RB Noah Herron

2003 Statistics

Coach: Randy Walker
24-35, 5 years
2003 Record: 6-7
at Kansas WON 28-20
at Duke WON 28-10
at Ohio State LOST 0-20
at Indiana WON 37-31 (OT)
at Purdue LOST 14-34
at Illinois WON 37-20
Bowling Green LOST 24-28

2003 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2004 Outlook

Last year was like other typical Northwestern football of the past decade - after laying low for a couple of years, they then broke out and surprised many. The Cats did that for the second time in five seasons under Walker, but much less spectacularly than in 2000. Now, with expectations raised slightly, the key for this Big Ten "little-engine-that-could" program is to avoid another 2001-esque collapse.

The conference is expected to be down, and with 17 starters back on offense and defense (including everyone on both lines), there's plenty of reason for some glass half-full attitudes. But let's face it - this team gulped down about three glasses of luck last fall to get to the Motor City Bowl. A losing season isn't out of the question, especially considering the schedule.

NU opens at TCU, then gets Arizona State and Kansas in Evanston. That means there's a chance for anything from a 2-1 to a 0-3 start. Then the Cats get to open up at Minnesota before playing host to Ohio State. Oh-and-five?

But this team showed character last year in fighting back from a 2-4 start. Bowl eligibility? That could be a stretch. Though, a non-conference season finale at Hawaii is a nicer trip than ending in the Motor City Bowl. Look for the end results to be another mixed bag of both over-achievement and disappointment. Enough adversity and "what if" sequences will exist such that a .500 record will be acceptable. Just don't be surprised when they do better than many expect and again return to the middle of the Big Ten pack.

Projected 2004 record: 5-7
DE Loren Howard
QB - 3 DL - 3.5
RB - 3 LB - 3
WR - 2 DB - 2.5
OL - 4 ..

Passing: Brett Basanez, 302-162-12, 1916 yds., 4 TD

Rushing: Noah Herron, 119 att., 739 yds., 5 TD

Receiving: Mark Philmore, 23 rec., 228 yds., 0 TD

Scoring: Noah Herron, 6 TD, 36 pts.

Punting: Brian Huffman, 72 punts, 39.9 avg.

Kicking: Brian Huffman, 5-7 FG, 13-14 PAT, 28 pts.

Tackles: Tim McGarigle, 140 tot., 82 solo

Sacks: Loren Howard, 8 sacks

Interceptions: Bryan Heinz, 5 for 12 yds.

Kickoff returns: Derell Jenkins, 18 ret., 17.8 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Mark Philmore, 4 ret., 22.0 avg., 0 TD


OFFENSE: Jason Wright-RB, Kunle Patrick-WR, Roger Jordan-WR, Ray Bogenrief-TE, Slade Larscheid-K
DEFENSE: Pat Durr-LB, Torri Stuckey-SAF

Poor pass protection, injuries in the receiving corps, the weather ... according to coach Randy Walker, everything but starting QB Brett Basanez was the reason why the forward pass marginally failed at NU last fall. Basanez threw just four TD passes (and 12 picks), while his team ranked 10th in the Big Ten in passing offense at 163.2 yards per game. For the Purple to get back to a bowl, he'll have to revert back to 2002 form, when he averaged 220.4 yards per tilt and was on everyone's all-conference team for freshman. The backup QB is often the most popular guy on campus, but that guy, speedster Alexander Webb, left the program in spring drills. So while the pressure is on Basanez, at least he won't be looking over his shoulder. But what will the plan be if…we just won't think about that, huh.

Running Back
Walker carried the ball back in his collegiate days at Miami (Ohio), so it shouldn't be a shock that his program is consistently churning out 1,000-yard rushers. This fall, it's Noah Herron's turn. The senior's speed, power and natural instincts make him a tough carrier to stop (6.2 per carry in '03). He's also a solid receiver with the versatility to fit Walker's offense. With everyone returning up front and some balance expected to come from the passing game, Herron will post big numbers. Terrell Jordan is a physical, experienced backup. After a one-year switch to defense, Erryn Cobb was moved back to fullback, a spot NU mostly uses for lead blocking.

Wide Receiver
The good news (maybe) is that everyone's back and (mostly) healthy. Ashton Aikens and Mark Philmore, both of whom missed significant time last year, are back at Z and X, respectively. Shaun Herbert, who got plenty of time as a freshman when everyone was hurt, starts at the H. Aikens is a big, sure-handed, (quick-out) target, and Philmore is a deep threat. But none of these guys caught a 2003 TD pass. The only returning receiver who did is junior Brandon Horn, who will get looks at the H and should be in for most four-wideout sets. The experience is here. Now NU will have to hope lightning doesn't strike the same place more than once. Aikens and Horn had to sit out of the spring game with minor injuries, which isn't a promising sign.

Tight End
This position accounted for just 11 receptions last season. The Purple are quite green here, though, as junior Taylor Jones is the only returnee with any worthy experience. Don't expect to see his name in many box scores. He'll mostly be used to open the holes for Herron and to keep Basanez upright.

Offensive Line
Along with Herron, the big, athletic line is the strength of this offense (hmm, wonder if the Cats will run the ball much). All five starters and significant backups are back. RT Zach Strief, a load at 6-7, 335, is the leader up front. He was an honorable mention all-conference pick last fall. True soph C Trevor Rees was a freshman All-American according to some publications. LT Trai Essex and RG Matt Ulrich each have 25 consecutive starts. These guys obviously know how to run block, but pass protection has been tougher to pick up (though the 24 sacks allowed were tied for fourth-least in the conference). Guess what the focus was this spring. This unit will be the downfall of this offense if they fail to deliver.

There are no excuses for Basanez. He's surrounded by both a talented ball-carrier and an outstanding line. His receivers aren't standouts with recognizable names, but they're experienced and definitely adequate. Basanez, entering his third year as the starter, doesn't have a veteran backup. Teams should focus on making him beat them, or at least push his physicality to the limit so that maybe, just maybe, he has to come out. The running game will again be a strength, but Basanez has to pick up the passing game to elicit balance that, once established, will open up all offensive cans of worms. If that happens, this should be a very tough offense to stop. Maybe they are not as exciting as the 2000 group that caught everybody by surprise, but they are tough enough to get to another bowl.


OT Zach Strief


Returning Starters in bold
QB Brett Basanez-Jr (6-2, 210) Chris Malleo-Fr (6-3, 215)
RB Noah Herron-Sr (5-11, 230) Terrell Jordan-Jr (5-10, 200)
Nathan Shanks-Fr (5-11, 220)
WR Ashton Aikens-Sr (6-2, 200) A.J. Burdex-Fr (6-3, 200)
WR Mark Philmore-Jr (5-10, 185) Kim Thompson-Fr (6-4, 190)
WR Shaun Herbert-So (6-1, 205) Brandon Horn-Jr (6-1, 220)
TE Taylor Jones-Jr (6-3, 260) Sean Mansfield-Jr (6-3, 240)
OT Trai Essex-Sr (6-4, 315) Joe Wohlscheid-Jr (6-7, 310)
OG Ikechuku Ndukwe-Sr (6-4, 320) Joe Tripodi-So (6-3, 300)
C Trevor Rees-So (6-2, 280) Vince Clarke-Jr (6-5, 305)
OG Matt Ulrich-Sr (6-2, 310) Austin Matthews-Fr (6-5, 285)
OT Zach Strief-Jr (6-7, 335) Dylan Thiry-Fr (6-8, 295)
K Brian Huffman-Sr (6-1, 225) Joel Howells-So (6-4, 225)



Defensive Line
Like their offensive counterparts, the D-line returns intact and will be a force. Porous in '02, the group grew up last fall to help NU hold opponents 164.1 yards on the ground per game. That was only eighth in the conference, but expect more improvement in '04 with all-America candidate Loren Howard leading the way. Howard has that "speed-size cocktail" coaches love in a DE. He sat out spring drills after hurting his ankle in the Motor City Bowl, but will be ready for preseason camp. Offenses will focus on Howard, but left end Colby Clark is a big run-stopper with experience, and DT Luis Castillo is an All-Big Ten candidate in the middle. The days of backs going for 200 yards against NU will be a distant memory. At least for this season.

There's unproven (but highly touted) talent in the middle - true soph Adam Kadela will be surrounded by experience in the rest of the front seven. Kadela is a 240-pounder with 4.7 speed and football genes (he's the brother of Jacksonville Jaguars tackle Dave Kadela, and his father played at Michigan). The Sam and Will spots are solid with the return of all-conference candidates John Pickens and Tim McGarigle, respectively. McGarigle, who led the team in tackles despite missing two games, put on 15 pounds after the season. Kadela's the question mark, but this threesome should combine with that solid line for a run-stingy tough front. Taking away the underneath routes will be their biggest challenge.

Defensive Back
Though some experience exists here, this unit is an area of concern. The Cats were 10th in the Big Ten in pass defense at 253.3 yards per game, and the DBs coming back have had a tendency to get burned. Three of the four starters are back, including top-cover corner Marvin Ward, who picked up a pair of Big Ten "Player of the Week" awards last fall. SS Dominique Price is the unit's leader, having compiled 75 tackles and a couple picks in '03. FS Bryan Heinz and CB Jeff Backes struggled at times, though Heinz led the team in picks. If the run defense is as good as advertised, expect these guys to get seriously tested.

The 'D' wasn't as bad as it was in '02, but it still only ranked ahead of conference doormats Illinois and Indiana in scoring defense and total defense. They finished 88th for overall 'D' in I-A, a ranking that doesn't get anyone off the bubble. With nine starters back, including five seniors, such improvement should continue. The front seven will limit the run, but outside of Howard (eight sacks), there's no proven pass rusher. That's a concern for a secondary that's short on athleticism. Bottom line - these guys will be better, but NU won't shut anyone out, which puts more pressure on Basanez and Co. to score points and keep the defense off the field.


LB Tim McGarigle


Returning Starters in bold
DE Loren Howard-Jr (6-4, 280) David Ngene-Fr (6-3, 260)
DT Barry Cofield-Jr (6-4, 305) Ryan Keenan-So (6-4, 280)
DT Luis Castillo-Sr (6-3, 305) Trevor Schultz-So (6-2, 285)
DE Colby Clark-Sr (6-2, 290) David Thompson-Jr (6-3, 265)
WLB Tim McGarigle-Jr (6-1, 230) Eric VanderHorst-Jr (6-2, 240)
MLB Adam Kadela-So (6-2, 240) Demetrius Eaton-So (6-2, 235)
SLB John Pickens-Sr (6-2, 240) Nick Roach-So (6-2, 230)
CB Marvin Ward-Sr (5-11, 205) Cory Dious-So (5-9, 165)
CB Jeff Backes-Jr (5-9, 190) Marquice Cole-Jr (5-9, 185)
SS Dominique Price-Sr (6-0, 215) Derell Jenkins-Jr (6-1, 210)
FS Bryan Heinz-So (6-1, 205) Herschel Henderson-Jr (6-3, 195)
P Brian Huffman-Sr (6-1, 225) Ryan Pederson-Jr (6-3, 215)




Punter and Kicker
Senior punter Brian Huffman, who took over as the placekicker in the final three games, will once again do double-duty. His punting average was a bit soft at 39.9 and he had two of his kicks blocked. He doesn't have a booming leg on field goals, but he was a solid 5-of-7, and he was 13-of-14 on extra points. The offense will likely have to get Huffman within 35 yards. On a positive note, the Cats were fourth in the conference in kick-return coverage at 16.9 yards per return and they allowed no return TDs, a nice boost for the defense.

Return Game
Philmore showed flashes of brilliance in four punt returns last fall, averaging 22.0 yards per KO, which was a dramatic improvement over the team's putrid 7.4-yard average. Backes and backup safety Derell Jenkins will again handle kicks. With the two leading the way, NU was fourth in the conference in kick returns.