Scouting the Big 10: Northwestern

A solid campaign in 2003 resulted in a bowl appearance for the Wildcats as multipurpose skill player Jason Wright was one of the most prolific ball handlers in the nation. Yet even with that their impact in last April's draft was minimal. This season the results should be better both on the field and in war rooms across the NFL next April.

There is talent on both sides of the ball and quite possibly no player holds as much upside potential as does left tackle Trai Essex.  A big athletic lineman, Essex blocks with solid fundamentals and strength.  Effective in motion, he is a solid position blocker who uses his large frame to wall defenders from the action.   Essex needs to refine the details of his position and learn to block with more balance, improve his footwork and overall pass protection skills.  Yet he has the fundamentals to be a solid pro-player and could make a move up draft boards this season.  Guard Matt Ulrich is explosive and quick as well as strong at the point of attack yet a small area blocker who lacks range and the ability to adjust.  Most likely a free agent prospect, he's a backup at the next level.  Noah Herron takes over the ball handling duties after Wright's departure and the big back has shown flashes of ability on the inside but must increase his total production to get late round consideration next April.

Defensively the Wildcats are talented upfront with several potential late round selections for '05.  Junior end Lorren Howard is an explosive lineman who plays with great speed and quickly comes off the edge to be a disruptive force.  Howard also plays with a good degree of intelligence and is very quick to recognize the action or locate the ball.  A competitive player with a high revving motor, he uses solid hand technique to stay off blocks which helps him make up for a lack of size.  He could be highly rated going into his senior season of 2005.  Tackle Luis Castillo is another lineman with excellent first quickness and the ability to make plays in the backfield.  Castillo works very hard and has a frame which can carry more bulk, both of which will help him at the next level.    On the other hand Colby Clark does not have the type of body to add weight yet the quick interior tackle with a great first step off the snap plays with leverage and seems a perfect fit as a three technique lineman.  Marvin Ward is a tough, mix it up cornerback who just lacks the outright speed to be used in anything other than dime packages.

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