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2021 Northwestern on Offense

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3 transfer quarterbacks in 4 years? Why not!

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Auburn vs Northwestern Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Year two of the Mike Bakakian experience is upon us, gather around while our butlers serve chilled summer white wines with artisanally plated cheeses while I describe what I think will happen on offense this year.

Hopefully it’ll be more productive than last year, which was quite anemic. I’ll let the Daily Northwestern describe this much better than I can

NU averaged just under 300 yards per game, good for 124th out of 130 teams in the country. The Wildcats’ offense scored 16.3 points per game in 2019, which ranked 126th. Their points per game was just below 3-9 SEC bottom feeder Vanderbilt, but slightly better than Old Dominion, Bowling Green and Rutgers. Yes, Rutgers.

Buttgers. Yuck.

Let’s dig in.

Quarterback

NCAA Football: Clemson at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

As always, I lead off with quarterbacks when I do these previews. For some reason, Pat Fitzgerald is has gotten into the habit of using transfer quarterbacks since Clayton Thorson graduated.

Our newest transfer quarterback is a sophomore from the University of South Carolina: Ryan Hilinski. The former Gamecock is a 4 star recruit, and Northwestern extended an offer to him (along with 24 other schools) back in high school. Hilinski will compete, and my best guess is win, the starting job against fellow transfer Hunter Johnson (5 stars, transferred from Clemson, rocky performance and hasn’t seen much action) and senior Andrew Marty.

Hilinski had a productive first year down in Columbia, stepping in as a true freshman when starter Jake Bentley got hurt, to the tune of 214.3 passing yards per game for 2357 yards and 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.

I’m cautiously optimistic about another transfer quarterback, especially after how Peyton Ramsey led the team to a division title last year under new offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian.

I do miss the days when we started a guy for four years and he was really productive. More on offensive styles and my bellyaching later.

Poll

Who’s gonna be the starting QB?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Johnson
    (28 votes)
  • 4%
    Marty
    (5 votes)
  • 66%
    Hilinski
    (82 votes)
  • 7%
    Someone else
    (9 votes)
124 votes total Vote Now

Running Back

Vrbo Citrus Bowl - Auburn v Northwestern Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

I’m sad, for nostalgic reasons, to report that we have 2 running back transfers. Drake Anderson, son of NU legend Damien (from the 2000 B1G co-champion, fuck, i’m getting old) and Isaiah Bowser have transferred to Arizona and UCF.

Last season by all appearances OC Mike Bajakian lost confidence in those two and instead plugged in Cam Porter and Evan Hull. As MNW mentioned yesterday, Porter got his first touchdown and saw the field the first time in the MSU game, then he tore up Lovie Smith’s final Illini squad for 142 yards and 2 touchdowns for 5.9 yards per carry on 24 attempts, had 61 hards and 1 touchdown against OSU, then rushed for 98 yards against Auburn in the bowl game.

Porter will be the starter this year , backed up by Evan Hull and I think freshman Anthony Tyus IV will be the third man in.

I’ll miss Anderson because he’s Damien’s kid, and Bowser just for the wonderful memes.

Offensive Line

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 19 Big Ten Championship Game Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Noted fan of professional wrestling Kurt Anderson is in his third season teaching the Trench Cats, and I think they did a great job given the circumstances.

Last year, starting LT Rashawn Slater opted to sit out the season, and he was so highly thought of the San Diego chargers drafted him in the first round! (It’s rare for us to have first round draft picks)

Losing an excellent starting left tackle is usually a cause for concern but Anderson reloaded by plugging in true freshman Peter Skoronski. Skoronski is our first five star offensive line recruit and the grandson of Bob Skoronski on Vince Lombardi’s championship Packers squads.

I just love the fact we’re reloading instead of rebuilding. Also that we kept Skoronski close to home (He went to Maine South, just a 25 35 minute drive from Northwestern)

I think Skoronski could develop into the best tackle we’ve had here since Patrick Ward, Zach Strief, Rashawn Slater, (apologies to the guys i’m forgetting from the mid 90s or the 2000 championship squad), or even Jack Cvercko (from Ara Parseghian’s excellent teams in the early 60s).

Skoronski will be joined on the line by Ethan Wiederkehr at right tackle, Sam Gerak as center, and Josh Priebe and Charlie Schmidt at guard. Caleb Tiernan and Ben Wrather will get some playing time too.

Wide Receivers

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Northwestern Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Unlike the offensive line, our wide receivers are a rebuilding project. The majority of our production last year came from Riley Lees, Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman, and Kyric McGowan. Lees is playing for the Bengals, RCB is on the Colts, and for some reason McGowan transferred to Georgia Tech. Boo.

This year, we’re getting back JJ Jefferson, who sat out last season, and he’ll be joined by returners Malik Washington, Bryce Kirtz, Wayne Dennis Jr, Berkeley Holman and Genson Hooper Price. New additions to the squad include Kansas grad transfer Stephan Robinson Jr, and freshmen CJ Johnson II and Jordan Mosely. Johnson and Mosely are highly touted recruits and will push for playing time.

Tight Ends

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Northwestern at Ohio State Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Astute readers will see that Northwestern is no longer using the term Superback when describing tight ends. I guess it’s a Mick McCall-ism that’s been exiled with him to Ames.

Anyway, last year’s most productive tight end was John Raine, and he’s now playing for the Atlanta Falcons. In his place will be Charlie Mangieri and Trey Pugh, and also, get this, a converted quarterback in Jason Whittaker!!

Mangieri’s production will increase from the 7 receptions for 53 yards and 2 touchdowns he pulled in last year.

So LPW, what does this all mean?

Your guess is as good as mine. I think the rock of our offense will be the line, Cam Porter will be the bell cow featured back getting good production, Hilinksi will start and hopefully the wide receivers and tight ends will work decently with him.

I just wish our offense wasn’t so ... boring. I want us to have better offensive stats and not be in the cellar with Rutgers... I want more explosive plays... Le Sigh...

Still, we’ve won the division twice in three years......

Poll

How productive is Northwestern’s offense going to be?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Better than last year
    (35 votes)
  • 18%
    Same
    (22 votes)
  • 21%
    Worse
    (26 votes)
  • 30%
    Bailed out by the defense
    (36 votes)
119 votes total Vote Now