After swimming past garbage cans and other obstacles in the early going, they tried to beat the offensive line—and in the process, beat the other.
Gibson has an extra year of experience. Despite struggling with injuries, the redshirt sophomore can realize his potential this summer. Dean Lowry–renowned by teammates for being a student of the game–will compete with him to replace Quentin Williams and start at defensive end.
"It's great competition and it's just another push for the season," Gibson said. "Whoever ends up winning that spot, it shows you the strength of the D-line and what we're capable of."
This depth is part of the reason why NU fans expect minimal drop-off even after Williams and Brian Arnfelt graduated. The most intense summer battle should take place opposite Tyler Scott.
Scott, the senior leader, could not praise one and exclude the other during Big Ten Media Days. He said that Gibson was the perfect example of someone who used his redshirt year to build a reputation. Lowry, meanwhile, picked up schemes faster than anyone he had seen—and that led to some true freshman playing time.
Gibson put it bluntly. Being a good teammate and supporter does not slow the serious on-field competition. So if he failed to win the role?
"It would be just a disappointment," he said. "Everyone wants to win. It's a good thing that you know you're the first guy on the field. But if you're not that guy, you've got to fill in [the backup] role. If that happens to me, I'll have to embrace it."
The fear of failure can motivate players. In cluttered depth charts–with so few wasted scholarships on the roster–the well-prepared guys rise up the ranks. Gibson knows that the competition will prove beneficial regardless of the individual outcome. It almost always is.
"People talk about this battle amongst the team, which is great for us," he said. "At the end of the day, you'll see who's left for the starters, and that's going to be the finished product. You'll like what you see."
Stay tuned for more subscriber-exclusive updates at PurpleWildcats.com as Northwestern returns to the practice field.