Football: Three Units to Watch Next Fall

Chris Johnson

Here are three units to zoom in on after Saturday’s spring game. These three position groups will be key in the Wildcats’ 2012 season.

1. Wide Receiver

Gone are Jeremy Ebert and Drake Dunsmore, who combined for over 1,500 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns last season. But the Wildcats have more than enough talent to fill the void, and that talent was on full display Saturday.

Rising junior Rashad Lawrence and rising senior Demetrius Fields had already proven themselves as dangerous targets on the outside but sophomore-to-be Cameron Dickerson-after an eye-popping Spring Game performance-may be in line for significant playing time this season. Dickerson produced the highlight of the day on Saturday, outleaping cornerback Nick Van Hoose on a 40-yd touchdown pass from Trevor Siemian. Dickerson finished with three receptions and 65 recieving yards.

Another wideout who impressed on Saturday was Pierre Youngblood-Ary, another sophomore-to-be. Youngbloog-Ary finished with three catches and 51 receiving yards. The 6-3 speedster should see some balls thrown his way in the Fall.

This group of wideouts could get a major boost this summer in the form of Kyle Prater, the 6-5, 215-lb, USC transfer whose size and speed would give the Wildcats a new dimension on offense. Prater’s status for 2012 will be determined this summer, which is when the NCAA will make a decision on his impending appeal. Prater

Even if Prater is ruled ineligible, NU’s depth at receiver will be one of its biggest strengths in 2012.

2. Secondary

The Wildcats ranked last in the Big Ten last season with 230.4 pass yards allowed per game and it’s possible, if not likely, that their pass defense will doom them again in 2012. With the departures of Brian Peters and Jordan Mabin, the NU secondary now lacks its two best pass defenders as well as its two main leaders.

The secondary looked, at times, rudder-less throughout spring practice, and Saturday did nothing to lessen those concerns, as the young group continued to show signs that it will be the Wildcats’ biggest weakness this season.

Safeties Ibraheim Campbell and Davion Fleming and cornerbacks Demetrius Dugar and Van Hoose played with the first unit and failed to impress, often appearing unorganized in coverage while failing to bring down ball carriers in the open field.

Van Hoose’s misstep on Dickerson’s touchdown catch was the most obvious blunder, but none of the three safeties competing for a starting spot beside Ibraheim Campbell-Fleming, Jimmy Hall and Hunter Bates-helped their chances.

Granted, the Wildcats do have one of the best, deepest receiving corps in the Big Ten, but the secondary will need to make improvements before the Fall if NU hopes to compete in what should be a super-competitive Legends division in 2012.

3. Quarterback

No surprises here: Kain Colter will be the starter from day one. The Rising junior provided a spark on offense-the hyper-athletic, dual-threat variety-in the absence of an injured Dan Persa last season, completing 67 percent of his passes for 673 yards, six touchdowns and just one interception.

Colter was able to make all of the necessary throws last season, but questions linger over whether he has the arm strength and accuracy to be a full-time starter.

While Saturday proved that arm strength won’t be a major issue for Colter in the Fall-Colter had plenty of zip on all of his throws-many of his passes were either overthrown or off target. Colter was limited by the one-hand-touch sack rule, which could be one of the reasons why he looked so uncomfortable in the pocket. But his throwing accuracy needs improvement, especially when you consider the performance of Trevor Siemian.

Siemian was the most impressive quarterback Saturday, completing eight of his 14 attempts for 119 yards and two touchdowns. He was spot-on accurate on most of his throws while showing off his above average mobility.

All indications point to Siemian getting at least a few snaps in the fall, presumably when Colter splits out wide at receiver. But if Colter’s accuracy woes persist into training camp and the start of next season, Siemian could see his workload increase.

Offensive coordinator Mick McCall will tailor his offense to fit Colter’s dual-threat skills, but Siemian’s performance Saturday may force McCall to reconsider how he splits up quarterbacking duties come September.

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Twitter: @ChrisDJohnsonn