As a sophomore, Northwestern defensive end Joe Gaziano got the chance to start on the Wildcats’ front line and never looked back. Gaziano started all 13 games for the Wildcats, wrapping up the season with six tackles, a sack, and two pass deflections in a Music City Bowl win over Kentucky.
He finished the 2017 campaign with 36 tackles, nine sacks, and four forced fumbles — good enough to land him on the All-Big Ten Defensive Team.
Gaziano headlines five returning starters in the Wildcats’ front seven and could make for a matchup nightmare come Nov. 28 when the Illini travel to Evanston.
You can read what the guys over at Inside NU had to say about Gaziano’s upcoming junior season here.
It’s no secret that the Illini lack veteran experience, and Lovie will probably field more than a couple freshmen and sophomores on the offensive line this season. Looking to repeat as an All-Big Ten selection, you can be sure that Gaziano (and the entire fanbase) have this game circled on the schedule.
On the plus side, Northwestern is the last regular season game of the year for Illinois, so those underclassmen will have practically another full season of Big Ten play under their belt. To make matters worse, no one knows who’s going to be under center Week 1, let alone Week 12.
By the time he graduates from Northwestern, Gaziano could find himself among some of the best defensive players to come through the school. In fact, he already ranks in the top 10 for career sacks at NU. He’s a favorite to repeat as an All-Big Ten selection among numerous other awards despite having two full seasons still for eligibility.
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