Projected starter(s): junior Brandon Vitabile, junior Jack Konopka, redshirt freshman Ian Park, sophomore Geoff Mogus and junior Paul Jorgensen
Key reserves: sophomore Matt Frazier, sophomore Shane Mertz, redshirt freshman Eric Olson, redshirt freshman Kenton Playko and redshirt freshman Adam DePietro
Breakout candidate: Park
Park was one of the highest-rated recruits of the 2012 class, and this is his chance to jump into the starting lineup. Even senior quarterback Kain Colter gave Park praise at Big Ten Media Days, which can’t hurt his confidence.
Fans have watched the progress of the offensive line very closely throughout the offseason. The Wildcats are replacing three starters from last year, and most of the suitors for the openings are young, which could work both ways. There may be some growing pains early on, but the chemistry of the five starters will grow throughout the season and into 2014. Unlike previous years, there’s much more talent and depth for head coach Pat Fitzgerald to choose from. Offensive line coach Adam Cushing has done an outstanding job and should have the Cats’ young talent working well together by the season opener. On the field, Vitabile and Konopka will be the vocal leaders. If the offensive line can create holes for Northwestern’s playmakers, expect big numbers from this high-powered offense.
– John Paschall