Chi Chi Ariguzo! Northwestern's most fun name to say/name most suited to being sang to the tune of "Teach Me How To Dougie" was amazing as a strongside linebacker last year in his first year as a starter, creating several big, game-changing plays for Northwestern -- although often just off of being in the right place at the right time. This year, Northwestern asks him to move to the weakside -- can he continue to contribute for Northwestern? Well, who knows, I guess.
Chi Chi is 6'3, 220 pounds, and there are 44 days until football!
Ariguzo is from Gahanna, Ohio, which is a suburb of Columbus that's home to two Northwestern players, Ariguzo, C.J. Bryant, as well as recently graduated DE Davon Custis. CAN'T EVEN RECRUIT YA OWN BACKYARD, BUCKS. He went to St. Francis DeSales, where he played strong safety and outside linebacker, helping the Stallions -- I dunno if y'all noticed, but I like dropping high school team names when possible -- to a state championship appearance, although they lost. He ranked as a three-star guy, No. 47 amongst outside linebackers per Scout and No. 38 amongst Ohioans per Rivals. He racked up a pretty impressive number of offers -- Stanford, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, West Virginia, Kansas -- but chose Northwestern the July before his senior year.
After redshirting his freshman year, Ariguzo was part of a linebacker unit looking for answers in 2011, getting two starts while serving as Bryce McNaul's primary backup at weakside linebacker, managing 18 tackles, 1.5 for loss, before shoulder injuries ended his year.
But his breakout was as a sophomore. Last year as Northwestern's starting strongside linebacker, he was, damn, well, everywhere, starting the year with a pick off a deflection against Syracuse and finishing the year with a pick off a deflection against Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl. He recovered four fumbles, tied for most in the conference, and three sacks, as well as 10.5 tackles for loss, most of anybody on the team not named Tyler Scott, and a damn impressive figure for a guy not primarily involved in pass-rushing.. He was a little bit of everything for Northwestern.
Chi Chi video
It's not really a "highlight" since Ariguzo did nothing any reasonably active person couldn't do, but you can't get me to forget his scoop-and-score against Syracuse.
Ariguzo had already made one random big play -- a pass that Syracuse wide receiver Marcus Sales almost nabbed on a low throw, but sorta threw up in the air after a hit by Quinn Evans, allowing Ariguzo to snag the ball and return it well into 'Cuse territory -- and it was time for another. Ryan Nassib threw a backwards screen to running back Jerome Smith, who got his hands on the ball, but didn't reel it in. And then he made a football faux pas: he just, like, stopped. You have to know that incomplete backwards passes are fumbles, but Smith didn't, and acted like it was an incompletion.
Either by sleight-of-hand or confusion, Ariguzo nonchalantly walked up to the ball and picked it up, and then some Northwestern players got around him, formed a caravan, and gestured wildly towards the end zone, and 33 yards later, paydirt.
Ariguzo made some big plays for Northwestern, plays that prove he's a big linebacker. Northwestern also got some real quality wins that weren't ridiculously lucky. But Ariguzo's score was a fluky in a fluky win, and somehow, it made it more fun, sweet, and memorable.
Anagram of choice
Discovering the Wildcats' true inner selves through spelling
Chi Chi Ariguzo, anagrammed, is
Frankly, can't say I'm surprised here. Two Chi's, plus a last name featuring a "z". Bummer.
Relevant musical selection
"Chi Chi Man," T.O.K.
This is a really fun song before you realize it's about killing gay people. (Chi chi man = a not nice way to call somebody a gay person, basically, in Jamaican slang.)
How he can help
It's a dumb thing to write, but the thing that jumped out about Ariguzo in 2012 was his ability to be in the right place at the right time, a strong combination of athleticism, smart decisions, and, yes, some luck. That's a special combination of things that allowed Chi Chi to be a playmaker this past year.
As we mentioned, after a year as starter at strongside linebacker, Ariguzo now switches to the weakside. Northwestern's been notably flexible about its starters at various linebacker positions -- since 2011 alone, I count David Nwabuisi (strong to middle), Collin Ellis (weak to strong) and Damien Proby (weak to middle) as players who started and switch positions or switched positions, then started. Those successes, plus the fact that they know more about football than me, allows me to think that Northwestern's coaches have a better grasp about what makes certain players suited to certain positions than we do, however, it is curious that Ariguzo -- who was quite adept at strongside -- would get put in a new position. We'll see if his knack for being fortuitously located translates to a position that puts a little bit more emphasis on being the aggressor and wreaking havoc behind the line of scrimmage. Regardless, Ariguzo will be starting at linebacker; judging from his performance last year, that's a good thing, positionality regardless. We've said it before, but NU has a damn good linebacking corps this year.
Chi Chi is third-team all-Big Ten, per Phil Steele. The B1G is strong on linebackers, so it's not a slight if he doesn't end up on one of the all-B1G teams at the end of the year, but he's got the talent to pull it off if he keeps up the production from last year.