2015 Football Preview: Northwestern running backs look to maximize potential


Daily file photo by Luke Vogelzang

Sophomore Justin Jackson will start at running back for Northwestern when the season starts. Who will back him up remains to be seen.

Huzaifa Patel, Reporter

2015 Football Preview

Justin Jackson

With his electrifying runs and patented hop-celebrations, Justin Jackson emerged as the lead back for the Wildcats in 2014. He flashed an impressive display of lateral quickness, speed and finishing ability en route to 1,187 yards and 10 touchdowns.One thing that stood out when watching Jackson’s film was his impressive vision and patience. He looked like a natural in the Wildcats’ zone run scheme, particularly with the outside zone.

In the outside zone run, the running back generally has three options, based on the defensive response: bend, bang, or bounce. Making the correct read quickly and decisively can make or break a play. Jackson’s ability to make the right read with regularity was one of the reasons why he was so good so early for the Cats.

Here are three plays with three different looks that show Jackson’s ability to read the defense and react accordingly.




Look for more of the same from Jackson in year two.

Who is Number 2?

While we know what to expect from Jackson, there are still plenty of carries to go around. The Cats have three other talented running backs that all bring something to the table.

Warren Long

Long has just 44 career carries in his two years at Northwestern but he shows promise as a compliment to Jackson. Long runs with good power between the tackles. While he can do multiple things, Long will make an immediate impact around the goal line and in short yardage situations.

Solomon Vault

Vault is a do-it-all type of football player. He can run, catch, and return. With the logjam at running back, it makes sense for Vault to see some time at slot receiver, especially in five-wide or hurry-up situations in which a running back can motion into the backfield. He’ll also get his shot in the return game.

Auston Anderson

Anderson has drawn comparisons to Venric Mark in his running style, also being a smaller, shiftier back. Anderson is thicker and an inch taller but, like Mark, possesses breakaway speed and quickness.Projected depth chart

It’s hard to tell who will be playing behind Jackson and how much. In Saturday’s scrimmage, Anderson, freshman John Moten IV,  and sophomore Corey Acker played while the veterans rested. This could indicate that Anderson is behind the others, but it could also mean nothing. It’s possible the coaches just wanted to evaluate him a little more.

By all accounts, Moten and Acker helped their case to carve out a 2015 role. Moten, a three star recruit, will probably redshirt, but it was an encouraging report nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Acker was exceptional, scoring 2 touchdowns, one a 60-yarder. Acker’s success as a running back is particularly notable considering he walked on and is currently listed as a wide receiver on Northwestern’s official depth chart. Any contribution from either player this year would be icing on the cake.

Projected depth chart

Starter Backup Reserve
Running Back Justin Jackson (So) Auston Anderson (R-Fr) OR Warren Long (Jr) OR Solomon Vault (So) Corey Acker (So) OR John Moten IV (Fr)

Email: [email protected]northwestern.edu
Twitter: @HuzaifaPatel95