The Northwestern Wildcats have had a rough week as they prepare for the 2014 season. First, they announced that dynamic running back/returner Venric Mark would be suspended for the first two games of the season. Then, Mark announced he would be transferring closer to home in Houston, Texas, taking his talents elsewhere rather than re-join the team Week 3. That same day, the team’s leading returning receiver, Christian Jones, announced he had suffered a season-ending knee injury. For the Wildcats to turn things around this fall, the pressure may fall on transfer wide receiver Miles Shuler.
Shuler spent two seasons with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights before transferring to Northwestern and sitting out the 2013 season. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound speedster never caught on in the Knights’ offense, recording 11 receptions for 113 yards in two seasons, but should get an opportunity to show what he can do with the latest losses suffered by the Northwestern offense. With Jones out, there will be more reps to spread around looking for a difference maker to step up into the starting lineup where Shuler can work his way into the regular offense.
But the area where Shuler could make a bigger impact is on special teams. Mark was an All-American returner in 2012 and his absence in 2013 was felt severely on special teams. Shuler has game-breaking speed as the former New Jersey State Champion in the 55- and 100-meter dash events during high school. That ability makes Shuler an X-factor for Northwestern as he could provide a much-needed spark on kick and punt returns.
With the Wildcats losing some of their most reliable weapons on offense and special teams this week, the door is opened for someone new to step up and become a reliable spark-plug for Northwestern in 2014. Can Miles Shuler take advantage?