In one offseason, the redshirt junior has gone from a role player to a key part of the offense.
A few marquee names are missing from Northwestern's latest pre-season depth chart. We've discussed this in detail, but in case you've been living under (The) rock for the past couple of weeks, here's a recap: Northwestern's football program learned on the same day that they'd be without both star running back Venric Mark, who is transferring from the university, and top wide receiver Christian Jones, who'll miss the entire season with a knee injury. It was a really, really bad day for Northwestern football, but as our Henry Bushnell detailed, it's not the end of the world. Because when one guy goes down, another gets the precious opportunity he's been waiting months, often years, for.
Cameron Dickerson has paid his dues. In his case, he's been waiting three long years for a chance to show what he can do on Saturdays. And what a long three years it has been. Dickerson currently has 25 receptions, 179 yards, and 2 touchdowns to show for it.
But that's all about to change. Dickerson currently sits atop our depth chart at the wide receiver spot and seems to have a pretty tight stranglehold on the position. The coaching staff has raved about the 6-foot-3, 200-pound redshirt junior all training camp, with Pat Fitzgerald even jokingly referring to Dickerson as a "40-year-old" out there because of his steady demeanor and experience level. No matter the nickname, Dickerson is happy that his hard work is finally catching the coaching staff's attention.
"I've been in the offense for three years now, put a lot of time and effort into owning it, the offense as a whole," Dickerson said. "So it means a lot to hear hi say that I am one of those guys who's been here a while and understands everything. That's what I try to put all my effort into, just to be one of those guys who they can count on."
NU's passing attack was relatively consistent last year, but failed to produce enough game-changing big plays. The 'Cats only managed 18 plays of 30+ yards last year, only good enough for 107th in the nation. Dickerson hopes to be a downfield threat the team lacked last year, and his status as a starter despite limited playing time last year suggests Northwestern has big plans for the redshirt junior.
"I think every offense needs that guy who can bring some electricity," he said. "I think I can be that guy, whether it's making plays downfield, blocking on the perimeter, whatever it takes. I like to say I'm the 'juice man' of the offense, I bring that excitement."
Dickerson says the opportunity to fill Jones' void has only provided motivation for him- and his fellow receivers- to get better. He's come to camp bigger and quicker this year which should bode well for him in the passing game.
"I'm getting bigger, stronger and faster," Dickerson said. "I like to be thought of as that power receiver who still has the ability to get past guys and get downfield."
It would have been all to easy for the receiving core to let their competitive sides get the best of them and root for the worst. But Dickerson said that's not even close to the case with this group.
"What's been special about us is we've had the ability to accept that competition," he said. "We're definitely competing, at the same time we're best of friends and still take the time to coach each other up. We all take interest in each other doing well because on gameday we understand that it's going to take all of us. So we're working every day to be the best receiving corps in the nation."
More from sbnation.com: