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Way-Too-Early Depth Chart: Defensive Line Projects Well in 2021

One of the deepest groups on the Wildcat roster looks to be a point of strength in 2021.

This is another iteration of the Way-Too-Early Depth Chart series. For previous depth charts surrounding the QB, RB, WR, TE, LT, LG, C, RG, RT, LB, DB, and ST click on the embedded links.

Northwestern’s defensive line might be the deepest position group in the Big Ten West, let alone the Wildcat roster. The group is headlined by Samdup Miller, who returns to the team after opting out in 2020. Miller is looking to recapture his 2017 season where he accumulated 5.5 sacks. Adetomiwa Adebawore was the standout of the Wildcat defensive front in 2020, accumulating six tackles for loss and two sacks, according to The Athletic’s Matt Fortuna

In new Defensive Coordinator Jim O’Neil’s 3-4 defensive scheme, Adebawore could move from having his hand in the dirt to being out on the edge in a two-point stance. Rounding out the starting group presumably will be senior and team captain Joe Spivak. The Darien, Il. native was given the Number 1 jersey while being named “The Ultimate Wildcat” for the 2021 season. His presence on the interior will be crucial to a team looking to improve on their rushing defense(seventh in the Big Ten in 2020).

Along with these standouts, the Northwestern defensive line will have the talent to go two and three deep. This is helped massively by two transfers into the program. Sixth-year transfer Jeffery Pooler brings 6.5 career sacks over from West Virginia, and Jeremy Meiser, who opted out of the 2020 season at Old Dominion. In 2019, Meiser had five tackles for loss and posted a Pro Football Focus pass rush grade of 88.1, which was the sixth-highest in college football in 2019.

Trevor Kent is a redshirt senior who played in four games in 2020, but at 6’6 and 300 pounds he could be a potent run stopper. Jason Gold Jr. is a junior who started last year in 2020. Devin O’Rourke played in every game and could be a versatile player on the edge and inside. Jordan Butler recorded 1.5 tackles for loss in 2020 and will be crucial for the Wildcats on the inside.

Najee Story is a freshman from Ohio who could factor into the Wildcat pass rush, as should fellow freshman Aidan Hubbard. Jaiden Cameron didn’t play in 2020, but the 245 pounder should factor into the versatile scheme O’Neil is playing. PJ Spencer appeared in two games in 2020, and Wyatt Blake appeared in five games. Sean McLaughlin received more playing time near the end of the season, playing in the Citrus Bowl victory against Auburn, and Te-Rah Edwards should help in the interior pass rush department. Duke Olges played in two games last year, and freshman Carmine Bastone could play more towards the end of the season.

This Northwestern defensive line is deep and talented, and O’Neil should give the defensive line the opportunity for favorable pass rush matchups. This will be pivotal for a Wildcat team who finished 100th in sacks per game, according to Team Rankings.

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