Good Cat, Bad Cat: Week 12

This week's Good Cat, Bad Cat focuses on players who have performed well despite the team's recent struggles.

Deonte Gibson

Overshadowed by Tyler Scott and Dean Lowry early in the season, Gibson currently stands alone. From my vantage point, he's been excellent in the past few weeks — even on the practice field. Though he had just one quarterback hit on Saturday, Gibson's been extremely active, and I'm guessing the transition without Tyler Scott won't be very difficult. Ifeadi Odenigbo continues to prove himself an excellent third-down pass rusher, but needs more during training camp to pass Gibson on this depth chart. I'm sure Gibson can ease his way into the starter's role next year.

Matthew Harris

It seemed shocking when Harris was finally beaten against Michigan State. For the most part, he's been far better than former starter Dwight White. The true freshman represents some long-term promise for the fading Northwestern program, with excellent play opposite Nick VanHoose. Pat Fitzgerald made the surprising decision to burn his redshirt before the season opener; that ended up being the absolute correct decision. Expect even better from Harris in the future. Though not mistake-free, he's already lived up to the hype.

Tony Jones

Jones is still visibly improving, and reached the 50-reception plateau — 21 more than he had all of last season. He's been comfortable working with both quarterbacks, showed aggression and sure hands, and has clearly become the top receiving option. He's also averaging a respectable 11.7 yards per catch, and despite some lingering passing inconsistencies, Jones established himself as a viable top wideout. This group of receivers has generally been disappointing, though Jones sheds that label just about every game.

Jimmy Hall

With Traveon Henry limited on Saturday, Hall maximized his opportunity. He led the team with 11 tackles – indicative of struggles to stop the run – but evidently held his own. Still a redshirt junior, the versatile safety/nickelback can work on his consistency and become a more impressive presence for NU. On a Wildcats team suffering from injuries, it's always helpful to have capable backups to stand in. It's also worth noting that his brother, Nathan, continues the Hall family tradition as part of the 2014 recruiting class.

Collin Ellis

After the California game, I kept joking that we'd only remember Ellis for those two interception returns for touchdowns. Not exactly: He's been a solid starter at linebacker and continues to act as one of the team's emotional sparkplugs. This summer, he was locked in a battle with Drew Smith for the third starter's role, with Fitzgerald and Randy Bates appearing to stumble upon the correct decision again. He'll be relied on for even more leadership when Damien Proby departs this offseason.

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