NW Football

Northwest football senior wide receivers Alec Tatum (left) and Kaden Davis (right) celebrates after Davis caught a touchdown during the second quarter of the Bearcats' 28-9 win over Harding Nov. 27 in Searcy, Arkansas. Davis finished with four catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns.

It’s been a while, so welcome back to Walk The Talk, a mailbag column with all of the answers to your questions regarding Northwest Athletics.

Let’s see. The last time we talked, you all asked which track and field event I would participate in, if there was reason to be concerned about Northwest men’s basketball’s loss to Central Oklahoma and if Ben McCollum and company had a lineup strong enough for a national title.

In hindsight, those are all laughable. Maybe this week’s questions will be, too.

What player or position group are you most excited to see in this week's spring game?

I’m really, really interested to see how the wide receivers shake out. Imoni Donadelle, Kaden Davis and Alec Tatum all graduated, and they combined for 256 catches, 3,944 yards receiving and 34 touchdowns throughout their time in the green and white.

It’s a tall task, but Northwest has the benefit of being a run-based offense with a stifling defense.

Rich Wright and his staff went out and nabbed eight wideouts as part of the 2022 recruiting class, including Maryville’s own Tate Oglesby and Division I transfer Tyson Priddy, who was previously at Kansas State.

Wright said on Feb. 2 — National Signing Day — that he and his staff were going to use this spring to “evaluate and look at portal guys, look at guys who can make a more immediate impact in the program.”

The running backs will be interesting, too, with the departures of Al McKeller and Davonte’ Green, but the receivers are going to be the group I keep an eye on during Northwest football’s spring game.

Are you going to take over for Trevor Hudgins as point guard?

Yes, all 5-foot-4 of me.

Is Northwest a basketball school now more than football or a more complete Athletics Department with track and field and other sports on the rise?

It’s tricky, right? Northwest men’s basketball has won four national titles in the last five NCAA Tournaments, and Northwest football has captured six national titles over the last couple of decades.

It truly is turning into a complete athletic department, though. Volleyball has found its groove within the last handful of years, competing for the MIAA on a yearly basis. Soccer is ascending with Marc Gordon at the helm. Northwest track and field, along with cross country, almost always sends athletes to compete in the NCAA Championships.

That, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. Things have only gotten better for most of the Northwest programs during my four years in Maryville, and I don’t see that slowing down any time soon.

If Northwest were to move to D1, would that keep Coach McCollum here for the long term?

Here’s the thing: Ben McCollum isn’t too caught up in what level he coaches at.

McCollum has continuously referenced that the only thing that would yank him out of Maryville would be a “can’t-turn-down opportunity.” That isn’t about money, though. It’s not about selling out some massive arena for a nationally televised game, either.

He loves the support from the Northwest faithful, and that’s seemingly been the anchor to McCollum’s metaphorical ship.

“I’ve always loved college towns,” he told the Missourian on April 5. “The only thing that would ever attract that is something similar on a considerably bigger scale.”

There's no telling when that "can't-turn-down" opportunity might come — tomorrow, next month, three years from now — but until it does, regardless if Northwest is Division I or II, expect McCollum to stick around.

Walk The Talk is a mailbag that focuses on all things Northwest Athletics. To submit a question for the next edition of the mailbag, tweet @ByJonWalker or email j.walker.missourian@gmail.com.

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