Hype for Northwestern football might have reached one of its all-time highs. During an appearance on WNUR Sports this Sunday, I realized just how much the expectations have changed. People look at the current roster and think: it seems nearly complete. They can win with these personnel; what if even more faces make an impact this summer?
Being a five-year program and all, NU plays very few freshmen right as they arrive on campus. Instead, they wait out their development. Many of the team's top players redshirted, and it's not an indictment of their potential. Still, Dan Vitale's performance last season is one perfect example of how true freshmen can impact the trajectory of this team. Which ones could play? I could be wrong in many cases, but I'll make some predictions.
These are the four guys I expect to play right now. Keith Watkins is among the most-hyped guys in this class, and looks like someone who can step in at cornerback. An exceptional athlete and proven winner, Watkins could produce. And if he does, that secondary picture should look much prettier. At 6-7, 280, Coverdale might make an impression—especially given the confusing depth chart at O-line right now.
Harris and Taylor are the sleepers. I'm hearing incredible things about Harris and his lofty potential. With an impressive summer and an easy transition to defensive back, I can see him playing. I've always thought some depth at superback might be nice too. Taylor could spell Vitale, as that superback position seems like the natural fit for the former Woodlands (Tex.) standout.
Many are bullish on Joraskie's chances, and he's perhaps the closest to being bumped up, but I'm anticipating some improvement from in-house defensive tackles during the offseason.
Godwin Igwebuike, in my estimation, will be the next great running back for Northwestern. I think he'll start for multiple seasons, and is considered one of the gems from this 2014 class. With this backfield, though, I'm not sure whether they'll waste one year of eligibility. Mark and Trumpy are excellent, with Stephen Buckley and Malin Jones providing some crucial depth. McShepard and/or Queiro could fit the bill at cornerback. King seems one step behind Coverdale in the developmental process.
Give them a year
To me, the above players seem one year away. Matthew Alviti will dominate at quarterback, just not now. Several linebacker options who redshirted last season (namely Eric Wilson and Joseph Jones) will step up; there's no need to force any 2013 guys to waste eligibility at that position. Otherwise, the list includes scattered running backs and wide receivers, all part of NU's five-year program. I'm still excited to see what these guys–many of whom will start as practice players–bring to the table this summer.