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2019 Northwestern Defense Preview

Northwestern looks to reload on defense in 2019

Illinois v Northwestern Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

A key part of Northwestern’s run to the B1G title game was the stellar performance of the WIldcat defense.

Let’s take a quick dive in:

Defensive Line

The star of the D-Line is Sernior defensive end Joe Gaziano, who had an unbelievable season last year. Gazilla had 44 (total) tackles, 7.5 sacks, and caused 3 fumbles. He’s going to be drafted next year. Opposing teams will have their work cut out for them with him.

Big Ten Championship - Northwestern v Ohio State Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Joining Gazilla is Junior defensive end Samdup Miller, who excelled with 53 tackles. Northwestern loses Jordan Thompson, Fred Wyatt and Ben Oxley to graduation.

Northwestern needs Alex Miller, Jake Saunders and Trevor Kent to step up as DTs.


Paddy Fisher and Blake Gallagher are the returning starters on one of NU’s best linebacking corps since the days of Pat Fitzgerald, Danny Sutter and Tim Scharf. Fisher had 116 total tackles and five tackles for a loss, while Gallagher had 127 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss.

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl - Northwestern v Utah Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Nate Hall graduated, so it looks like Chris Bergin or Jaylen Rivers will be the other starter.

I’m expecting good things from this crew.


Northwestern will miss the standout performance of Montre Hartage, one of the best defensive backs I’ve seen in Evanston.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 03 Notre Dame at Northwestern Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Trae Williams and Greg Newsome II return. Trae Williams had 26 tackles last season.

The rest of this unit is untested, so Cam Ruiz, Rod Cambpell, Jeremiah McDonald, A.J. Hampton, Brian Bullock, and Donovan Sermons all need to step up.


Just like the cornerbacks, Northwestern loses the services of veteran Jared McGee to graduation. However, JR Pace returns, and he was one of the most stable members of the defensive backfield last season. Pace had 82 tackles, 4 interceptions, and recovered a fumble in the Holiday Bowl.

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl - Northwestern v Utah Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Returning alongside Pace is Travis Whillock, Bryce Jackson, and Joe Bergin.

Closing thoughts

I’m really confident about the defensive ends and linebackers. The interior defensive linemen need seasoning, and I hope that an offseason of coaching can help shore up some key departures on the defensive line