Projected starting center quits before final season (Football)

Jim Martinho

Offensive lineman Carl Matejka decided last week to forego his senior season at Northwestern, the team announced after the Wildcats’ second spring practice Thursday.

Matejka, who will continue to attend NU, played in 10 games last season, starting five at right guard. The only returning senior on the Cats’ offensive line, he was viewed as the top candidate to replace Austin King at center.

The loss of 6-foot-4, 315-pound Matejka brings even more uncertainty to a center position that remained unresolved when NU began spring drills last week. The graduation of King, a four-year starter whom head coach Randy Walker called “the best offensive player at Northwestern the past three years,” made identifying a center the most important goal of the spring, Walker said.

“We didn’t have many losses but that was a big one,” Walker said about King. “That’s a big set of footprints to fill.”

Matejka began spring practice listed first on the depth chart at center in front of redshirt freshman Jim Devine. Joe Tripodi also has gotten looks at center, and incoming freshmen Trevor Rees and Austin Matthews have experience at the position.

Walker said the Cats’ centers struggled in Friday’s practice with a few bad snaps.

Matejka earned the starting job at right guard after a strong preseason last year but injured his ankle before the season opener. He worked his way back into the starting lineup in time for the Big Ten season. The Houston native started at center against Iowa in 2001, the injured King’s only missed start in his last 44 games.