Northwestern spring wrap


2010 overall record: 7-6

2010 conference record: 3-5 (T-7th)

Returning starters

Offense: 9; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

QB Dan Persa, WR Jeremy Ebert, LT Al Netter, C Ben Burkett, TE Drake Dunsmore, DE Vince Browne, CB Jordan Mabin, S Brian Peters, DT Jack DiNardo

Key losses

LB Quentin Davie, LB Nate Williams, DT Corbin Bryant, WR Sidney Stewart, G Keegan Grant, K Stefan Demos

2010 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Mike Trumpy* (530 yards)

Passing: Dan Persa* (2,581 yards)

Receiving: Jeremy Ebert* (953 yards)

Tackles: Brian Peters* (107)

Sacks: Vince Browne* (7)

Interceptions: Brian Peters* and Quentin Davie (3)

Spring answers

1. Trump(y) card: The run game has been Northwestern's biggest weakness during Pat Fitzgerald's tenure, but the staff feels it has a good No. 1 option in sophomore Mike Trumpy. After showing some good signs toward the end of the 2010 season, Trumpy continued to make strides this spring and ended up as the lone starter listed on the post-spring depth chart. Coordinator Mick McCall said Trumpy become a tougher and more complete back this spring. Northwestern needs him to be a consistent run threat in the fall.

2. Defensive depth emerges: Northwestern was a pretty bad defense toward the end of 2010, and depth played a large role in the unit's struggles. The team exited the spring feeling better about its depth and the athleticism it will have on the field this fall. Players like defensive end Tyler Scott, defensive tackle Niko Mafuli and safety Ibraheim Campbell put themselves in position to challenge projected starters in fall camp and log significant playing time this season.

3. Matthews corners market: Jeravin Matthews has been a bit of a journeyman for the Wildcats, a superb athlete without a position. But after starring on special teams in 2010, Matthews seems to have found his calling at cornerback. He quickly locked up the starting job opposite veteran Jordan Mabin. The 5-11, 175-pound Matthews looked more comfortable at the corner spot and gives the secondary a chance to be a strength for Northwestern this fall.

Fall questions

1. Backup quarterback: As Dan Persa continued his recovery from a ruptured Achilles', Northwestern's other quarterbacks took all the reps this spring in what Fitzgerald called a competition for the "No. 1" spot. Persa obviously will be the starter, but none of the other signal callers really separated himself as the backup. The Wildcats fell apart after Persa went down last November, so they'll need improvement from Kain Colter, Evan Watkins and Trevor Siemian before Sept. 3.

2. Linebacker: The spring featured plenty of competition, and it should only continue in August as Roderick Goodlow gets healthy and he and others push the projected starters. Seniors Bryce McNaul and Ben Johnson and junior David Nwabuisi enter the summer as the first-team linebackers, but there are quite a few sophomores and redshirt freshmen behind them. The coaches have tried to upgrade the athleticism at linebacker, a group that struggled for stretches last fall.

3. Kickin' it: Stefan Demos endured his ups and downs in Evanston, but he leaves as one of the more productive specialists in team history. Jeff Budzien and Steve Flaherty competed throughout the spring to replace Demos, and neither emerged as the clear-cut starter. Fitzgerald said the kicker race could continue up until game week. Special teams could finally be a strength for Northwestern in 2011, but it needs to be able to count on a kicker.