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Northwestern Football: 2017 Quarterback Breakdown
- Updated: February 23, 2017
The Northwestern Wildcats have one of the most stable quarterback situations in the Big Ten. Sophomore Clayton Thorson turned into a star signal caller for the Wildcats last season. Northwestern football finished with a 7-6 record after recovering from a slow start. A big reason was due to Thorson’s connection with Austin Carr in conference play.
During the second half of the season, Thorson led Northwestern football to victories in three of the last four games. He was also a possession away from knocking off the Ohio State Buckeyes. However, early-season losses knocked the Wildcats out of contention for major bowl games. Due to Thorson’s experience, 2017 should be a great year for the Wildcats.
Thorson completed 280 of 478 passes for 3,182 and 22 touchdown passes. He also threw nine interceptions. As a freshman, Thorson only threw seven touchdowns and nine interceptions. The improved play was evident on the field and if he makes a similar step next season, the Wildcats have a chance to win the Big Ten West.
The loss of Carr will hurt the offense. As a result, Thorson must find a connection with new receivers. The most important target will be Flynn Nagel. He amassed 40 receptions for 447 yards and two touchdowns last season. The next leading receivers are a pair of backfield mates. Running back Justin Jackson caught 35 passes, while Garrett Dickerson caught 34 passes for five touchdowns. This displayed Thorson’s ability to get the ball to dynamic playmakers in the open field.
Thorson also has the ability to run the ball. During his first two seasons, he has carried the ball 197 times, scoring 10 rushing touchdowns in his career. Despite only averaging 2.5 yards per carry, he might be the best running quarterback in the Big Ten next season.
Since Thorson’s arrival, Northwestern Football has not had much use for backup quarterbacks. Barring any transfers, the Wildcats will have all of their quarterbacks returning. Last season they had six quarterbacks on the roster. Matt Alviti was the only junior on the team. He was also the only other quarterback to throw a pass. The rest of the unit were either a sophomore or freshman. Alviti has thrown eight passes in three seasons with the Wildcats. Meanwhile, he has run the ball 16 times for two yards.
Andrew Marty is the lone signee in the 2017 class. He is a 6-foot-4 pro-style quarterback and seems to be the future of Northwestern football.
Northwestern’s season will rely on Thorson’s ability to lead this dynamic offense. They only averaged 26 points per game last season, but something special could be brewing in 2017. If Thorson remains healthy, opponents will have to fear the passing attack. If not, the Wildcats will need an inexperienced quarterback to lead the way. That won’t be a good thing for Northwestern football.
Harrison has covered NFL, NBA, and CBB in the past. Earlier in his career, he was a national college football writer and Team writer for Husker Corner. Harrison also created the college football "Treat 16 Power Poll" some years back when college coaches relied on the running game.
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