The Northwestern Wildcats burst onto the national scene with a 10-win season and the program’s first bowl win since 1949. The key to their success was a revamped rushing attack and a much improved pass rush. However, the best unit on that team may have been the offensive line.
The line had three returning starters, a redshirt senior and a sophomore, but only starter return in 2013, was center Brandon Vitabile and right guard Jack Konopka. If the Wildcats are going to repeat their success on the ground from last season it will be Konopka and Vitabile who will have to lead the charge. Both were very good last season and should only get better next season after another year of experience.
Northwestern had one of the most underrated offensive lines in the Big Ten because it did not have some big name pro prospects. However, the Wildcats gave up the fewest sacks in the conference while having the fourth-best rushing offense in the Big Ten. Those stats are some of the big reasons the Wildcats were successful a year ago.
The Wildcats return most of their skill players on offense and even add a couple of athletes who redshirted last season. However, Northwestern’s offense will only go as far as the offensive line takes it. If the line struggles, the Wildcats won’t be able to run the ball as effectively as last season. If the line continues its strong play, the Wildcats have a much better chance at competing for a Big Ten title. It will be up to Konopka and Vitabile to keep the momentum going on the offensive line.