August 28, 2007

Season preview: Defense

In this second of a four-part 2007 season preview, WildcatReport breaks down each unit of Northwestern's defense.

Position: Defensive line

Starters: DE Corey Wootton, DT Adam Hahn, DT John Gill, DE David Ngene

Depth: DT Keegan Kennedy, DT Marshall Thomas, DE Kevin Mims, DE Mark Koehn, DE Corbin Bryant

Key player: Gill. If the junior tackle requires a double team on the inside, the defensive line will dominate.

Reason for optimism: This is far and away the strongest unit on the team, and you couldn't pick a better place to have a strength than the front four. The Cats have an embarrassment of riches at defensive end, where four players have been starters in their careers. Wootton is the bell cow of the bunch and after a breakout 2006 season, he'll be looking to make some All-Big Ten teams this year. Gill has 18 career starts under his belt and the monster in the Cats' middle could get some all-conference recognition, as well. On passing downs, look for the Cats to employ their three-man front once again, with defensive ends moving to tackle and Gill at noseguard.

Cause for concern: The Cats could be deeper at tackle, but that's really quibbling. This unit is loaded, and the increased depth will enable them to rotate players like they're on a Lazy Susan.

The bottom line: The Cats have the personnel to be a handful for opposing offensive lines this season. If they can generate a pass rush without blitzing, the rest of the Big Ten will get a wake-up call.

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