For this installment, Lake the Posts joins us. Lake The Posts, for the uninitiated, is the best place to get news and developments about Northwestern athletics on the internet, in print, and anywhere in between. So go read it, if you're not already. So, LTP, there are obviously issues surrounding your backfield. What are expectations going into this season from that group?
Suspect at best. There is only one player [at RB - ed] who has taken any level of "significant" snaps - Stephen Simmons, who saw late season action as both Tyrell Sutton and Omar Conteh went down in front of him. Simmons was a significant drop-off from both Sutton and Conteh and Cats fans are most nervous about this very position. There is a lot of speculative hope for incoming freshmen Arby Fields and Mike Trumpy, but early reports are that Trumpy may not be what we had expected. Jacob Schmidt may challenge Simmons for the spot, but it is very wide open. I'm clinging to the notion that last year Iowa was in the same boat as pre-season speculation was "who is going to play RB?". An unknown named Shonn Greene proceeded to become the Big Ten MVP.
Wow - Arby Fields and Mike Trumpy are both pretty sweet names. Sounds like Simmons is the incumbent, but unless a "Shonn Greene" miracle happens (which, no), that position may be a bit of a revolving door. Does Kafka have the starting QB position on lock?
Well at least that's settled. I said in my prior installment, Kafka's a shifty guy who has the ability to extend plays and keep drives alive. I'm sure he's never going to be all-world, but for Northwestern's offense I think he's a pretty good fit. Last season was pretty awesome for Northwestern fans - what are the keys to building off that success in 2009?
The strengths are obvious - our defense. Expectations for our "D" have never been higher in the 20 years I've been following the Cats (none of us saw the 1995 "D" coming). The recovery of both our starting DEs - Corey Wootton and Vince Browne are huge for the "D". Our secondary is the strongest it has ever been and we've got solid LB play. Obviously the question mark is the offensive skill positions - specifically WR and RB. I'm relatively confident Kafka will be as productive if not more efficient than CJ Bacher. He's known as a running QB since he broke the Big Ten QB rushing record last year against Minnesota, but his arm is underrated and reports from camp have been sterling.
Corey Wootton is a phenomenal player who has, on more than one occasion, caused me to exclaim "why is he playing for Northwestern?!?" Getting him back for that defense is going to be huge. In order for Northwestern to be successful this year, that defense had better be good enough to cover for any offensive hiccups due to positional turnover. It's going to be a tall task, but there is some real talent on that side of the ball. Give me a player who might be flying under the radar. Who's this year's Tyrelle Sutton?
Great question. We don't have the next Tyrell Sutton, in my opinion, on the roster. I hope I'm wrong. Andrew Brewer has been the answer to that question for several years now and we're still waiting for that breakout season at WR. Personally, I think soph DE Vince Browne is completely under the radar and that's fine by us. Corey Wootton has emerged as an OC's nightmare and is no longer "potential", he is simply legit.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but it sounds like the Northwestern defensive line is going to be killer this year. Let's talk a little about the program and its perception in the college football world. I know one of the big themes of your blog is trying to increase interest level, be it in Chicago, Illinois, or nation-wide. Wildcat Agenda type stuff. Do you feel that the success you had last year has helped that cause?
I think it hasn't moved the needle for the general fan, but I do think there is an uptick in media paying attention to NU from a national perspective. I'm still relatively confident that attendance will be an embarassing 30,000 or so average, which would be an INCREASE from last year. Another year like last year and we'll see increased attendance and coverage- ESPECIALLY if the Illini are average again.
You were undefeated last year in your out of conference schedule, which caused a minor and very polite (they are Northwestern, after all) celebration in your neck of the woods. Can you do it again?
I hope so. Our OOC is not exactly a murderer's row - Towson, Syracuse, Eastern Michigan and Miami (OH) each of whom have a brand new coach and are coming off abysmal seasons. If we don't it will be a major disappointment.
Well, you've got a GERGless Syracuse, which can't help, but yeah those team don't exactly sound like BCS contenders. Given that an undefeated run in the OOC schedule sounds feasible, what are you thoughts for overall record? Are the Wildcats bowl-bound in 2009?
8-4 (4-4). I'd put the over/under at 7-5. Last year I called 8-4 (we went 9-3 in regular season, 9-4 overall) in the pre-season and was mocked as a homer, the year before I predicted 7-5 (we went 6-6) and was also resoundingly mocked. I expect to be mocked again this year, but winning the OOC slate outlined above and going .500 in conference is very attainable.
Good luck with the season, and thanks again for stopping by. We don't play each other this year, but it's always nice to know what's going on around the conference.
There you have it folks - all you need to know about Northwestern. Have a great weekend.