Last year, Northwestern’s defense led the way for the program’s fourth 10-win season in school history. Repeating that effort was already going to be a challenge after losing the likes of Nick VanHoose, Deonte Gibson and Dean Lowry.

Now, the Wildcats suffered another tough loss.

The team announced that starting cornerback Keith Watkins II will be out for all of 2016 after suffering a knee injury in practice last week.

“I’m really disappointed for him,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “He’s worked so hard, but we’ve got great depth at that position. I’m excited for the guys who now get that opportunity from somebody else’s tough situation. That’s football.”

Watkins was expected to start alongside All-B1G candidate Matthew Harris after becoming one of the Wildcats’ top backups in 2015. He appeared in all 12 games and started in two as a sophomore last year.

He already used a redshirt as a true freshman, but Watkins would be a likely candidate to receive a medical redshirt and possibly earn an extra year of eligibility.

Without Watkins, Northwestern will turn to Montre Hartage, Trae Williams and Alonzo Mayo.