By JOHN SEARS - BIG TEN INSIDER
Why Wootton Should Play on Saturdays:
1. Recovery from his knee injury in the Alamo Bowl – Wootton’s success came crashing down on a freak play during the Alamo Bowl as his knee seemingly folded without contact while he pursued quarterback Chase Daniel. Full details of his injury have not yet been disclosed, but this certainly raises huge concern for a potential NFL team. Wootton needs time to recover.
2. One more year to develop physically – Wootton is considered a raw talent with the physical gifts to make most NFL teams drool – size and speed (6’7”, 270 lbs). With his size, a bit more polish will help Wootton develop in to a splendid strong-side end if he can demonstrate better pass defense capabilities. Right now, he stands as a work-in-progress pass rusher until he develops further.
3. Northwestern’s on the rise – The Wildcats were a few breaks away from solidifying the best season in the history of their program with a win in the Alamo Bowl versus Missouri. Has the team peaked in its short experience with Pat Fitzgerald as head coach? Probably not, and football is much more fun when you are winning.
Why Wootton Should Play on Sundays in 2009:
1. Northwestern will be depleted on offense – The Wildcats will hit the reset button on offense, losing their quarterback, running back and receiving corps. This could spell disaster for the 2009 season and may strain the defense’s ability to be successful as they will face increased pressure to carry the team while (likely) being on the field longer.
2. Big year, time to go – Wootton came off a tremendously successful season, adding a Big Ten Second Team award to his resume. He finished fourth in the Big Ten in sacks with 10 and sixth in tackles-for-loss (16).
3. He may not be the same after his knee injury – Wootton’s injury may be serious. If so, his best bet for an NFL payoff would be to take this time rehabbing and hope a team takes a chance on him, rather than running of the risk of a hobbled return to Northwestern.
Sears’s Take: Wootton’s injury came at the worst possible time – just as he was tidying up a wonderful regular season and demonstrating pro-like abilities in the bowl game. Even without the injury, the word on the street was that he was being asked to return in order to develop a bit more physically. Statistically, he has improved on a yearly basis, but one more season of consistency could solidify him as an early-round selection in 2010.