With the graduating class of 2019 winning two NCAA Division II National Championships, three MIAA championships and extending the schools winning-season streak to 24, the Northwest football team is using this year’s fall camp to consider putting younger players in starting positions.
As the season draws near, the pressure to find young and talented players builds. Daily practices and fall camp are the key to finding new players to fill an almost empty and upperclassman heavy position.
“It’s fun to see the new guys step up and try to fill that role,” junior wide receiver Alec Tatum said. “It’s a challenge for all the new guys, and we’re all just battling for a spot. It’s just challenging, and it’s good for us.”
As the 2019 recruiting class brings in four transfers and three true freshmen at the wide receiver position, the battle for playing time is on the line. With transfers like juniors Dawson Graham and Kaden Davis, the wide receiver position has the most playing time up for grabs.
This change at the wide receiver position has shifted pressure onto all of the other starting spots as talented groups continue to come in year after year.
“Yeah positions are open, but you have to look at it like every position is open,” sophomore quarterback Braden Wright said. “You have to perform every week. You have to work hard every day so you keep your spot. The guys that have come in at semester or during the summer, they come in and they’ve been battling.”
With roughly 40 recruits suiting up for the Bearcats this fall, the returning players are pushed to continue their success to keep a starting spot. While a select few true freshmen will be pulled up to challenge the veterans, many newcomers are starting to realize that their best competition this season is the players beside them.
“They were recruited here because they can play at this level. They were an advantage with a few changes in our playbook that we made,” Wright said. “Everyone adds value to the team. No one ever takes away from the team. Especially at the receiver position, we’re really deep right now, so we got plenty of guys in there competing every day.”
Though many past players, like 2019 graduates Shawn Bane Jr. and Austen Eskew, have made their presence known since walking onto Northwest’s campus, a majority of recruits have to wait and learn what Bearcat football is like before they can make a name for themselves.
“Starting from recruiting, they show you that they have a history of winning,” freshman quarterback Alex Roush said. “When they show you that they win, and they show you that they work hard, and in the end, it could pay off with a national championship, it really gets the recruits in.”
While the 2019 season will bring many fans curious as to who will fill the top string positions, the success of future seasons is the focus for much of the football coaches and staff. Every year brings new changes and difficulty, but with the help of recruits and coaches constantly committing to Northwest, the team expects nothing but success for the future.
Co-offensive coordinator Joel Osborn said Northwest football coaches have been using recruitment to build depth not only in the shallow wide receiving position, but to bring competitive quarterbacks, athletic offensive linemen and winning running backs to the squad for future success.
“The first thing we notice is competitiveness,” Osborn said. “Once they get here, they’re going to have to compete because we bring in great players every year. Just the ability to take coaching and be great at their craft. Those are the type of guys that are going to separate themselves from everyone else.”