The Northwestern Wildcats will be without one of their more dynamic offensive weapons next season.
Wide receiver and punt returner Solomon Vault will miss the 2017 season after undergoing surgery on a lower-body injury, a team spokesman told InsideNU.
Vault caught 15 passes for 164 yards last year as a junior. His main role though was on kick returns. He had 560 yards on 23 returns with a touchdown. His speed in special teams was one of Northwestern’s biggest offensive weapons.
While Vault’s statistics are certainly lacking, the team expected him to take a big step forward this season. The Wildcats are in need of some consistent receiving after Austin Carr’s graduation. Northwestern needs a boost in its receiving corps. The team certainly expected Vault to step up in that category.
Vault provides a skill Northwestern has desperately needed — a speedy downfield threat. With the Wildcats relying on a lot of new receivers, they would need the downfield threat. They would need any threat in the passing game, having lost so much production.
Vault will retain his fourth year of eligibility for the 2018 season. It should give Northwestern a strong offensive core for the 2018 season — Clayton Thorson and Justin Jackson will both be seniors.
This is undoubtedly a blow to the team’s offense for the 2017 season.
The team should still have a deep threat in Flynn Nagel. But the Wildcats will need other receivers to step up.
The team will have some help from promising receiver Macan Wilson and superback Garrett Dickerson. But the team will also need contributions from Bennett Skowronek, Jelani Roberts and Charlie Fessler. That is an unproven group of receivers.
Nagel is the top returning receiver with 447 receiving yards and two touchdowns last season. The Wildcats have an unproven set of receivers. It is perhaps the biggest weakness of Northwestern’s offense, likely putting more pressure on Thorson and Jackson to carry the load.
Vault’s injury is certainly a big loss for the Wildcats.