2014 Northwestern football preview: cornerbacks, safeties

Alex Putterman, Sports Editor

Depth Chart:


1. No. 23 Nick VanHoose, junior
1. No. 27 Matthew Harris, sophomore
2. No. 2 Dwight White, sophomore
2. No. 17 Marcus McShepard, redshirt freshman


1. No. 24 Ibraheim Campbell, senior
1. No. 10 Traveon Henry, junior
2. No. 16 Godwin Igwebuike, redshirt freshman
2. No. 21 Kyle Queiro, redshirt freshman

Safety overview:

The secondary might be Northwestern’s best position group. The unit returns all four of its starters from a year ago, plus every key reserve and adds several promising youngsters.

Junior Traveon Henry and senior Ibraheim Campbell form one of the Big Ten’s most potent safety duos, while senior linebacker-convert Jimmy Hall will get some reps in nickel packages, and redshirt freshman Godwin Igwebuike is a potential star.

At spring practice in April, Henry said the safeties were stepping up with Campbell out with an injury.

“That may have been a blessing in disguise,” Henry said. “(Redshirt freshman) Kyle (Queiro) had to step up, Godwin had to step up. Those guys really needed those reps, especially losing those reps from bowl practice. Those guys gained a lot of confidence, and they’re starting to really understand how it is on a Big Ten field.”

Cornerback overview:

Cornerback is a little messier. Junior Nick VanHoose and sophomore Matthew Harris return as starters at a position that ceded too many big plays in 2013.

Sophomore Dwight White lost his starting spot midway through last season and enters 2014 as NU’s top back-up. Cornerback depth was shaken slightly with the news that former starter Daniel Jones will retire after last year’s knee injury.

That means a few rookies might get substantial playing time. Somewhat surprisingly, redshirt freshman Marcus McShepard was named second-string on the Cats’ first depth chart of the year instead of redshirt freshman Keith Watkins or freshman Parrker Westphal, who could potentially redshirt.

Secondary Outlook:

NU allowed too many big plays last year, especially early in the season, to the point where White became somewhat of a punch line.

Though VanHoose and Harris aren’t quite shutdown corners right now, they should be serviceable in coverage.

Campbell is arguably the Cats’ best player and needs to be a star for NU’s defense to really thrive. Early in 2013, the safety led an interception-happy unit that carried the team during its fast start.

Forcing turnovers makes life easier for any football team, and the Cats could use some playmaking out of its secondary.

Campbell and company will be tested immediately, facing California’s “air raid” attack on Saturday. How NU fares in coverage then could hint at what to expect for the rest of 2014.

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