Position Capsule: Secondary

Northwestern's secondary has plenty of depth returning and a loaded class of incoming talent. Which Wildcats will rise into key roles? PurpleWildcats offers a detailed look at the defensive backs.

The guys we know— The two Wildcats returning to the secondary can help Pat Fitzgerald sleep easily at night. Junior safety Ibraheim Campbell is no longer a secret, after another stellar season. Following a breakout freshman season, Nick VanHoose is quite the commodity, too. Both brought great stability to the secondary. The most important question, now, involves who replaces the two.

Dearly departed— Northwestern's first bowl MVP since 1949 was … Jared Carpenter. I'll bet you never predicted that. What a statement to the way the senior safety flourished throughout his final season. Carpenter brought veteran leadership to a young group, and deserves plenty of credit for his efforts. Cornerback Demetrius Dugar also exits the program.

What about?— There's no disputing the potential of junior cornerback Daniel Jones. However, he has yet to reach it—or even come close, to be fair. It's unfortunate that Jones is currently known as the guy who tipped the ball to Roy Roundtree against Michigan, because he's a much better player than that; we just haven't seen it. A starting spot at cornerback is far from a sure thing. Northwestern's talent in the secondary is only improving, and Jones is being passed up.

Keep an eye on— As a true freshman, Nick VanHoose dazzled the coaching staff while sitting out with a redshirt, only to earn a starting role his next season. Such a path could be what Dwight White is destined for. The coaching staff is very high on the Texas native. He could be the one to win over the other cornerback role.

Lining up next to Campbell, sophomore Traveon Henry is the likely frontrunner. Henry was set to redshirt as a freshman, but made a tremendous impact during his few weeks of practice. Instead, he found himself as a key role player on special teams and seeing time at safety.

Another name at safety to watch is redshirt freshman Terrance Brown, who impressed the coaching staff on the scout team. One more interesting name is Jarrell Williams, a cornerback who could earn a role on the defense.

Entering the fold— It has long been my belief that the Northwestern coaches are some of the better talent evaluators in the country. See success stories like Dan Persa or Venric Mark for proof. This year's incoming class of defensive backs offers a microcosm of that fact.

Northwestern is welcoming in the best secondary class in the program's history. Kyle Queiro and Matt Harris will join the mix at safety, while Keith Watkins and Marcus McShepard enter as cornerbacks. The versatile four-star prospect Godwin Igwebuike will have the pick of which position he wants to play—running back or safety. Out of this talented group, it's conceivable that any of these prospects can see the field right away, though Northwestern does have a history of redshirting.

Prediction— Provided he stays healthy, Nick VanHoose will be an All-Big Ten cornerback. Ibraheim Campbell has All-American potential, though must continue to improve. I remain sold on Dwight White as a starting cornerback, and also believe that Keith Watkins will see consistent playing time as a true freshman.

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. He resides on Chicago's north side.
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