable, the offense is experience, and Fitzgerald and the coaching staff knows what it’s doing now. There’s no reason they can’t win at least five of their home games, beat Eastern Michigan in Detroit, and finish off with a win at Illinois.

Key game: Nov. 17 at Illinois. Each team might be battling for a bowl in the regular season finale. Northwestern has won four in a row in the series, but this should be the toughest test in years with the young Illini certain to be better at the end of November than they will be at the beginning.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- Penalties: Opponents 65 for 544 yards – Northwestern 39 for 336 yards
- Fourth quarter scoring: Opponents 59 – Northwestern 24
- Fourth down conversions: Opponents 7 of 13 (41%) – Northwestern 2 of 11 (18%)

- 2007 NU Offense Preview |
2007 NU Defense Preview
2007 NU Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Northwestern Preview 


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2007 Northwestern Preview - Defense
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2007 Northwestern Preview - Offense
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