It goes without saying that the Dan Persa we see on the field next week at Boston College will not quite be the same one from last year. As #PersaStrong as he might be, he is still going through rehab for his ruptured Achilles tendon after all.
The benefit of not having class is that Persa is spending just about every waking hour at the football facility between practice and rehabilitation. Still despite the coaching staff continuing to say he is making progress and getting healthier every day stories about Persa’s limitations continue to leak out.
I mean, we are arguing whether a limp is a “pimp walk” for crying out loud.
Pat Fitzgerald has all but assured everyone Dan Persa will be the starter. He was named the starter on the depth chart Friday but Fitzgerald has not exactly said doctors have cleared Persa to play. The mystery of whether Persa will actually play deepened this week when Fitzgerald said Kain Colter was 1b on the depth chart. Not exactly calming the nerves of nervous Wildcats fans who know how critical Persa is to the team’s success. Either way, it appears Colter will get some playing time at some point.
One thing you never want to do, though, is overlook Persa or his abilities. That is what just about everyone did in recruiting him when they saw the 6-foot-1 quarterback in high school in Bethlehem, Pa. That is what just about everyone did when he took the field against Iowa and successfully managed that upset win with an injured Mike Kafka.
Nobody saw a season where he would complete 73.5 percent of his passes, throw for 2,581 yards in 10 games and add 24 total touchdowns to just four interceptions.
The comeback on this injury just seemed like another challenge to master. It seems certain Persa is going to redefine himself again.
Jordan Mabin knows first hand what Persa can still do. He goes up against him in practice every day. He is a candidate to make the All-Big Ten team at cornerback and leads a strong secondary. And, more importantly for NU’s offense, he likes what he has seen from Persa.
Mabin is not concerned with what he has seen from Persa in practice, he tells Chris Emma of Scout.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I saw him out there the first couple practices. Around practice five or six, he started letting it fly. … I don’t know how his ankle [I think he means Achilles] is doing but I know his passing is right where he left off last season. Like I said, I’ve been impressed with him.”
Coming from the team’s top cornerback and one of the best cornerbacks in the conference, that sounds like a blessing that Persa will be ready next Saturday.
But, of course, in practice Persa is protected from contact and game speed is a much different story. Everyone still seemingly wants to see what Persa will do in a truly live situation without any of the artificial barriers in front of defenders in practice.
The reality might be that Persa will be very different when he steps on the field for the first time. This is not necessarily in a bad way. Many suspect Persa will not be as mobile early on as he gets comfortable being back in a live game environment. Lindsey Willhite of the Daily Herald almost expects him to be completely confined to the pocket.
Persa made a lot of his strongest plays and separated himself by being able to move around in the pocket and keep his eyes downfield. If that scrambling ability is gone and Persa is limited to the pocket, that will be a dimension the team will miss. Luckily the running backs are (supposed to be) improved and the offensive line is experienced. That will help Persa a bunch.
And it is not like if Persa stays in the pocket he is not going to be effective. He is a skilled quarterback no matter how you look at him and Fitzgerald and Mick McCall will tailor the offense to fit what Persa can do.
“This offense can be tailored to any player,” Persa told Willhite. “A dropback passer. A running quarterback. It’s not essential for me to be running all over the field to make this offense go.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge of developing more as a pocket passer. Making decisions from the pocket. I think that’s really going to help my development along.”
While Fitzgerald says Persa is getting better and better every day, everyone is waiting to get some answers when he gets on the field in Week One. Only then will we know what Persa can do.
Persa photo via DayLife.com.