Northwestern Football's Comings And Goings
By Aaron Morse
The off-season in college football seems to last forever doesn’t it? This off-season all the talk has centered on Kain Colter and unionization at Northwestern which is an interesting topic to be sure. But let’s focus on what’s happening that will impact the product on the field this fall.
Running back Malin Jones recently announced his intention to transfer, which by itself isn’t particularly interesting. He was a big time recruit by NU standards (10th ranked player in Illinois according to one recruiting service) out of high school. After redshirting in 2012, he never really caught on in 2013 and actually got suspended for violating team rules near the end of the year. There are much better running backs available to Northwestern at the moment.
Venric Mark, Treyvon Green, Stephen Buckley and Warren Long all return in 2014. Jones actually got moved to Superback (a fullback/tight end hybrid) near the end of last season which along with the suspension kind of indicated the writing was on the wall. I didn’t even mention him in my spring preview.
So why write about it? One reason is that under Pat Fitzgerald that makes three running backs who, at one point or another, were considered big parts of NU’s future, making the decision to transfer in the past few seasons. Jones joins Arby Fields (whose story is quite interesting, he currently plays Minor League Baseball for the Everett Aquasox) and Adonis Smith (who went to UNLV, and uhhh is now transferring from UNLV too). Another interesting note is that Jones went to high school at Joliet Catholic with the even more highly touted Ty Issac, who recently announced he was transferring from USC to Michigan.
I don’t know what all of this means. My hunch is that it means these are 18-22 year old kids changing their minds.
Luckily Northwestern has also been the beneficiary of some kids changing their minds.
I speak of course about wide receivers Miles Shuler and Kyle Prater. One sat out last year and the other’s last chance to make an impact is this season. They are both players NU recruited out of high school but failed to land. Now, they are both Wildcats and their encouraging springs suggest that big things could lie ahead.
After two relatively anonymous years at Rutgers, Shuler decided to transfer to Northwestern. He spent last season on the scout team and was crucial in NU’s preparation for the likes of Braxton Miller as Shuler was a dual-threat QB in high school. What makes him so exciting is his pedigree — he was a four-star recruit coming out of high school — and his speed. Northwestern’s spread offense should be ideal for Shuler and utilizing his versatility should help the offense take some strides this season.
Meanwhile, former five-star recruit Kyle Prater has dealt with a ton of lower body injuries (Northwestern might as well be a hockey team the way they report these matters) during his time as a Wildcat since transferring from USC. Prater had a big spring and he feels like he’s finally at the point where he can reach his potential. At 6’5’’, Prater is a big dude and a completely different type of receiver than the small (5’10’’) and speedy Shuler. 2014 will be his last year in a NU uniform and if he truly is healthy, Prater could be the break-out player in the Big Ten.
The speed of Shuler and the physicality of Prater will make for some talented wide outs for senior QB Trevor Siemian to throw to this fall. They both are familiar with the system. It’s just a matter of fulfilling the promise they showed coming out of high school.
Transfers can work both ways. Northwestern hopes two of the bigger ones to come their way recently pay big dividends this fall.