Depth charts are probably about as meaningless . . . well, I am not sure how meaningless they really are. Are they an actual statement from the coaching staff of who will start and who will not? Do coaches use them for subterfuge and to throw opposing coaches off a scent? Do they just tell us what we already know?!
I do not know.
What I do know is that this is the first week of the season, and Northwestern has released its depth chart.
We finally have answers (not really) to the position battles from training camp. And we are finally in Game Week. There will be actual Northwestern football this Saturday. This is the first sign of that. At least, for me it is. This football game is actually going to happen.
What did we learn from this first depth chart? Let’s answer some of those questions:
Questions remain at defensive end
Tyler Scott is definitely the left end. Who lines up at the right defensive end is another question.
The current depth chart has Dean Lowry (the favorite) listed as the starter with “or” Deonte Gibson. The staring position does not appear to have been resolved. And you have to wonder how long it takes for Ifeadi Odenigbo (listed as Scott’s back up) to get involved.
It seems like the competition for this position is still ongoing. There will be plenty of opportunity to make an impact along the defensive line. The focus of offensive lines will be squarely on Scott. Someone along the line — perhaps on the opposite side — will have to step up for Northwestern to have a successful season this year.
Who lines up on the opposite side of the line will be a key question for Northwestern throughout the week.
The SAM linebacker position battle was a big one to watch this offseason in camp. Chi Chi Ariguzo and Damien Proby had the two linebacker positions on lockdown all camp. It was between Collin Ellis and Drew Smith for the other spot in the starting lineup.
It appears from this depth chart that Ellis has won the position battle. That settles that.
Not quite, of course. But this is where Northwestern will start it seems. Ellis is talented, but has never had this large a role at Northwestern. This is a big step up for him. He will have to perform well to maintain the job and keep Northwestern competitive. From reports at camp, the Wildcats linebacking crew is one of its most impressive units.
Ian Park the only freshman
Ian Park is the only freshman that will get a starting nod. Park redshirted last year and will start at right guard. He is listed at 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds.
Entering camp, we knew that Jack Konopka and Brandon Vitabile would be the starters. There were four guys competing for three spots on the offensive line. Paul Jorgensen will line up at right tackle and Geoff Mogus will line up at left guard. Park beat out Shane Mertz for the final spot on the line. Mertz is a behemoth 6-foot-8, 310 pounds and is listed as the backup left tackle. I am sure we will see all four of these guys in the offensive line rotation this week.
It is notable though that, despite all the accolades for Northwestern’s recruiting class, no freshman will be on the field to start the game (as things stand now). Pat Fitzgerald’s belief in redshirting freshmen really takes hold. Hopefully Park and the other redshirt freshmen who take the field will be ready to go at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
An interesting note on the depth chart is Treyvon Green getting an “or” behind Venric Mark with Mike Trumpy. Many of us assumed Trumpy would be the backup running back. Certainly in short yardage situations and passing downs when NU needs a blocker, Trumpy is the man.
Green though has largely been the forgotten piece of the running back rotation.
Green was really breaking through his freshman year in 2011 and seemed set to take over a larger role last year. Then a horrific injury in training camp knocked him out for the entire season. No one was quite sure what kind of shape he would be in.
The reports from camp were reminding some of us that Green could still be a strong contributor. This placement on the depth chart seems to confirm that. Green beat out Malin Jones in camp for now. It does not mean we will not see Jones in the opener against California. But Green appears to have played his way back into the running back rotation.
Waiting for Kyle Prater
It seems like we are still waiting for Kyle Prater to deliver on the promise of his talent. Prater is not only listed as a backup wide receiver, but he is sharing the back up X-receiver behind Tony Jones with Mike McHugh. Prater seems to continue to struggle.
Of course, it takes just one fade pass for him to score. If that is his role, he should be able to help Northwestern plenty.
Who is Kicking Off?
Maybe this one is not so important. Maybe it is.
With Steve Flaherty graduating, Northwestern needs a new kickoff specialist. This is the kind of minutia you care about as a Northwestern blog when you have nothing to write about in August.
Jeff Budzien was reported to have a weak leg and that is why he did not take part in the kick offs. That may not be the case any more. We all saw him nearly make that 50-plus yarder against Nebraska, and the reports from practice are that Budzien can make 60 yarders with ease. It seems Budzien has got this job so Northwestern can use a redshirt on freshman Hunter Niswander.
Of course, that could just be practice bluster and Northwestern may want a specific kickoff specialist. That may open the door for Niswander or punter Brnadon Williams.
In either case, no kick off specialist is listed on the depth chart, so we are left to guess.