Last chance to shine for 6 standout seniors

Tania Ganguli

Call it a last chance season for the best guy at six positions.

Defensive lineman Loren Howard’s last chance to show the NFL he really is the sack master.

Linebacker Tim McGarigle’s last chance to be one of the best linebackers in the country.

Offensive lineman Zach Strief’s last chance to make himself a solid first-round draft pick.

Quarterback Brett Basanez’s last chance to prove he’s as good as Randy Walker’s been telling us he is for the past three years.

Wideout Mark Philmore’s last chance to stay healthy for an entire season and take the spotlight in which he belongs.

Running back Terrell Jordan’s only chance to turn into NU’s next running back monster.

That’s why this could be the best or worst season Northwestern’s had since those guys got here. It’s all going to depend on something coach Walker loves talking about — leadership.

I’m not talking about emotional speeches and moral support, I’m talking about playing to their potential and leading by example.

These six guys must come through.

Nobody’s really seen what they can do when they’re all healthy.

Jordan hurt his leg twice his sophomore year, the same year that Philmore began a tradition of a yearly homecoming knee injury. (He hurt it against Wisconsin in 2003 and Purdue in 2004.)

Howard had surgery on one ankle after the Motor City Bowl in December of 2003, then he hurt his other ankle during the summer. He came back quicker than expected but wasn’t the same again.

Strief once showed up to a press conference with a mysterious boot on his foot and claimed it was a Halloween costume, and McGarigle suffered a terrifying concussion against Indiana in 2003.

Then you’ve got Basanez, who played part of his freshman year with a cast on his broken leg, stayed healthy in 2003, then seemed limited by a bruised shoulder last season.

It makes you wonder what could have been, but most of all it makes you wonder what will, because staying healthy is the bare minimum. These big six have to stay healthy and play like this is their last season.

Howard, Strief, Philmore, McGarigle, Jordan and Basanez are the best NU has at their positions and they will have to carry this team if they’re to have a shot in hell, mainly because the Big Ten will be amazing next season.

Michigan’s sophomore studs were too much for NU last year when they were barley legal. Iowa, Michigan State and their quarterbacks Drew (Tate and Stanton) could be disasterous if NU is unprepared.

Which they shouldn’t be. These seniors have all been playing since they were freshmen and some of them started taking on leadership roles last year, but it was never as important as it will be this year.

The need for Basanez’s leadership is obvious, but he’ll need Philmore to be the productive receiver he is when he’s healthy. Strief and Howard will have to help solidify new kids on the their lines. Jordan will have to show he deserves to be Noah Herron’s heir.

McGarigle started to show the country that he’s one of the best linebackers in the Big Ten last year. As the quarterback of the defense, and a mini Pat Fitzgerald, he has the potential to hold not only the linebackers but the entire defense together.

It’s a team game, but teams fall apart when there’s no one to lead them.

And for these six guys, there’s no more next year.

Deputy sports editor Tania Ganguli is a Weinberg junior. She can be reached at [email protected]