Linebacker set to return this weekend (Football notebook)

Tania Ganguli

At the beginning of this season, Northwestern’s defensive front found itself without two familiar faces: linebacker John Pickens and defensive end Loren Howard.

This week they’ll welcome back Pickens, who has been full go in practice for a week now, but Howard will still be out for at least four weeks.

Pickens has been recovering from offseason shoulder surgery while Howard is recovering from his second ankle surgery this year. NU coach Randy Walker said he would not be able to gauge how long Howard’s recovery will take until the boot protecting his ankle comes off. Both of Howard’s ankles have undergone surgery during the offseason.

“There will be some atrophy; he won’t be ready right away,” Walker said. “They won’t know anything about him until his boot comes off in four weeks, then they’ll say here’s a reasonable expectation.”

Doctors just cleared Pickens to play against Minnesota.

“I almost feel like I was held out too long, but doctor’s orders, you know,” Pickens said. “Any time for me to have been back would have been great.”

One Back formation

Walker started running back Terrell Jordan against Kansas because he had been doing well in practice and Noah Herron was recovering from a concussion.

“Terrell’s been very productive, Saturday again,” Walker said. “It’s positive to have more than one back, and it’s going to help us that he’s playing well.”

He was impressed with Jordan’s

performance, but with Herron fully back, Jordan will have to wait a little longer to start again. Although the Wildcats used Herron and former running back Jason Wright in tandem last year, Walker doesn’t expect to use two this season.

“To be two-back you really need three or four,” Walker said. “Last year we had Terrell, Jason and Noah. Right now we have two.”

Public embarrassment

For years college football players had a luxury that professional players did not — no one in the stands knew exactly who committed penalties called on the field.

This season referees are announcing the number of the player who commits a penalty in addition to what the penalty is.

“It puts an end to the speculation that goes on out there,” Walker said. “There was always this thing in college football, ‘Oh, we don’t want to embarrass the kid.’ Well, I’ll embarrass him, I’ll announce it.”

For most of the players, the new rule doesn’t make much difference. After watching hours of film, everyone on the team knows who committed each penalty. For the offensive linemen, though, it becomes the only time fans hear their number.

“That’s our recognition,” tackle Zach Strief laughed. “It’s good though. If we jump offsides, that’s dumb, and we deserve to get called out.”

Reach Tania Ganguli at [email protected]