Scouting the Big 10: Northwestern

For only the second time in 20 years Northwestern placed a player in the first round of the NFL draft last April. It is quite possible another Wildcat will be a top 32 pick in 2006. The best pro prospects from this team reside on the defensive side of the ball.

Offensively, a pair of blockers presently stand as the top draftable prospects from this side of the ball.  Zach Strief is a solid position blocker who seals opponents from the action and effectively uses his large frame to turn opponents off the line.  Strong at the point of the attack, he works his hands nicely yet is a limited athlete who struggles in anything other then a small area.  A size prospect, Strief could fall into the late rounds of April's draft with good workouts next year.  Center Trevor Rees is an explosive blocker and effective in motion.  Quick to the second level, he seals linebackers from the action.  Lacking the dominant base, Rees has trouble finishing blocks and does not open holes in the middle of the field.

Defensive end Loren Howard is a potential first round choice next April should he prove to be fully recovered from the ankle injury which hobbled him a much of last year.  An intense defender who plays with a warrior  mentality, Howard underwent surgery to repair a tendon in his left ankle just prior to the '04 campaign yet returned to impact the team during the second half of the season.  Possessing outstanding explosion and quickness, Howard is fast off the edge, plays with leverage and is very tough to stop.  Working his hands throughout the action, he displays an array of moves getting off blocks and continually drives up the field.  Immediately altering his angle of attack, Howard can flatten then pursue from the backside and catch the ball handler.  Howard lacks prototypical defensive end size yet has abilities as a two-gap lineman and more importantly, displays the skills to be a disruptive force in the opponents backfield.  Tackle Barry Cofield is a physically impressive specimen and a solid athlete.  A good technician, Coefield keeps driving up the field, works his hands throughout the action and displays the ability to make plays laterally.  Possessing solid growth potential, he must improve  his playing strength yet offers a good amount of upside for the next level.  Outside linebacker Tim McGarigle is a tackling machine for Northwestern.  Immediately locating the ball, he displays good instincts and wherewithal in pass coverage and run defense.  Flashing on the scene McGarigle has an excellent burst of speed bearing down on the play and possesses a good degree of suddenness.  Undersized, he has difficulty handling blocks and is not strong at the point of attack.  His football awareness coupled with the speed he shows on film makes McGarigle a prime candidate for 34 defense.  


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