Mogus and Mertz
Nick Medline's pick: Keith Watkins, CB
As Steven Goldstein detailed in his recent stock report, no cornerback has emerged as the clear starter alongside Nick VanHoose. Though C.J. Bryant and Dwight White showed flashes in spring practice, neither locked down the position—or made any move in that direction.
Enter Keith Watkins, the true freshman who arrives on campus this summer. The former state champion at Moeller (Ohio) dominated at running back in high school. He projects to play cornerback in the Big Ten, and with an opening at the other starting spot, he could very well make the case to see time in his freshman season.
This all depends on the smoothness of his transition. Watkins could struggle to adjust initially, but he has the skillset to excel from day one. There's incredible depth at running back already, and Watkins may be best served competing for playing time, and perhaps a starting position.
Steven Goldstein's pick: Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE
Somehow, Ifeadi Odenigbo's fallen off the map.
A four-star end/linebacker hybrid who garnered serious praise from Scout and ESPN, the Ohio product is one of Northwestern's most prized recruits in recent memory. But after sustaining a shoulder injury before last year's game with Boston College, the Odenigbo hype seems to have fallen off.
After a strong spring, Odenigbo stands to make an immediate impact off the line with the loss of Quentin Williams. A multi-tool athlete with an explosive first step, Odenigbo still struggles in zone pass coverage but should see reps in third down passer situations. The injury's been a setback, but with a medical redshirt, Odenigbo's ready to step up and make an impact: "[My injury] was very disappointing, but what Coach Fitz told me was to respond to adversity," he said Tuesday.
Even if sophomore Dean Lowry mans the other end position opposite Tyler Scott, Odenigbo's speedy spring sets him up for a big 2013, no matter where he is on the field.
Sylvan Lane's pick: Eric Wilson, LB
One of the more ambiguous breakout prospects for this upcoming season is Eric Wilson, a 6'2", 205 lb. linebacker with explosive athleticism.
Wilson spent the 2012 season redshirted as David Nwabuisi, Damien Proby, and Chi Chi Ariguzo dominated behind the defensive line. But now that Nwabuisi is gone, there's an open spot on the line for taking. At the very least, Wilson looks poised to seize playing time before the season opener in Berkeley.
Wilson, who has stood out in practices, may very well overtake several other players if he can continue on his upward trend with his outstanding speed off the line. With Wilson, the 2013 season may very well be a story of feast or famine, depending on how summer practices play out. However, Wilson may very well have what it takes to make a statement this upcoming season. He certainly has the athleticism necessary to do so.