Football Season Preview: Defensive backs

John Paschall, Reporter

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Projected starters: sophomore Nick VanHoose, junior Ibraheim Campbell, sophomore Traveon Henry and junior Daniel Jones

Key reserves: junior Jimmy Hall, senior Davion Fleming, freshman Dwight White, junior CJ Bryant and freshman Godwin Igwebuike

Breakout candidate: Henry

Campbell broke out in 2011 and has blossomed into a leader on the defensive side. Henry has that same potential after reports have him impressing in spring and fall practices. Henry has the strength to come up in the box and be a force in the run game, as well as the athleticism to cover a lot of ground at safety. Look for Henry to be a major playmaker for the Wildcats in 2013.

Season outlook

Nobody reaped the benefits of an improved pass rush more than the secondary. Once the scapegoats for all of NU’s defensive woes, the defensive backs came on strong in 2012, especially late in the season. Campbell will quarterback this unit, and he, along with VanHoose, could receive All-Big Ten honors by the end of the year. The starting corner spot opposite of VanHoose looks to be Jones’ job to lose. Hall did a quiet but impressive job covering slot receivers and running backs out of the backfield.

The only question with this group will be depth. As talented as VanHoose may be, he struggled to stay on the field because of injury. There’s a lot of potential in this freshman class with Igwebuike, Keith Watkins and Matthew Harris, but they have yet to play a down in college. Guys like Bryant and White will need to step up if the injury bug bites this group.

– John Paschall