2004 NU Wildcats Football Season Preview

<b>Head Coach:</b> <A HREF=[PlayerNode:806765]>Randy Walker</A> (24-35)<br><br><b>Last Season's Record:</b> 6-7 (4-4, T-7th place in Big Ten)<br><br><b>Last Bowl Appearance:</b> Motor City Bowl 2003 (28-24 loss to Bowling Green)<br><br><b>Key matchup(s):</b> 9/2/04 @<A HREF=http://tcu.TheInsiders.com>TCU</A> (ESPN2), 9/25 @Minnesota (ESPN2), 10/02 Ohio State (ESPN or ESPN2), 10/23 @<A HREF=http://wisconsin.TheInsiders.com>Wisconsin</A>, 11/13, @Michigan.

Star Power: Zach Strief RT Junior 6-7 335 Loren Howard DE Junior 6-4 280 Brett Basanez QB Junior 6-2 210 Noah Herron RB Senior 5-11 230

Notable Additions: Frank Bass WR St Olaf, MN 6-3 190; Kim Thompson WR; David Ngene DE Humble HS 6-3 260; Derell Jenkins SAF (moved from offense) 6-1 210.

Notable Subtractions: RB Jason Wright graduated now with 49er's, SAF Louis Ayeni signed with Indianapolis Cilts

09/11/04Arizona State
10/02/04Ohio State
11/06/04@Penn State
Notable Returnees: Mark Philmore WR Junior 5-10 185, Ashton Aikens WR Senior 6-2 200, Tim McGarigle OLB Junior 6-1 230, Brian Huffman Kicker Senior 6-1 225.

Offensive Overview: This year the Northwestern Spread offense will be running behind and immense offensive line. All but the Center, Trevor Rees weigh in at over 300 lbs and they all have experience with RT Zach Streif and RG, Senior Matt Ulrich [6-2 230] leading the way.

The O-Line will be both protecting QB Brett Basanez, who is expected to rebound from his sophomore slump, and clearing the way for Senior RB Noah Herron. Herron ran backup last year and still ground out 5.7 yards per carry in Big 10 play [and 4 100 yard efforts]

New to the game is the resurgence in the use of the tight end as a receiver. With the big O-line up front, the TE can release and become another target for Basanez.

Last year the weakness in the passing game was caused by injuries to two of the starting wide receivers - Ashton Aikens and Mark Philmore both missed most of the season - and the inexperience of the rest of the wideouts. A new WR Coach [Garrick McGee], the emergence of freshmen Kim Thompson and A.J. Burdex and the return of Frank Bass [and several others] should give Basanez plenty of targets.

The key to the Northwestern Spread's success however will be the running game and Herron is in place to step up and be NU's next 1000 yard rusher.

Defensive Overview: Lets see, NU runs a 4-3, or is it a 3-4 or is it a 4-5?

Suffice to say that the term "swarming" describes how NU plays defense now.

Defensive Coordinator Greg Colby brought a defensive style that is designed to keep teams off balance.

Starting up front, Defensive End Loren Howard should become a big outside sack threat, and DT Luis Castillo has developed into the inside run stopper the Cats have lacked in recent years. DT/DE Colby Clark is both a force and a fighter up front. The Cats are shuffling the D-Line around, but watch them play stronger again this year.

At Line backer the only question is in the middle, who replaces Pat Durr. Right now the choice is Adam Kadela. Tim McGarigle and John Pickens should be able to hold the fort until Kadela gets up to speed.

D-Backs is where the Cats took the biggest hit, with 3 safeties graduating. Taking up the slack there should be Senior Dominique Price and Soph Bryan Heinz. Former running back Junior Derell Jenkins has moved to safety also. Cornerbacks Marvin Ward, Jeff Backes, Herschel Henderson and Marquice Cole all should play better after another year of experience.

Watch for more swarming, more hitting, more varied sets and smarter play from the defensive unit.

Special Teams Overview: Very simple; Brian Huffman will Kick off, Punt, Place Kick unless someone else knocks him out of one of the those slots.

Returning kicks should be Jeff Backes [a former Mr. Ohio Football] Mark Philmore and Derell Jenkins. All three are very quick, with good hands.

Purple Reign is notorious for not making predictions (they are usually wrong), however... Watch the first three games and see how the Cats progress. If Basanez comes out throwing behind Herron's running, and we see some 100 yard rushing games early, this could be another really good NU team.

Add a good win the Big 10 opener in Minnesota to that mix and the Big 10 could become very interesting, with Northwestern challenging for the title.

The big stumbling blocks? Away games at Wisconsin, Michigan and Hawaii. At least we get the Buckeyes at home.

TheInsiders.com 2004 College Football Preview
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