The battle of the Wildcats ended in dramatic fashion as a failed two-point conversion by Kentucky propelled Northwestern to its second consecutive bowl victory for the first time in school history. DraftNasty’s National Correspondent De’Angelo Bryant provides a deeper look in analyzing the potential NFL prospects of this game.
21 RB Justin Jackson (5’11, 200, Sr.)
Jackson earned game MVP honors after being the workhorse with a season-high 32 carriers for 157 yards and two TDs. Jackson can best be described as elusive as he mixes a dose of quickness, jump cuts, and short-area explosion to elude defenders. He naturally squares his shoulder pads to get vertical and squeezes through tight areas to reach the second and third levels. There are times when he makes one too many cuts which causes him to accumulate negative yards. Despite his thinly-built frame, he shows toughness on initial contact. He only caught one pass for 10 yards.
18 QB Clayton Thorson (6’4, 220, Jr.)
Before being carted off the field from a right leg injury, Thorson was proficient moving the Northwestern offense downfield. He attempted just eight passes but showed precision in the pocket and kept his eyes downfield versus the rush. He showed quick shoulder nods when pump faking and remained in a strong throwing position to release the football.
9 H-Back Garrett Dickerson (6’3, 248, Sr.)
Dickerson caught my eye with his combination of speed and size. His position on the team is referred to as the Superback, a hybrid running back, fullback, tight end position. On a few occasions, he won on vertical routes versus linebackers and forced safeties Mike Edwards & Darius West to push to their maximum speed to avoid getting beaten. Though he has caught over 30 passes this season, there were a few times I questioned his hand-eye coordination.
2 WR Flynn Nagel (5’11, 194, Jr.)
Used in motion to line up as a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver. Product of hide and mid-star routes where he is responsible for reading the linebacker and safety drops to find the open zones. Tough when catching the football in traffic and knows how to protect his body to avoid the big hits. When being motioned in to block the overhang defender, he was often over-matched (particularly versus Kentucky OLB Josh Allen). At times, he was also nudged off his landmark on routes downfield.
1 DT Tyler Lancaster (6’3, 315, Sr.)
Subbed a lot due to the personnel sets from Kentucky. Played predominately on potential run plays. Strength to move the center backwards is evident, but he struggles to maintain low pad level throughout his penetration. As a pass rusher, he did show an athletic spin move to complement his bull rush.
24 CB Montre Hartage (6’0, 195, Jr.)
Passes the eye ball test and has the physical style of play to complement the look. Kentucky picked on him on the first possession by going to Tavin Richardson. This was just one of several shots they took at Hartage. After the first possession, he was moved to the opposite side away from Kentucky’s X-receiver and played more to the combination receiver side. This suited him well, as he did a good job of using the sideline as an extra defender to the boundary and played the underneath routes well when squatting in rolled coverage. A physical tackler, Hartage will duck his head and not bring his eyes with him through contact. He had difficulty locating the ball in the air.
21 S Kyle Queiro (6’3, 220, Sr.)
Was not impressive on the opening kickoff. He was literally put on his backside by KR/RB Zach Johnson because of his high pad level on contact. Stiffness was exploited on several occasions when attempting to make tackles in space as defenders danced around him. His length was his savior. He does a good job of communication and can cover ground well. Maintained good leverage in bracket coverage.
16 S Godwin Igwebuike (6’0, 212, Sr.)
Aggressive safety when entering the box and can fill alleys with aggression. Interchangeable safety in 3-deep zone coverage concepts (can play both SS & FS). Can roll to the middle or roll to hold the No. 2 receiver's vertical route. Versus trips formations, he was effective holding the No. 3 receiver's vertical route and buzzing to cover the flats. Good wrap tackler and will look for an opportunity to go for the strip. When playing the backside safety, he identifies the crosser and looks to rob the route. His lower body stiffness was exploited when attempting to recover on routes after getting his eyes caught in the backfield on flash fakes from Kentucky’s QBs. Grabs in coverage and was called for a pass interference on Kentucky’s last drive. Doesn’t really have a defined technique, but maximizes his effort on every play.
32 LB Nate Hall (6’2, 230, Jr.)
Missed game due to a knee injury suffered in bowl preparation practice.
73 RT Kyle Meadows (6’3, 300, Sr.)
Veteran savvy. Understands the DL stunts, slant and twist games. Slow movement off the snap. Appears he doesn’t trust his feet; which puts him in bad position versus the rush. Uses little technique when releasing inside to get to the second level. Struggles to sit his hips down and it causes him to absorb contact too often.
41 OLB Josh Allen (6’5, 230, Jr.)
Active LB off the edge. Good speed rush and will dip his shoulder to avoid contact from the OT. His backside pursuit on screens and options displayed his lateral movement skills. When Northwestern motioned a receiver or H-back in to block him, he showed quickness when slanting inside the blocks to take away his gap for the RB.
34 LB Jordan Jones (6’2, 221, Jr.)
High-energy, sideline-to-sideline defender. Does a good job of his scrape-to-fit versus the run game. Has a good sense of when to trigger when the QB becomes mobile outside the pocket. Will backdoor and shoot the gap on runs away. Needs to be more efficient on wrap stunts from the backside. Will overrun gaps because he’s too fast when tracking.
8 CB Derrick Baity (6’3, 186, Jr.)
Shows the most fluidity between he, Johnson and Westry. Evident that the coaching staff believes in his coverage ability more than the other two. Adjusted well to coverage checks. When playing press-man he shows some quickness and suddenness when reacting to the receiver's moves off the line. To the nub side of the formation, he was over-matched when taking on blocks.
6 CB Lonnie Johnson (6’3, 203, Jr.)
Started the game and rotated with Westry. Also was a part of Kentucky’s nickel package, where he lined up over the outside receiver. Patient in his off-man technique, but he will drop his foot in the bucket when transitioning out of his breaks. When taking on blocks he tends to get his hands outside of the blocker's frame, which makes it difficult for him to shed them.
21 Chris Westry (6’4, 195, Jr.)
Long and rangy defender with experience. Did not start the game, but played a significant amount of snaps. Shows a strong punch and extension in press coverage. Can close on a ball carrier or receiver in a hurry, but will get bounced around due to his thin frame.
7 Saf Mike Edwards (6’0, 200, Jr.)
Mainly played the free safety position. In sub-packages, he rocked down to cover the slot in man coverage and to also play man on RB Justin Jackson. Showed some twitch when changing from his pedal to plant-n-drive coming downhill.
* 26 Benny Snell Jr. (5’11, 223, So)
Thickly-built and strong through contact. Shows good vision and will patiently follow his blocks. One-cut runner with a short area burst and a secondary move in his repertoire. Scored the game's opening TD, but was ejected in the 2nd quarter for removing an official's hands following a play.