Football: Bajakian and Ramsey set to shake things up for Northwestern


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

Hunter Johnson struggled mightily last season, felled by injuries and inconsistency. Indiana transfer Peyton Ramsey’s transfer to Northwestern should help stabilize what was a sputtering offense.

Greg Svirnovskiy, Reporter


It’s a make or break year for Northwestern, one that comes on the heels of a disappointing 2019 campaign which saw the Wildcats finish with a 3-9, 1-8 Big Ten record.

One of those wins came against UMass, a 1-11 disaster of a football program which lost its season opener to Rutgers by 27 points. Highly vaunted Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson struggled with injuries and playbook idiosyncrasies as inconsistent kicking cost NU in midseason losses to Nebraska and Purdue.

It was in many ways the polar opposite of a highly successful 2018 season, one which saw the Cats ride the arm of Clayton Thorson to a 9-5 record and a run to the Big Ten title game. The heroes of that 2018 squad are almost all gone. Thorson and wide receiver Flynn Nagel graduated in 2019 and moved to the professional level. So did Montre Hartage, Nate Hall and Blake Hance. Bennett Skowronek, whose one over the shoulder catch in Nov. 2018 against Iowa will long live on in Northwestern lore, this year transferred to Notre Dame.

But there’s a lot to be excited about when you take a look at Northwestern’s current roster construction. The winds of change — and transfers — will bolster a sputtering offense that recorded just six passing touchdowns all season last year. In comes former Indiana standout Peyton Ramsey, a graduate transfer who last year threw for 2,454 yards and 13 touchdowns in just seven starts. Florida Atlantic University graduate transfer John Raine should stabilize the tight end position, which was never really utilized effectively under former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mick McCall.

This brings us to arguably the biggest reason for optimism heading into this season: Mike Bajakian. The offensive guru, who has worked with NFL superstars like Antonio Brown and Travis Kelce in his long collegiate career, is replacing McCall, whose 12-year working relationship with coach Pat Fitzgerald came to an end in December.

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