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Remember that Name: Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson

Article written by:On3 imageFreddie Maggard

Picture: Inside NU

Perception can be reality. This especially applies during bowl season when cross-conference matchups are mandated. Kentucky’s Music City Bowl opponent hails from the Big Ten which normally invokes visions snow-covered fields and power-run heavy offenses. However, if you’re thinking that Northwestern is going align with two tight ends and dot the I formation in order to run north-south for sixty minutes, then you’d be mistaken. The Wildcats can run the football effectively. RB Justin Jackson has gone over 1,000-yards in four consecutive seasons and is the program’s all-time leading rusher.

However, I’d argue that quarterback Clayton Thorson is NU’s most threatening offensive weapon. Northwestern can operate at a fast tempo while spreading the field in order to isolate receivers in the passing game. How good is the junior signal caller? His name has been submitted by his head coach to the NFL’s Draft Advisory Council to gauge if his best interest is to return for a senior season or to begin preparing for the NFL Combine after the Music City Bowl. This puts Thorson in the same company as Lamar Jackson and Drew Lock in terms of third year QB’s that will be testing NFL waters. 

Clayton Thorson 2017 Results

Opponent Attempt/Complete/INT TD/Yards
Nevada 28/38 (73.7%) 1 INT 2 TD, 352-yards
@Duke 11/29 (37.9%) 2 INT 0 TD, 120-yards
Bowling Green 23/30, (76.7%), 0 INT 2 TD, 370-yards
@Wisconsin 29/45, (64.4%) 2 INT 3 TD, 219-yards
Penn State 19/36 (52.8%) 2 INT 0 TD, 142-yards
Maryland 27/49 (55.1%) 2 INT 1 TD, 273-yards
Iowa 21/36 (58.3%) 0 INT 0 TD, 192-yards
Michigan State 33/48 (68.8%) 0 INT 2 TD, 356-yards
@Nebraska 19/35 (54.3%) 2 INT 0 TD, 243-yards
Purdue 26/46 (56.5%) 0 INT 1 TD, 296-yards
Minnesota 9/13 (69.2%) 0 INT 3 TD, 86-yards
@Illinois 13/21 (61.9%) 1 INT 1 TD, 140-yards


Thorson finished 2017 as the Big Ten’s 3rd leading passer and 3rd team All-Big Ten. Let’s take a look at 2017 composite statistics:

Clayton Thorson’s 2017 Composite Statistics

Att/Comp/% Yards TD/INT
258/426 (60.6%) 2809-yards (234 per game) 15 TD, 12 INT

Thorson has enjoyed a successful career. He’s started 38 games in which he’s thrown for 7513-yards and 44 touchdowns. NU’s offense leans more towards a ball-control passing scheme than homerun hitting attacks as UK faced against Ole Miss, Missouri, and Louisville. Thorson’s experience, knack for completing timing routes, and sneaky athletic ability will put a tremendous strain on UK’s sketchy pass defense.

While completing 60.6% of his passes in 2017; Carson did throw 12 interceptions. Expect to see a plethora of slant routes and other short-intermediate throws in Nashville. He often utilizes tight ends and running backs as well. NU’s receivers are not as physically talented at Southern Miss, Ole Miss, Louisville, or Missouri. However, route execution is often exact and efficiently timed.

Much more to come on the Northwestern Wildcats as we close in on December 29th. But for now; understand that the Wildcat’s offense doesn’t exactly fit the Big 10’s disposition of power run-left, power run-right, and punt. Pat Fitzgerald’s team is led by a highly skilled, future professional quarterback in Clayton Thorson. Remember that name.

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