two weeks later delivery of the announced No. 1 jersey on senior wide receiver Raymond Niro III, coach Pat Fitzgerald on Wednesday named Northwestern’s five captains for the upcoming season.
— Pat Fitzgerald (@coachfitz51) August 17, 2022
Junior offensive tackle Peter Skoronski and a pair of running backs — grad student Andrew Clair and junior Evan Hull — represent an offense looking to bounce back from last season’s low scores. Joining the group as defensive cogs are senior defensive lineman Adetomiwa Adebawore and junior linebacker Bryce Gallagher.
Skoronski, who was previously named a preseason All-Big Ten member and potential first-round pick, has started every game of his career with the Wildcats. Going into NU as a four-star prospect and a top-five center nationally, Skoronski lived up to the billing. In two seasons, his accolades include a pair of all-conference nods and a 247Sports True Freshman All-American honor. He enters 2022 as one of the best offensive linemen in the country.
Despite the noise and hype, Skoronski said he remains stuck on his and the Cats’ progress this season.
“As we try to focus day in and day out here, we have a lot to do and a lot to achieve,” Skoronski told reporters in early August. “I expect to do what the North West left tackle still has to do…I’m really concerned about getting that job done for this team.”
Skoronski will likely play a vital role in establishing NU’s running game, which Hull and Clair will certainly benefit from. When junior running back Cam Porter was injured in preseason last year, it was Hull who emerged as the backfield leader. After two sluggish first seasons at Evanston, Hull exploded for over 1,000 rushing yards and seven scores – good for sixth and eighth in the Big Ten, respectively.
Clair, who started his career at Bowling Green before transferring to NU in 2021, also took on some of the backfield load last season, totaling 394 all-purpose yards and one touchdown in 12 games. With Porter returning from injury, the Cats have a crowded running room, but full of options and upside.
Entering their second year under defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil, Gallagher and Adebawore will look to improve on a NU defense that allowed 29 points per game last season and finished dead last in yards per play (6.14).
After recording just six total tackles in his first two years in purple and white, Gallagher finished the season tied for 15th in the conference with 89 total tackles — a mark second on the Cats’ roster.
Similar to Gallagher, Adebawore bided his time as a rookie but picked it up as a sophomore, posting two sacks and six tackles for the loss. In 2021, he put on his best performance yet, becoming one of the conference’s top pass rushers while leading NU with 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss.
After a turbulent season, Adebawore is looking to help NU reboot and recapture their success of even-numbered years, highlighted by Big Ten West division titles in 2018 and 2020. During the daytime Big Ten Network broadcast from the conference media in late July, host Dave Revsine asked Adebawore what the rebuilding process was like for the Cats.
“Just be consistent,” Adebawore said. “Taking each day with a mindset to improve, looking at the things you need to improve on and building on top of that. Not backing down, but always moving forward and continuing to push each other.
Adebawore also spoke about the dramatic change from 2020 to 2021 and how NU can look to right the ship this season.
“We just have to get that relentless mindset back,” Adebawore said. “I think we were very comfortable last year after a great year and when you’re comfortable you don’t remember those little details and things that you have to make sure to point out every day. ”
E-mail: [email protected]n.edu
— Football Notebook: Niro honored with No.1 uniform, Hilinski discusses changes
— Coach Fitzgerald, players preview 2022 season at Media Days
— Where does North West football stand at the end of spring training?