Monday, July 18, 2011

Matt Chandik's Northwestern Player to Watch

Since taking over at Northwestern, Wildcat legend Pat Fitzgerald has been able to do some very nice things with a traditionally below-average program. Northwestern is always at the top of the academic rankings, but football’s not really its forte. Fitzgerald changed that and currently boasts a 34-29 mark with three straight seasons of seven or more wins and three straight bowl bids.

Part of Fitzgerald’s success comes from the wide-open offense that Northwestern uses. With dynamic quarterback Dan Persa, a dual-threat who makes a compelling case for best Big 10 quarterback, anything is possible. Persa, however, needs people to throw the ball to, and that’s where my 2011 Northwestern breakout player comes from. Jeremy Ebert may get the accolades, but junior wideout Demetrius Fields is ready to emerge as a reliable target on the other side of the field.

Sidney Stewart graduated this year, so much will be expected from Fields. He’s got good size at 6-2, 205 pounds, and improved his yards per catch average by more than two yards per catch last season when he grabbed 25 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns. Not great, but certainly not bad for a guy who was the No. 3 or No. 4 option on the team. While his ypc average may not ever reach Ebert’s level of nearly 16 yards per catch, Fields should be able to reach the 13 or 14 ypc mark. Additionally, I expect him to be the recipient of a lot more looks from Persa and conversely, his stats should increase exponentially.

It’s unlikely that Fields makes a run at a Biletnikoff or even an All-Big 10 first or second-team nod, but he should become a reliable No. 2 option in the Wildcats’ spread offense. I expect around 45 catches, 550 yards and four touchdowns.

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