Preseason Outlook: Safety

In this week's installment of the preseason outlook, we look at Northwestern's group of veteran safeties and grade the unit out for the 2011 season, and also give a look at what the Wildcats' future looks like at the position.

By now, you may be catching onto an ongoing theme at each position. Each unit has a solid group of upperclassmen who are looking to build off last season. It's not a coincidence and I'm not trying to write the same thing over and over, that's how this Northwestern team looks going into this season.

The Wildcats' group of safeties is no exception to that rule. This is another group which is primarily made up of veterans. In this preseason outlook, we take a glance at Northwestern's safeties who will contribute this season and in the future.

The key figures

Brian Peters (6-4, 215): Coming off a productive junior season, Brian Peters is looking for more in his senior season. Peters was the Wildcats' leading tackler as a junior—tallying 107 total tackles—though much of that was due to the struggles of the front-seven. While Peters' 107 tackles is very impressive, the defense would rather see those numbers come from a linebacker of defensive lineman.

Peters did tally three interceptions in 2010—his most noteworthy coming against Illinos where he ran into the "bad" endzone at Wrigley Field. Pat Fitzgerald and defensive backs coach Jerry Brown can only hope that was a glimpse of what he can do in 2011. The Wildcats need Peters to be a playmaker this season—not the last line of defense. That, of course, is reliant of the rest of the defense.

David Arnold (6-1, 220): Once a safety, then a linebacker, now a safety again, David Arnold became a key figure in the Wildcats' secondary in 2010. After missing the first four games of the season, Arnold became the starter at safety, opposite of Brian Peters. His move back to safety would be a good one.

As a junior, Arnold recorded 42 tackles in eight games, and finished the season on a strong note with a career-high nine tackles in the final two games. Arnold is penciled in at safety this season and in all likelihood, will return as starter this year.

Hunter Bates (5-10, 180): In 2010, Bates' took advantage of his first chunk of playing time, but saw his season end early due to a leg injury in the TicketCity Bowl. Bates finished the season with 45 total tackles in 13 games and three starts.

Bates will have to fight for a starting spot with senior David Arnold, though Arnold is likely to be the starter. However, Bates is probably in-line for plenty of playing time this season. As long as his injury heals up properly, the junior will be a key cog in the secondary.

Ibraheim Campbell(5-11, 190): One of the most-improved members of the Wildcats' secondary is redshirt freshman Ibraheim Campbell, who only seems to get better. Campbell sat out during his freshman season—a move which Pat Fitzgerald admitted, he regretted doing. However, Campbell now has four years to go and has a very bright future ahead of him.

This season, Campbell will see some playing time while rotating in with Brian Peters, and will also likely see some reps during third down passing formations. Unless injuries occur, Campbell isn't probable to start. But, his time as a starter will come in the future—possibly even in 2012. Campbell continues to work hard on the field and in the weight room. That is beginning to pay off. It will really pay off in the future.

Jared Carpenter (6-0, 210): Now a junior, Jared Carpenter has some playing time under his belt and could be a contributor this season. Last season, Carpenter started in seven games and finished with 27 tackles. He was slotted behind David Arnold on the post-spring depth chart, though is likely in a three-man battle for that spot with Arnold and Hunter Bates.

Provided the rest of the safeties stay healthy, it's unlikely Carpenter sees as many starts as he did in 2010, though his time could possibly come in his senior campaign. Carpenter has shown he can be a reliable safety and has the potential to get better.

A few more for down the road

Once the Wildcats' four upperclassmen depart, there are a few more safeties waiting in the wings. The afore mentioned Ibraheim Campbell will likely be a staple in the Wildcats' secondary for the future, but there are a few more safeties who could be valuable in the future.

Davion Fleming, Jimmy Hall, Mike Eshun, and Daniel Jones could also be a big part of the Wildcats' future at safety. Also, incoming freshman Nick VanHoose has versatility at either cornerback or safety. Depending on how the coaching staff wants to use him, VanHoose could have a big role down the road.

Grading the safeties: B

This is a unit that has high potential, but that relies heavily on the success of the rest of the defense. The Wildcats have a number of options at safety. Behind likely starters Brian Peters and David Arnold are three key role players who are worthy of a starting spot. Ibraheim Campbell has emerged as a major playmaker for the future. The potential is high for the safeties in 2011 and the future is bright after that.

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