Northwestern coaches will have a tough task in filling the big shoes of Jordan Mabin. The hope is that someone will step into the role and fill the large void.
"I just look for whoever we put out there to play his position," NU defensive backs coach Jerry Brown said after a recent bowl practice. "I don't want him to try to be Jordan Mabin. There's only one Jordan and I miss him already. The guy we put out there, he's got a job to do, and we expect him to do that job."
When Mabin went down, Northwestern called upon redshirt freshman CB Daniel Jones to take over. Jones earned the opportunity during the week of practice leading up to the game, according to head coach Pat Fitzgerald.
Jones struggled in his debut, as Michigan State's all-conference receiver B.J. Cunningham posted over 100 yards and two touchdowns. The Wildcats have opened up competition at the cornerback position to see who can best fill the role. Jones, along with Demetrius Dugar, Ricky Weina, and Michael Bolden are each fighting for the chance to start in Houston.
"I think all (the cornerbacks) are working hard, which we anticipate them to do," said Brown. "What we've really been working is the fundamental techniques. It gives us an opportunity to reach back and go to fundamentals. That's what we've been working on and they've done a good job."
Whoever steps into that role will be challenged in facing Texas A&M senior quarterback Ryan Tannehill, ranked 16th in the nation in passing yardage. Of that group of four potential starters, only Demetrius Dugar (3) and Ricky Weina (1) have started games in their careers.
In their bowl preparations, Northwestern coaches are making sure each cornerback sees plenty of action in the game-like practice, to help prepare for the bowl.
"We're going to get these guys as many reps as they can in practice and try to get the practice as close to game-type simulation as we can, so there won't be that big gap between practice and game," said Brown.
Brown is hoping that whoever becomes the starter at cornerback can bring stability and poise to the position, just as Mabin did during his 48 starts.
"You want a cohesive group, number one," said Brown. "You don't want guys going out there and holding onto their hind parts. You want them to go out there and play with some confidence."