Football Notebook: Fitzgerald names Northwestern’s five captains ahead of season opener


Daily file photo by Carly Schulman

Junior offensive tackle Peter Skoronski blocks an Illinois defender to create a hole for junior running back Evan Hull during the 2021 season. Both Hull and Skoronski were named captains for the upcoming season.

Alex Cervantes, Senior Staffer

Two weeks after bestowing the heralded No. 1 jersey on senior wide receiver Raymond Niro III, coach Pat Fitzgerald named Northwestern’s five captains for the upcoming season on Wednesday.

Junior offensive tackle Peter Skoronski and a pair of running backs —graduate student Andrew Clair and junior Evan Hull — represent an offense looking to rebound from last season’s low-scoring woes. Senior defensive lineman Adetomiwa Adebawore and junior linebacker Bryce Gallagher join the group as the defensive cogs. 

Skoronski, who has already been tabbed as a preseason All-Big Ten member and potential first-round draft pick, has started every game in his career for the Wildcats. Entering NU as a four-star prospect and top-five center nationally, Skoronski has lived up to the billing. In two seasons, his accolades include a pair of all-conference nods and a 247Sports True Freshman All-American honor. He enters 2022 as one of the premier offensive linemen in the nation.

Despite the noise and hype, Skoronski said he remains locked in on his and the Cats’ progress this season.

“Trying to focus day-in and day-out here, we’ve got a lot to do and a lot to accomplish,” Skoronski said to reporters in early August. “My expectation is to do what the Northwestern left tackle still has to do … I’m really just concerned about getting that job done for this team.”

Skoronski will likely play an integral role in establishing NU’s running game, something from which Hull and Clair are sure to benefit. When junior running back Cam Porter went down with a preseason injury last year, it was Hull who established himself as the leader in the backfield. After a slow first two seasons in Evanston, Hull exploded for more than 1,000 yards rushing and seven scores — good for sixth and eighth in the Big Ten, respectively.

Clair, who began his career at Bowling Green before transferring to NU in 2021, shouldered some of the backfield load last season as well, totaling 394 all-purpose yards and a touchdown in 12 games. With Porter returning from injury, the Cats have a crowded running back room, but one full of options and upside.

Entering their second year under defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil, Gallagher and Adebawore will look to improve an NU defense that allowed 29 points per game last season and finished dead last in yards per play (6.14).

After recording just six total tackles in his first two years in purple and white, Gallagher finished the season tied for 15th in the conference with 89 total tackles — a mark second-highest on the Cats’ roster.

Similar to Gallagher, Adebawore bided his time as a freshman but picked it up sophomore year, posting two sacks and six tackles for loss. In 2021, he put on his best display yet, emerging as one of the better pass rushers in the conference while leading NU with 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss.

After a turbulent season, Adebawore is looking to help NU reboot and return to its even-year success, highlighted by Big Ten West division titles in 2018 and 2020. On the Big Ten Network broadcast of the conference’s media day in late July, host Dave Revsine asked Adebawore what the rebuilding process looks like for the Cats.

“Just being consistent,” Adebawore said. “Taking everyday with a mindset to get better, looking at things you have to improve on and building on top of that. Not going backwards, but always going forward and just continuing to push each other.”

Adebawore also spoke about the dramatic shift from 2020 to 2021 and how NU can look to right the ship this season.

“We just have to get that relentless mindset back,” Adebawore said. “I think we got very comfortable last year coming off a great year and when you’re comfortable, you kind of don’t remember those little details and things you have to make sure to emphasize every single day.” 

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