When Northwestern’s deep wide receiving corps gets mentioned in previews, the discussion inevitably leads to Kyle Prater. Prater was the five-star wide receiver, the second best in the nation in his recruiting class, and the savior of the Wildcats offense. Or, if not the savior, the one that gives Northwestern legitimacy and a weapon the program has never had.
I mean, could you imagine Brett Basanez or Zak Kustok throwing to a guy who measures at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds?
Prater though is still a sophomore and has a lot of learning to do on the field. It is hard to project his impact despite those measurables because he has only one catch to his name on a college football field and has dealt with numerous injuries. Even in camp this year, Prater has fought nagging injuries and has missed some time in practice.
This is a deep group of receivers and, even without Prater, was considered as one of the top groups in the Big Ten. Christian Jones, Tony Jones and Rashad Lawrence are the burners who many expect to make big plays. Venric Mark, while moving to running back and seemingly in line to get the starting job in the backfield, is better known in his Northwestern career for his breakaway speed as a kick returner and wide receiver.
Those are the headline guys.
Demetrius Fields, like Jeremy Ebert, may not be in that club yet. But in the work to replace Ebert and Drake Dunsmore, along with their consistent ability to catch the ball and make the possession catches in the flats and across the middle that make Northwestern’s short-passing attack work so efficiently, comes the only senior in this much-celebrated receiving group. Fields seemingly is the guy that can hold the offense together and be that glue to keep the offense spinning.
Fields is the most proven receiver in the group and that is not just because he is its only senior. He was the breakout offensive player in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas with seven receptions for 73 yards. He was fourth on the team in receiving yards with 382 yards on 32 catches. The Wildcats are hoping Fields and Kain Colter can develop the kind of relationship that helped Jeremy Ebert become Dan Persa’s go-to receiver.
It would not be the first time a receiver had a big breakout in his senior year. Zeke Markshausen did that a few years ago. Fields though has a slightly larger body of work to go from as he gets promoted to the No. 1 receiver spot. In his career, Fields has made 81 catches for 898 yards and six touchdowns. Fields has been a consistent option, but never a go-to guy. Last year he started 10 of the 13 games, but was never more than a third or fourth option as a receiver.
Fields is a member of Northwestern’s leadership council and was one of the players specifically held out of Saturday’s scrimmage, a pretty safe sign of his expected role on the team. And a lot of people are expecting big things from him.
Northwestern’s talent at wide receiver is certainly there. Prater holds a lot of promise as does Lawrence, Christian Jones and Tony Jones. Plus there are the possibilities that could come from running Venric Mark out of the backfield and even Kain Colter as receiving options. But of all those guys, Fields has the largest body of work and the most experience. Out of anyone, he is the one many will look to step up and be the anchor for this celebrated group.
The wide receivers have already stated they believe they can be the best group in the Big Ten. They might get there as a group this year. Individually, the work likely starts with its leader. And that is probably the guy getting the least amount of buzz this preseason.
That guy might be Demetrius Fields.
Off and Running
Northwestern’s 2012-13 athletic season is officially underway!
Sophomore Georgia Waddle scored the game-winning goal in extra time for a 2-1 victory at Kansas. This was the first game of the year for Northwestern, so it is great to see NU get off on the right foot. It was the first win for new women’s soccer coach Michael Moynihan and was a bit of an upset as the Jayhawks reached the NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament last year. Junior Kate Allen, the team’s leading scorer the last two years, opened the scoring nearly five minutes into the game. So record her name as the first score of the 2012-13 season.
Football may be coming in two weeks, but Northwestern is back in action!