Kyle Prater, senior
When Kyle Prater was being scouted by every top program in the nation and making every high school All-America first team you could name, nobody could have pictured him entering his final year of college with just 20 career receptions.
But here we are, and Prater is ready to prove himself. He has the size (6'5"/225) to dominate some of the B1G's best corners, and though he isn't Venric Mark-quick (too soon?), he has enough speed to get by. Plus, his hands are ridiculous.
Northwestern was one of the most efficient teams in the red zone last year, and having Prater healthy will give the 'Cats a good shot to keep that up.
Let's all watch a former top-recruited wide receiver try one last time to show what he can do. It'll be fun.
Matt Harris, sophomore
Last year, Harris made an instant impact on the team. As one of only two true freshmen to get any playing time in 2013, he returned kicks and started five games at cornerback. He was even named to ESPN’s Big Ten All-Freshman team.
The LaGrange Highlands Ill. native will be one of the keys to success for Northwestern’s defense. Seniors Chi Chi Ariguzo and Ibraheim Campbell are the proven leaders of the defense, but they can’t do it all alone.
If Harris can step up to be the lockdown corner that he looked like at times last year, the Wildcats’s secondary could prove to be one of the strongest units on the team.
Ifeadi Odenigbo, redshirt sophomore
Odenigbo doesn’t just have an awesome name. He’s got awesome talent too. After coming to Northwestern in 2012 as an ESPN-ranked four-star recruit, he’s finally ready to break out. Last year, his first full season, he became a third-down sack specialist. He appeared in all 12 games and was second on the team in sacks.
He only had nine tackles all year, but 6.5 of them were for a loss. This guy has potential to be a huge playmaker during his next three seasons as a Wildcat. And most importantly, in the midst of all the unionization unrest and the changing landscape of the NCAA, he’s just out there having a good time.
Garrett Dickerson, freshman
This guy has a few names on the depth chart to pass before he gets a ton of action, but he’s one to keep an eye on. Garrett might be a few years younger than his brother, junior wide receiver Cameron Dickerson, but he has 35 pounds on him. The younger brother is listed as a 6’3’’ superback that has the talent to do a little bit of everything.
Dickerson was a four-star recruit who had 23 scholarship offers from schools like Ohio State, Alabama and Florida State. Most of his impact may be a year or two down the road, but his sheer size and playmaking ability on both sides of the ball gives Northwestern another talented superback help spell junior Dan Vitale.
The best part of all is that Dickerson, a four-star recruit, isn’t a rarity for the ‘Cats anymore. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald has changed the culture of the team and brought in better talent than ever before.
Tom Hruby, junior
Tom Hruby created a lot of buzz when he attended team camp a few weeks ago, training to walk on as a defensive end. As 32-year-old active SEAL with a wife and three kids, he’s definitely not your average college athlete or even your typical college junior.
He’s made sacrifices to constantly challenge himself, a quality that will bring any athlete to the top. This guy lives an extreme lifestyle and it will be exciting to see him bring his skills to the field. Maybe he can push the ‘Cats to their best season yet?