Northwestern wide receivers accept anonymity

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

KENOSHA, Wis. -- Midway through a recent practice, Northwestern junior wide receiver Sidney Stewart turned toward fellow wideout Andrew Brewer and provided a reminder.

"Nobody knows you, Brew," Stewart told Brewer. "Who are you, dawg?"

To be clear, Stewart wasn't experiencing memory loss from taking too many hits in practice. He knows exactly who Brewer is.

But nobody else does.

Northwestern must replace three multiyear starters at wide receiver this season, and the next group in consists mainly of players unknown outside the team's football complex.

Brewer might be the most recognizable as a former starting quarterback for NU, and Stewart and sophomore Jeremy Ebert combined for 32 receptions and three touchdowns last season. But most preseason prognosticators, including yours truly, point to what Northwestern has lost at receiver. Eric Peterman, Ross Lane and Rasheed Ward combined for 1,903 receiving yards 170 receptions and 12 touchdowns.

Last week at football media day, Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald told reporters, "On offense, none of you know any of our guys' names so I'll spare it for now."

He has relayed a similar message to the players themselves.

"We're anonymous," Stewart said Monday at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, site of Northwestern's off-campus training camp. "Unknown, unseen, unheard. Just a lot of uns. We called it U-cubed. We know there's a lot of talk about last year's group of guys. They were a great group of seniors.

"We knew that we were going to be unknown, unseen and unproven. Right now, it's our turn."

Stewart makes sure to motivate himself and his fellow wideouts during practices by telling them how unheralded they are. It has helped bond the group and create "a team within a team."

"We've got to realize we're not like everybody else," Stewart said. "There's a lot of people out here who will get talked about in a positive way. And we, unfortunately, if it's not a negative light, then we're not talked about at all.

"We like to keep that in the forefront of our minds, keep striving to be the best we can be."