I posted the following article at bleacherreport.com as well, but I think it’s worth a read for those who don’t frequent that site so I’m posting it here also.
Overall Northwestern has a talented football team and for the most part I think NU’s coaches have the right guys in place, but that doesn’t stop this interested observer from offering a few thoughts on where NU could improve itself.
First and foremost Arby Fields needs to play running back. I have all the respect in the world for Jacob Schmidt who has accomplished something 99.9% of the population probably couldn’t do in going from walk-on to starting tailback in the Big Ten. He’s also probably faster than 95% of the world’s population, however, the 5% he isn’t faster than play defense in division 1 football and right now Schmidt’s sub 4 yard a carry average is really hurting NU’s offensive balance. Playing Arby Fields might not be a total fix, but he is the back who will give NU the best chance to win.
The second personal change involves the kickoff return team. NU needs to find some guys who can block for this unit. Putting a bunch of receivers as up men isn’t working right now. Now, most teams would use fullbacks in that spot, but NU only has one real fullback, Mark Woodsum, and he is on the return team. Somehow, NU needs to find other guys who can block so their returners don’t get seriously hurt. Maybe linebackers who played fullback in high school could help get some blocking in front of Matthews or Brewer.
Third, NU needs to put starting defenders on the kick coverage team. I know this might not be the most popular suggestion, but many teams do this because the guys who start on defense are the fastest players who can also tackle. Although it looks like NU’s defense can’t tackle, they really can, and if they can cover kicks faster they’ll only help themselves by forcing opponents to travel a longer distance to the endzone.
Finally, Desmond Taylor needs to move back to tackle. The truth is Taylor was never the best tackle in the world, but he did a much better job at avoiding drive killing penalties and missed blocks than Kurt Mattes and Neal Deiters this year. Both Mattes and Deiters have struggled at the right tackle spot. I’m still hopeful Mattes can get back to form, but right now it looks like Taylor should start. If Taylor moves back to tackle either Keegan Grant or Patrick Ward will need to step up their play at guard, but with the way Minnesota’s defensive ends killed NU I think getting a stronger guy protecting the outside of the pocket is critical.