Northwestern 2014 Spring Ball Preview: Defensive Line
By Aaron Morse
Northwestern ranked second in the Big Ten with 6.5 tackles for loss per game in 2013. A lot of that had to do with the effectiveness of the defensive line. In fact, twice they reached double digit totals in the TFL category. Before 2013, the last time NU recorded double digits in TFLs was in 2010 against Rice. A combination of star senior Tyler Scott and young, talented players such as Ifeadi Odenigbo and Deonte Gibson helped the Wildcats succeed up front in 2013.
Defensive End Tyler Scott is the first, second and third-biggest loss on the defensive line. Scott had 10 tackles for loss (16th in the Big Ten) and six sacks. His 16 career sacks is good for sixth all-time at Northwestern. He was the Wildcats' defensive player of the game in five of the last eight games. The Wildcats also lose another starter on the line in defensive tackle Will Hampton. Hampton recorded 22 tackles on the season.
Next In Line
Tyler Lancaster redshirted last year, but was a touted recruit coming out of high school, ranked as the No. 6 ... center in the country by Rivals.com. He has since moved to the defensive line for NU. Sophomore Greg Kuhar was on the two-deep last year and weighs in at 300 pounds. He was a Rivals four-star recruit out of high school. He should get a chance to start this year with Hampton's graduation.
Players To Keep An Eye On
Among the talented defensive ends, who is going to have the breakthrough season? Northwestern hopes sophomore Odenigbo, junior Dean Lowry and junior Deonte Gibson all have big years. Keep an eye on these guys because they have star potential.
Needed To Succeed In 2014
Health. Injuries really hurt last year on both sides of the ball. The talent is there, but the depth is questionable. The line also could do a better job of pressuring Big Ten quarterbacks. Oftentimes last year it seemed like opponents had too much time in the pocket.