Our series continues looking at a player or a group of players from each Big Ten team who needs a home run type of summer before preseason camp begins. Who needs to hit it out of the park in preparation for the season?
For previous entries, click here.
In the batter's box: Northwestern
Who needs to step it up: The veterans on defense
The easy answer here would be the unproven players on both sides of the ball, or a guy like quarterback Kain Colter, or a running back group that hasn't produced a star since Tyrell Sutton exited after the 2008 season. But if Northwestern doesn't have better leadership and communication on defense, its victory total will continue to decline, and its streak of bowl appearances will end. Communication issues plagued the Wildcats' defense throughout 2011, especially with the secondary and in games like a 41-31 loss at Iowa. As more young players step into key roles at positions like cornerback, Northwestern has to make sure everyone is on the same page. The responsibility falls on players like senior linebacker David Nwabuisi, junior defensive end Tyler Scott and sophomore safety Ibraheim Campbell. While Campbell is just a redshirt sophomore, he has to be a leader for the secondary after recording a team-high 100 tackles in 2011. It's a big summer for the leaders on defense to unite the unit and make sure everyone is on the same page. Younger players like cornerback Nick VanHoose and end Deonte Gibson showed potential during spring ball, and Northwestern could be a less experienced, but more talented overall defense in 2012. But missed assignments kill any defense, and it's up to the veterans to limit them as much as possible this season.