And that might just be the overall analysis of the Northwestern University offense in 2003.The Positives:
1. The QBsPossible Negative Questions:
Brett Basanez [6-2 200 So - left] returns with his 220 yard per game passing average, and his still unknown, but highly respected, running ability. Remember he was the leading freshman QB in the country and finished 2nd in the Big 10 to Iowa's Brad Banks in passing, and he did it playing in only 10 of 12 games.2. The Running Back Tandem
He's backed up by Alexander Webb [6-0 195 Fr - right]] who is really a true freshman in terms of practice time, but was outstanding in the Spring Drills [2 TDs].
You have to like the potential "Thunder and Lightning" running tandem of Jason Wright [5-10 210 Sr - left] and Noah Herron 5-11 230 Jr - right]. Both averaged over 5 1/2 yards per carry last year, and looked in practice to be right on track to continue to average 150+ yards a game rushing.3. Experience at Tackle and Center
You also have to like the Tackle tandem of Zach Strief [6-7 335 So] and Trai Essex [6-4 280 Jr], and the move of Matt Ulrich [6-2 305 Jr - left] to center. Zach and Trai both wound up starting last year outside, and Matt was the top O-lineman [after the now graduated Austin King] on the team in 2002.4. Kunle Patrick
Patrick [6-0 205 Sr - left] is on a reception streak that should continue for 12 more games - he's caught a pass in 34 straight games and last year averaged 46 1/2 yards per game/11.4 yards per reception. I'd expect him to continue his role - Walker and Dunbar expect him to become the possession guy in the offense this year.5. The Rest of the Receivers
Speedy Mark Philmore [5-10 175 So] and Roger Jordan [6-3 215 Sr - left] are the other two wide receivers on the 2002 list who played in most of the games and who ranked in the top 5 in receiving. Philmore [right] has breakaway speed, and should improve on his 20+ yards per game/7.9 yards per reception. Jordan, who is listed as #2 at Z receiver right now, averaged 9.0 yards per reception/18.8 ypg.
These two will probably wind up as both the long ball threat, and the 10 yard, catch and run threat. You also can't rule out a big role for Ashton Aikens [6-2 200 Jr - left] over at the Z slot. Actually Jordan and Aikens, as the upper classmen among the receivers will have to take a big leadership role this year if Basanez' passing game is to continue to be a big force.
And, you have to ask, why didn't Ray Bogenrief [6-3 270 Sr - right] move over to Tight End 3 years ago? This guy is long ball threat (I saw him catch one in a scrimmage) and an over-the-middle threat on receiving. At 270, he's another small tackle out on the strong side for the rushing game, handling the defensive end - a position he played and knows for the last 3 years.
1. Who's #3?The Unknowns:
After Basanez and Webb there really isn't a solid #3 quarterback who has taken a lot of snaps.2. What's my line?
Derell Jenkins [6-1 190 So - left], who played in 2 games, really hasn't had the time to show what he can do, and has been moved to running back. Yes he'll keep his hand in the QB situation, but a walk-on, Walter Cale [6-2 290 Fr], is #3 right now.
See #3 above and you notice there are questions about who is playing both Guard positions. Ikechuku Ndukwe [6-5 325 Jr. - left] has been a strong contender for one of the guard slots, but it seems he's always battling back problems. If he can stay healthy, he's got the experience to do the job. If not?3. Do we have a Possession Reciever?
Another upperclassman who appears in the 2 deep all the time is Bill Newton [6-7 310 Jr - right]. This should be his year to step up and take a starting spot.
I was told during the Spring that the Offensive Line situation is "very fluid." I truly believe that O-Line Coach Jim Patton has a good idea who will play where, the coaches speak highly of several of the backups, and at least one of the incoming frosh plans to make a run at center, but this one is key and I'd expect to see several O-line combinations during the first 4 games.
Jon Schweigardt graduated and took his almost 60 yards per game home to Wheaton. Kunle Patrick will have to step up, if he winds up in that role, if we're going to replace that yardage. If not?4. Only 3 running backs?
Scary when you think about how many times our starters have gone down in both games and practices. NU has this Senior RB jinx that seems to have operated on "the guy" since Randy Walker has been the coach.
Think about it, Damien Anderson was injured most of his senior year, so was Kevin Lawrence. You have to wonder how much more effective the NU spread would have been with a healthy senior leading the rushing game the last 2 years.
To be sure, there are several ex-running backs playing on the defense, and Derell Jenkins looks pretty good as a #3 right now, but NU only recruited 2 walk-on backs this year.
The coaches say it wouldn't be hard for CB Jeff Backes [5-9 195 So - left] or Safeties Torri Stuckey [5-11 205 Sr - above right] and Louis Ayeni [5-11 210 Sr] to get back in the offensive flow, but NU usually starts the season with 5 decent backs on the dept chart. This year, there are 3.
1. True Freshmen get to play?
On offense, there's maybe two or three guys who can contribute this year. I'd have to take a pick from the following [and they're in no particular order]:2. Who steps up?
C/G Trevor Rees [6-2 275] - who has stated that he expects to challenge for the center position. Walker has said that he remember the last frosh who started, Austin King, and that the Cats only won 3 games that year...Everyone else is probably red shirting, although you never know.
WR Sam Cheatham [5-10 175] - who Coach Walker has compared to the other Sam - Sam Simmons.
WR T.J. Jones [6-2 180] - a very athletic receiver who can really move and jump. Depends how he does in Kenosha but his tape is awsome.
C/G Austin Matthews [6-5 275] also is coming into Kenosha with expectations of challenging for the center position.
QB Chris Malleo [6-3 220] has been a star in a post-HS prep situation. He's been running an NU style offense and put up some pretty good numbers - you'd like him to sit out this year and learn the system, but he just might come in and become the #3 QB in Kenosha.
There are at least 3 or 4 "stealth" redshirt/sophomore guys out there who could step up and be a force this year.3. The starting O-Line for the Big 10?
The coaches like backup linemen Joe Tripodi [6-3 280 Fr], who was injured during the spring, and Vince Clarke [6-5 300 So - left]. Greg Lutzen [6-4 270 So], who moved over from the defense, has the feet and hands to play guard, but he's going to be seriously challenged in Kenosha by at least the first two, and maybe others.
WR Brandon Horn [6-1 210 So - right] is also mentioned by Coach Walker as one who should get a big shot this Fall.
Strief, Essex, Ulrich and...4. The "Sophomore Slump?"
I don't think anyone knows right now - there could be a freshman in there, a couple of sophs, or all upperclassmen. Whatever the answer - its the key to the rushing game, and much of the passing game.
Brett will be heading into his 2nd season. Some guys with great freshman numbers have trouble repeating that success.
I don't think Brett's that kind of kid, but in year two, the defenses start to figure out your patterns and it gets a little tougher to excell.
And as brother Walt used to say, "That's the way it is."
I've probably forgotten something, but this is my take on the Offense for 2003. There are 2 guys for every slot right now - but the O-Line is still thin, and I'd like a couple more guys taking snaps at running back, but I expect that the starters outlined below will put up enough points [and keep the defense off the field enough] to easily win 5 or 6 games.
Agree, disagree, post your comments on the message board - I may be wrong, but I'll defend my comments until after the first game...
Projected 2003 Depth Chart*:
[5-10 210 Sr]
[5-11 230 Jr]
[6-1 205 So]
[6-0 245 Sr]
[6-2 200 So]
[6-1 195 Fr]
[6-2 190 Fr]
| Y - Rcvr
[6-0 205 Sr]
[5-9 170 So]
[5-9 170 [So]
[6-3 215 Sr]
[6-1 185 So]
[5-10 175 So]
[6-1 210 So]
[6-1 180 Fr]
[6-1 185 Fr]
[6-7 335 So]
[6-7 301 Jr]
[6-6 320 Fr]
[6-4 270 So]
[6-5 300 So]
[6-3 280 Fr]
[6-2 305 Jr]
[6-3 280 Fr]
[6-5 300 So]
(Maybe) Trevor Rees/
[6-5 325 Jr]
[6-2 295 Jr]
[6-0 270 Jr]
[6-4 280 Jr]
[6-7 335 So]
[6-7 310 Jr]
[6-3 265 Sr]
[6-3 235 So]
[[6-3 260 So]
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