Fab Frosh: Ten freshmen to watch

Northwestern's classes of 2011 and 2012 were two of the best the school has ever brought in, and it has shown thus far through preseason camp. While many of the true and redshirt freshmen won't play this season, there are plenty of reasons to be excited. PurpleWildcats.com lists 10 freshmen and redshirt freshmen to watch.

Nick VanHoose - You have to point at Nick VanHoose first as the most impressive freshman; after all, he appears to have locked up the starting job as Northwestern's top cornerback. There has been no doubt through camp that VanHoose is talented. He stands as one of the most athletic Wildcats, and possesses the speed to chase down a ballcarrier. Pat Fitzgerald suggested he nearly burned VanHoose's redshirt last season. He's now happy the second-year freshman has four years of eligibility ahead.

Deonte Gibson - It was on the scout team last year as a true freshman in which Deonte Gibson blew away Northwestern coaches; the issue, however, was a lack of true defensive end size. Now, with four years ahead of him, Gibson stands at 265 pounds, and is able to blow past offensive tackles. Gibson has at least secured a spot in the rotation on the defensive line, and could even be a starter. With further time, he'll be allowed to further develop. Imagine that!

Drew Smith - Another former scout team star, Drew Smith caught the eyes of coaches last season as a first-year Wildcat. This season, Smith looks to nab a spot in Northwestern's deep linebacker rotation, which is expected to run five or six different players. Smith has shown tremendous athleticism during camp, and has really developed great footwork. The natural linebacker instincts appear ever present, too.

Ifeadi Odenigbo - One of the biggest recruiting splashes Northwestern has hauled in under Pat Fitzgerald, it's no surprise why Ifeadi Odenigbo was so highly touted in high school. He can be best described by one word: explosive. Odenigbo has an amazing first two steps off the line, and has the strength to throw down an opposing lineman. The question with Odenigbo is his size -- just 230 pounds -- but he has the freakish power to make up for that. He could be a role player as a true freshman; the question is whether that's worth burning a year of eligibility. That's a tough call for 'Cat coaches.

Traveon Henry - With plenty of depth at safety, it was presumed that Traveon Henry would don a redshirt during his first year in Evanston. However, he's making that a difficult decision. Henry has a large frame for a safety, but also has the agility to change direction if needed. He has also shown a great knack for finding the ball and making plays, which NU needs in the secondary. It's still unlikely that Henry plays this season, but he'll be fun to watch in the years to come.

Dean Lowry - A star at Rockford Boylan in high school, Dean Lowry had height and talent entering Evanston, but lacked the frame to make an early impact. That is until he hit the weight room at Northwestern. Lowry added plenty of size during the offseason and has bulked up to the frame of a defensive end. Lowry impressed coaches during preseason camp and has likely worked his way into the two-deep for this season. With his added size and strength, Lowry can now bull rush at any tackle and create a threat. Of course, the speed is still there, too. Keep an eye on No. 94 this season.

Geoff Mogus - Once mixed into a very deep offensive line, Geoff Mogus has separated himself from the pack and is pushing for playing time this season. Mogus is currently working in at second-string left guard, veteran starter Brian Mulroe. Mogus has beefed up to 295 pounds, but much of that is strength, which he added in the weight room during the offseason. Mogus is able to use his leverage to hold down a pass block and is becoming a very consistent lineman. It's unclear whether Mogus will play this season, but he may be next in line once Mulroe moves on.

Matt Frazier - Another in-state standout, Matt Frazier has worked himself toward the top of the depth chart at right guard and is likely to become the starter for week one. Frazier is another lineman with great footwork and athleticism -- a trend with Northwestern's offensive line. Frazier has been consistent with his actions, which is precisely what you would hope for from an offensive lineman.

Andrew Scanlan - Andrew Scanlan has demonstrated he is ready to take the field for Northwestern this season, but there just isn't any room, given the team's tremendous depth at wide receiver. The good news, however, is that Scanlan can take a redshirt and play for four years. Scanlan is a very smart receiver with great open-field speed -- the same traits he showed NU coaches while attending camp in the summer of 2011. Scanlan has a very bright future with the Wildcats.

Cameron Dickerson - After a year of learning and preparing, Cameron Dickerson could be a candidate for playing time during his second season. Dickerson has the frame to make plays -- height to haul in a pass and strength to push beat a cornerback. He has really dazzled Northwestern coaches and earned a shot to join the two-deep. Dickerson comes from a winning program in high school and is a playmaker on the field. There are few things not to be encouraged about.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats and Chicago Cubs. He currently resides on Chicago's north side.
Facebook | Twitter| E-Mail |

Purple Wildcats Top Stories