Football Season Preview: Defensive line

John Paschall, Reporter

Projected starter(s): senior Tyler Scott, junior Sean McEvilly, senior Will Hampton and sophomore Dean Lowry

Key reserves: sophomore Deonte Gibson, junior Chance Carter, redshirt freshman Ifeadi Odenigbo, sophomore C.J. Robbins and redshirt freshman Greg Kuhar

Breakout candidate: Gibson

The popular pick would be Odenigbo because of the tremendous hype surrounding the explosive pass rusher. But Gibson has shown flashes of being a disruptive pass rusher on third downs and been praised by every coach for his work in the offseason. Although he may not end up the starter, he will see plenty of snaps in 2013 and have a major impact.

Season outlook

The pass rush was arguably the most improved part of the entire Wildcat team last year, going from 17 sacks in 2011 to 28 in 2012. Scott led the way for NU with nine sacks in 2012, which also tied for the Big Ten lead. The linemen will have to continue to pressure the quarterback without the likes of Quentin Williams and Brian Arnfelt for the Cats to contain teams in the passing game. Fortunately for NU, its defensive end has depth, and defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz will be able to rotate the talented group throughout the game. The interior rush defense will miss Arnfelt’s presence, but McEvilly will continue his growth and the senior leadership of Hampton will be crucial for NU to hold their own.

— John Paschall