Corey Wootton leads Northwestern’s Stellar Defense.

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By Paul M. Banks

Halfway through the season, #23 and undefeated Northwestern ranks 13th out of 117 teams in NCAA scoring defense. A big part of that is because are third nationally in sacks. Experts are comparing this team’s defense to the “Purple Pasadena” season of 1995. This year, they installed a new attacking-style defense, under their new defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz. It’s paying huge dividends with regards to negative plays. Five games into the 2008 season, NU has totaled 41 TFL’s (for a loss of 197 yards), including 17 sacks. Last year in 12 games, the ’Cats totaled 63 TFL’s (for a loss of 216 yards) and 18 sacks. They’re also pressuring the quarterback to the tune of 3.4 sacks per game, the third-best average in the country.

I had an exclusive chat with junior defensive end Corey Wootton, the man leading the way with 7.5 TFL’s (4.5 sacks). Wootton ranks fourth among all Big Ten players and 16th nationally in quarterback sacks. Through the first five games, Wootton also leads the squad’s d-linemen in total tackles with 19. The 6’7” left defensive end from Rutherford New Jersey (Don Bosco Prep) is currently 7th on the school’s all-time sack list with a whole year-and-a-half of eligibility remaining. I began by asking him about the D’s new scheme and mindset this season.

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“It’s a new philosophy that coach Hankwitz has brought in. It’s more of an attacking style defense, sending different pressures and allowing us to get into the backfield and make plays,” Wooton said. I followed up by asking him if this new philosophy being employed has him feeling more confident about winning the necessary one-on-one match-ups that are essential to defending a team as a unit.

“Yeah, cuz in the past we more reading and seeing which way the offensive line was going to go, but now we’re allowed to attack through them,” Wooton said. The scheme also makes use of an athlete’s God-given talents. “It utilizes everyone up fronts’ natural abilities because we’re big physical guys that like to come off, and the scheme allows us to do what we do,” Wooton stated.

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They’ll need to be on top of their game Saturday, when they face #22 Michigan State and their tailback Javon Ringer, the nation’s second leading rusher and premier touchdown producer. Being aggressive in reaching the MSU backfield early and often will go a long way towards slowing them down.

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Comments

  1. Now if only they coudl sell some tickets to their games

  2. paulmbanks says

    I know, the Trib story with the pie graphs today says it all. Pie charts: is there nothing they cannot do?

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