Spring breakout player: Northwestern Wildcats

With spring practice in the rear view, we're taking a look at one player on each Big Team who had a breakout spring and who looks ready to take on a bigger role when the football starts to matter this fall.

Up next: the Northwestern Wildcats

Spring breakout player: RB Auston Anderson

Here's a case where an opportunity led to a spring breakout that may or may not be there in the fall.

Star Wildcats running back Justin Jackson was injured early in spring practice, allowing more reps for his backups. Anderson, who redshirted last year as a freshman after a hip injury, made the most of it.

At 5-foot-9 and from Texas, the speedster will inevitably draw comparisons to former Northwestern tailback Venric Mark. But he's a little stouter at 180 pounds. He split time with Solomon Vault at tailback this spring and excelled while there. But Vault can also go play slot receiver when Jackson returns. Anderson is more of a pure running back by nature.

Whether carries will be there for him this fall remains to be seen -- Warren Long is still in the mix at running back, too, and Jackson is expected back this summer. Given Northwestern's poor luck with injuries in recent years, however, no one in purple is going to complain about having too much depth anywhere.

Thanks to the way he played during his opportunity this spring, Anderson may have forced himself onto the field in some capacity.