Defensive Line: Just Getting Started

In this PurpleWildcats post-spring position breakdown, Steven Goldstein discusses the promising D-line.

What they're saying

"I'm still trying to figure out my role." - Ifeadi Odenigbo

Progress report

From start to finish, this group excelled.

Despite acknowledging that he still needs work (mostly in run defense and drop-back zones), Odenigbo hit the edge hard all spring and drew a few QB pressures as well as some would-be holding calls. Tyler Scott looked good as always, and the D-line got a few sacks in the spring open practice—albeit coverage sacks.

Dean Lowry and Deonte Gibson continued to vie for the other defensive end spot opposite Scott, and both were sharp. That battle likely won't resolve itself until much later in training camp. And both will contribute.

Operating in passing down, shotgun scenarios, Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian were often flushed out of the pocket. While Northwestern's defensive line won't always go against shotgun sets and reshuffling O-lines, it was encouraging to see the Cats get after the quarterback so frequently.

What we're thinking

The Wildcat defensive line pairs with a strong core of linebackers to form a very formidable front seven, capable of compensating for the lack of proven depth in the secondary.

Scott returns after ranking second in the Big Ten with nine sacks, and Odenigbo's redshirt presence will be huge on third-down passing situations. One of the most athletic players on this defense, Odenigbo has "playmaker" written all over him if he can stay healthy.

Things aren't quite as exciting in the middle, where Sean McEvilly returns as a starter and Will Hampton and Chance Carter will look to replace Brian Arnfelt.

Carter recorded four tackles against Nebraska and appeared in all 13 games last season, while Hampton missed the spring with injuries. We favor Carter here.

Unlike other spots on the defense, there are no real pressing questions on the d-line. Losing Arnfelt and fellow senior Quentin Williams certainly hurts, but Odenigbo, Lowry and Gibson all have intriguing upside. Opposing offenses will target Northwestern's secondary from the get-go, but if the Wildcats can replicate last year's success up front, things shouldn't get too out of hand.

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