2015 Football Preview: Mature receiving corps holds potential

Dan+Vitale+and+the+Northwestern+receiving+corps+caught+only+10+touchdown+passes+in+2014.+With+Christian+Jones+back%2C+the+group+could+improve+in+2015.
Back to Article
Back to Article

2015 Football Preview: Mature receiving corps holds potential

Dan Vitale and the Northwestern receiving corps caught only 10 touchdown passes in 2014. With Christian Jones back, the group could improve in 2015.

Dan Vitale and the Northwestern receiving corps caught only 10 touchdown passes in 2014. With Christian Jones back, the group could improve in 2015.

Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

Dan Vitale and the Northwestern receiving corps caught only 10 touchdown passes in 2014. With Christian Jones back, the group could improve in 2015.

Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

Dan Vitale and the Northwestern receiving corps caught only 10 touchdown passes in 2014. With Christian Jones back, the group could improve in 2015.

Claire Hanson, Reporter

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Receptions didn’t come easily for Northwestern in 2014. Sometimes they didn’t even come at all.

But despite ranking 88th in receiving yards in the Football Bowl Subdivision and having only 10 scores through the air during the 2014 season, the Wildcats’ pass catching group does hold promise for the 2015 campaign. This year, an experienced receiving core and a talented superback promise more receptions, greater yardage, and maybe — just maybe — some touchdowns

The graduates

There is going to be a big, Kyle Prater-sized hole in the offense this season. The graduated senior hauled in 51 receptions for the Cats last year, averaging over 10 yards per catch and just under 49 yards per game. Prater was, by far, the most efficient receiver on the NU roster, and this efficiency eventually earned the 6-5 wideout a training camp invite from the New Orleans Saints, making him one of seven Cats who entered the National Football League last spring. Prater’s departure from NU leaves the 2015 receivers fighting for the title of the Cats’ go-to man on offense.

Also significant was the graduation of Tony Jones. In his final season Jones caught 35 passes for 323 yards, making him the Cats’ No. 3 receiver.

The big four

The Cats’ 2015 passing offense hinges on four seniors, led by superback Dan Vitale and fresh-legged receiver Christian Jones.

Hoping to follow Prater’s path into the NFL, Vitale will lead the Cats’ offense while occupying the “superback” slot — an NU-invented position that essentially combines the roles of a tight end and fullback. In 2014, Vitale was second on the team in receiving yards, recording 40 receptions for over 400 yards. Though Vitale averaged more than 15 fewer receiving yards per game than Prater, the 6-2, 235-pound athlete may just be the only one on the field able to fill the void created by Prater’s departure. Expect Vitale to catch, run and bust his way down the field and into the end zone more this season.

When Christian Jones suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2014, the Cats lost an effective receiver able to connect with the quarterback on big plays. Now Jones is back, filled with the drive only a season spent on the sidelines can provide.

Seniors Cameron Dickerson and Miles Shuler round out the quartet of starting receivers for 2015. Both wideouts proved to be solid, if not outstanding, options for quarterback Trevor Siemian in 2014. Dickerson averaged 26.5 receiving yards per game while Shuler recorded an average of 23.8 yards per game, and the duo caught 47 passes, collectively, during the season. But this year, being a solid receiver isn’t going to cut it. Despite the addition of Christian Jones, both Dickerson and Shuler will have to strap on their gloves and step up in a big way.

The bottom line

Receiving could be a strength for NU this year. However, much of the passing offense, of course, rests on the shoulders of the quarterback. Without yet knowing just who that is going to be, it’s hard to say if the Cats’ passing game is going to improve. What is obvious, however, is that there is a flock of receivers with experience, maturity and ambition. Whether or not they’ll connect with the QB and be able to reel in passes is to be seen.

Projected depth chart

Starter Backup
X Wide Receiver Cameron Dickerson (Sr) Pierre Youngblood-Ary (Sr)
Z Wide Receiver Miles Shuler (Sr) Austin Carr (Jr)
Y Wide Receiver Christian Jones (Sr) Mike McHugh (Jr)
Superback/Tight End Dan Vitale (Sr) Garrett Dickerson (So) OR Jayme Taylor (So)

 

Email: clairehansen2018@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @clairechansen

Comments