WR Mark Philmore

2004 Statistics

Coach: Randy Walker
30-41, 6 years
2004 Record: 6-6
at TCU LOST 45-48 (2OT)
at Minnesota LOST 17-43
at Wisconsin LOST 12-24
at Penn State WON 14-7
at Michigan LOST 20-42
at Hawai'i LOST 41-49

2004 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2005 Outlook

Once the conference laughingstock, Northwestern has become the conference wild card. In the last 10 years, only Michigan has won or shared more Big Ten titles. Then again, the Cats have had five losing seasons in that span. Last fall, they beat Ohio State, Purdue and Penn State, yet lost to TCU, then to Hawai'i in the regular season closer that could have possibly clinched a bowl bid.

Whether by pure skill, overachievement or simple luck, NU football has taken steps forward under Randy Walker (and predecessor Gary Barnett). The five seasons at .500 or better in the past 10 years came after only two in the previous 31. Last fall, Walker became the first NU coach to beat the Buckeyes since 1971, and the first to have three six-win seasons since the Great Depression. Another six-win-or-better season would mark the first time since 1929-31 that the program has done that three straight times.

After two straight overachieving teams, the question surrounding Walker's program is whether it can advance from middle-of-the-pack to front-runner status. We all know about the academic and traditional challenges affecting recruiting in Evanston. Unless Walker starts finding more talented players who are also true student-athletes, and who want to take a chance with a Big Ten also-ran, overachievement and perennial optimism will have to be the themes. Heady teams can only go so far.

Getting all of their elements to fire simultaneously and gel is too much to expect. So, for a team that is a mix of promise (skill positions, front-seven) and problems (O-line, secondary, special teams), six wins would be another overachievement. The schedule is brutal once again, meaning the Cats will have to pull some more upsets to get to .500. The opening foursome of Ohio, Northern Illinois, (at) Arizona State, and Penn State will set the tone. To have a shot at a bowl, NU will have to come out of that at least 3-1 as killer road games at Purdue and Ohio State and home dates with Michigan and Iowa follow. But, this crew could beat a few they shouldn't and lose to a few they should beat, so mapping out their slate's results is moot.

A bowl trip is possible, but a 4-7 or 5-6 mark is more likely, considering the schedule and problem areas the Cats are facing. Then again, we're never quite sure what to expect from a team that has surprised more often than it has followed pre-season predictions. Heck, Ralph "Moon" Baker would be proud to see his lineage in this gutsy group and their underdog mentality.

This program truly represents the tradition of student-athletics we here at NationalChamps.net champion and respect, for these guys take adversity/defeat as a challenge from which to interpersonally grow, not as any genuine loss. Programs like this are becoming fewer and fewer (100% graduation rate in 2002 and 2004), so realize how achievements don't just come from wins at this venerable institution. Northwestern is still a Sebastian of football integrity that should be celebrated regardless of their on-field results.

Projected 2005 record: 4-7
LB Tim McGarigle
QB - 4 DL - 3.5
RB - 3.5 LB - 3.5
WR - 3.5 DB - 2
OL - 3 ..

Passing: Brett Basanez, 460-247-9, 2838 yds., 12 TD

Rushing: Jordan Terrell, 65 att., 315 yds., 3 TD

Receiving: Mark Philmore, 54 rec., 633 yds., 2 TD

Scoring: Brett Basanez, 5 TD, 30 pts.

Punting: Ryan Pederson, 22 punts, 36.8 avg.

Kicking: Joel Howells, 4-5 FG, 9-10 PAT, 21 pts.

Tackles: Tim McGarigle, 151 tot., 102 solo

Sacks: Nick Roach, 5 sacks

Interceptions: Bryan Heinz, 1 for 0 yds.; Jeff Backes, 1 for 0 yds.; Tim McGarigle, 1 for 1 yds.

Kickoff returns: Terrell Jordan, 17 ret., 23.8 avg., 0 TD

Punt returns: Mark Philmore, 14 ret., 10.4 avg., 0 TD


OFFENSE: Noah Herron-RB, Ashton Aikens-WR, Taylor Jones-TE, Matt Ulrich-OG, Ikechuku Ndukwe-OG, Trai Essex-OT, Brian Huffman-K/P
DEFENSE: Luis Castillo-DT, Colby Clark-DE, David Thompson-DE, John Pickens-OLB, Dominique Price-SAF, Marvin Ward-CB

After returning to form in '04, fourth-year starter Brett Basanez will look to elevate his game that much further. With the dislocated shoulder he played through now mended, and with solid performers around him, there's no reason he shouldn't be better. That will make a solid offense explosive, as Basanez was already good enough to rank second in the Big Ten in total offense, passing yardage and completions per game. He also ran for 361 yards, a necessity in Randy Walker's spread attack. Basanez has 28 straight starts under his belt, making him one of the country's most experienced passers, and his coaches said he had his best spring. Backup C.J. Bacher, a redshirt freshman, shined this spring against a defense, though, missing several key faces. Bacher, a dual-threat who ranked No. 14 at his position by Rivals.com, has the physical tools to run the offense. But, realistically, the Cats would take a step back while he got his feet wet.

Running Back
One of the key position battles this spring, quick soph Brandon Roberson emerged as the likely heir apparent as senior Terrell Jordan remains on the mend. The Texas native ran for 141 yards and a TD on 18 carries in the second intrasquad scrimmage (the spring game was canceled due to bad weather). He impressed the staff with his speed and instincts. Still, Walker said after spring practice that he might not name a starter until the Sept. 3 opener. So, expect Jordan, another smallish speedster who has averaged 5.1 yards per carry, to be in the mix, along with incoming freshmen Tyrell Sutton and Omar Conteh. Sutton, almost a physical clone of Roberson, was Mr. Ohio Football last fall. One of the most critical needs here is good hands: Walker makes his RBs a crucial part of the passing game (departed RB Herron had 36 grabs).

This should be a strength, with five of Basenez's top targets back, all at WR. The key is senior Mark Philmore, who still led the team in receptions (54) despite missing the last four games with a sprained knee. The entire passing game dropped off in his absence (and with Basanez's shoulder hurting). Philmore is a solid route runner who should be the possession guy out of the X spot. Junior Shaun Herbert, who led the team with 14.5 yards per grab, is somewhat of a deep threat out of the H. Kim Thompson and Brandon Horn give Basanez a pair of big targets at the Z. There's plenty of depth here, which allows Walker to use those preferred four-wideout sets. If Philmore stays healthy, this could be one of the better groups in the Big Ten.

Tight End and Fullback
These spots can be lumped together because, when on the field, these guys are mostly used as blockers. Plus, at NWestern, FBs often play TE, and vice versa. Taylor Jones, who had seven catches, didn't come out for his fifth year, leaving Erryn Cobb and Frayne Abernathy to man the TE spot. Abernathy takes over for Cobb at FB. With some holes to fill on the line, their blocking will come in handy (if/when they're on the field).

Offensive Line
A real strength last season, this was a point of emphasis during the spring as three spots need to be filled. Early on, at least, a unit that allowed just 12 sacks (third in Big Ten) while spearheading the conference's No. 3 run offense could struggle. The good news is Basanez has quick feet, and there's plenty of speed (though not much power) in the backfield. The foundation is RT Zach Strief, a 6-7, 335-pounder who was a consensus second-team all-Big Ten pick. Junior C Trevor Rees should step up some more in his third year as starter. The blindside could be a big problem early until soph LT Dylan Thiry (6-8, 300) and either Joe Tripodi or Austin Matthews (too close to call) gel. None of those three has a career start.

The continuing maturity of Basanez and the development of the O-line are the keys, but by the start of the Big Ten slate, this should be an improved offense. By now, Basanez has the kind of cohesion with his receivers that leads to big numbers. Herron was a big loss, but Walker has had a 1,000-yard rusher in five of his six seasons at NU, and in 24 of his 29 seasons as a coach, which leads one to believe someone will emerge. The speed in the backfield is perfect for a spread attack, especially one with plenty of capable receivers to open up the middle and TEs/FBs who can handle any assignment. Once this multi-dimensional unit starts clicking, it will be a chore to slow down, even against their tough schedule.


OT Zach Strief


Returning Starters in bold
QB Brett Basanez-Sr C.J. Bacher-Fr
RB Terrell Jordan-Sr Nathan Shanks-So / Chris Malleo-So (FB)
WR Kim Thompson-So Brandon Horn-Sr
WR Mark Philmore-Sr T.J. Jones-So
WR Shaun Herbert-Jr Jonathan Fields-Sr
TE Erryn Cobb-Jr Frayne Abernathy-So
OT Dylan Thiry-So Vince Clarke-Sr
OG Joe Tripodi-Jr Joel Belding-Fr
C Trevor Rees-Jr Adam Crum-So
OG Ryan Keenan-Jr Austin Matthews-So
OT Zach Strief-Sr Alex Rucks-Fr
K Joel Howells-Jr ..



Defensive Line
Despite losing first-round NFL pick Luis Castillo and tackle Colby Clark, this group should be solid. DE Loren Howard, who missed the first six games last fall, could be a better pro prospect than Castillo if he stays healthy. Big and quick, Howard had decent sack and TFL totals despite only five starts. He missed the spring due to ankle injures, which isn't a promising sign (he also missed last spring with bad ankles). DT Barry Cofield, who moves inside after starting at DE, will be one of the nation's best, according to Walker. A 300-pounder who can genuinely move, Cofield could make Walker look prophetic. Together, Howard and Cofield should form one of the Big Ten's better inside-outside combos. The problem is depth (or lack thereof) and finding someone to step in for Cofield at DE. The staff was disappointed that no one stepped up (yet) to fill that void. Look for a possible surprise this fall, likely from the three DTs and two DEs who signed on this winter.

All-Big Ten MLB Tim McGarigle won't have quite the same strength up front to keep blockers off of him, which should prove to NFL scouts whether (or not) he's the real deal. McGarigle, who led the nation in tackling, leads a deep and quick corps that will be tough against the run and decent in short-passing coverage. Adam Kadela, who won the starting job in the middle last fall before breaking his leg three games in, moves to SAM. Junior WILL Nick Roach was a breakout performer with a co-team-high five sacks. There's experienced depth with junior Demetrius Easton, who got plenty of reps in Kadela's absence, and soph Eddie Simpson. The No. 8 ranking in the conference in run defense is a little misleading, considering opponents averaged 139.2 yards on the ground. Look for those yards, and that ranking, to decrease.

Defensive Back
Plenty of experience returns here, but is that really a good thing? The secondary has killed this team the past few years, including in '04, when they was 98th in Division I-A. The Cats simply have to cut down on allowing the big plays (foes threw for 25 TDs and 152 first downs with only eight INTs). The key is on improving the safeties, who were too often burned down the middle. Former walk-on Bryan Heinz has moved from free safety to strong safety to better suit his tackling ability. Quicker alternates Reggie McPherson and Herschel Henderson are battling for Heinz's old post. The corners look decent, with improving senior Jeff Backes growing into the top-cover role, while the fastest player on the team, junior Marquice Cole, lines up on the opposite side. Cory Dious and Deante Battle provide nice depth at corner, but overall lack of size is a problem.

The run defense should continue to be solid, which means offenses will go after that typically weak secondary early and often. There's speed and athleticism back there, which DC Greg Colby will try to capitalize on with nickel and dime looks. Expect plenty of blitz packages and stunts as Colby tries to slow down the pass anyway he can. It should help, seeing as the team's top two pass rushers are LBs. But the bottom line is about how vets like Heinz and Backes need to improve, and newcomers such as Dious and Battle have to mature quickly, or the offense will have to dramatically increase its scoring output.


DT Barry Cofield


Returning Starters in bold
DE Loren Howard-Sr Kevin Mims-Fr
DT Barry Cofield-Sr Ron Bardwell-Jr
DT Trevor Schultz-Jr Warren Anderson-So
DE David Ngene-So Mark Koehn-So
WLB Nick Roach-Jr Eddie Simpson-So
MLB Tim McGarigle-Sr Demetrius Eaton-Jr
SLB Adam Kadela-Jr Campbell Black-Jr
CB Marquice Cole-Jr Cory Dious-Jr
CB Jeff Backes-Sr Deante Battle-So
SS Bryan Heinz-Jr Frederic Tarver-Sr
FS Reggie McPherson-So Herschel Henderson-Sr
P Ryan Pederson-Jr ..




Joel Howells took over for Huffman late in the season and hit 4-of-5 FGAs, including two from 40+. Like Huffman, he doesn't have a huge leg, so the offense will have to get close (likely the 25 and in) before he is allowed to try. But, unlike Huffman (7-for-17 on FGs), he's accurate. He also has a stronger leg on kickoffs, which is good news for a return group that was last in the Big Ten. We hate to say it like this, but both kicking areas will probably improve with Huffman gone.

Part-timer Ryan Pederson, who had 22 punts behind the dismal Brian Huffman, will improve this dimension as he takes over. He only averaged 36.8 yards, but, considering he didn't play high school football and came to NU as a soccer goalie, he must have plenty of developmental upside. Punt return coverage wasn't much better, ranking 102nd in Division I-A while allowing three TDs. The overall speed on this team, and plenty of sleepless nights for Walker, should result in some badly needed improvements.

Return Game
Unlike the rest of the special teams, this area was productive. The Cats got three TDs on returns, including two by a PR unit rated No. 5 in the Big Ten. The main players are all back, which bodes well for starting field position(s). Look for Philmore and Backes to handle punts, while Backes and Jordan (and probably Roberson) take care of kickoffs.