Pat Fitzgerald made his first big public decision of the 2011 season Friday, releasing the team’s Week One depth chart.
To close any argument, Dan Persa is officially the number one quarterback and Kain Colter is the backup. That consternation can (apparently) end as Persa is poised to start in Chestnut Hill. Second, Jacob Schmidt and Mike Trumpy appear to be battling for the starting running back spot. Surprises offensively on the two deep include Christian Jones receiving an OR at Z-wide receiver with Rashad Lawrence. Unsurprisingly Brandon Vitabile is listed as the starting center with Ben Burkett moving to right guard.
Defensively, Tyler Scott is listed as starting opposite Vince Browne at defensive end. David Arnold is listed as the starter at safety opposite Brian Peters.
Knowing Fitzgerald, a lot can still change before next week’s game at Boston College. There, after all, still is no named starter at running back and I am sure Fitzgerald will say every competition is still open and ongoing. Every Northwestern fan is still waiting for some official word that Dan Persa will start next Saturday. The depth chart certainly is one step forward in some formal announcement.
And really, there were not a whole ton of surprises or changes from the spring two-deep.
There will be bigger decisions to be made once the season gets under way. History shows that Fitzgerald will be able to make them, make them successfully and affect the outcome of several games. I think we are beyond questioning Fitzgerald’s decisions like we might have been earlier in his career (say, like against Duke).
Earlier this week, College Football Matrix took a look at wins as compared to recruiting rankings over the last four years. Using this “expected wins” total they took a look at the actual wins a team produced, giving a bonus for an upset win and taking an amount away for any upset losses.
Pat Fitzgerald ranked second among all Division I coaches with more than four years at their school. Over the last four years, NU has added 11 wins over its expected total. Wake Forest came in first (+12) and fellow Big Ten member Michigan State (+7) also cracked the list at seventh.
We all know Northwestern starts at a very low place in recruiting. Rivals, Scout and just about any recruiting service are usually pretty low on the crop of freshmen NU brings in every year. Anyways, the Cats usually redshirt just about every freshman to help them ease into college football.
The ranking is pretty low — average of 65th from 2008-11 — even though most would agree NU is making inroads in recruiting. What is amazing, and not surprising at least to those who follow the Wildcats closely, is that the Cats play well above their talent. Annually, College Football Matrix estimates NU wins 2.75 more games than their average recruit ranking would expect. That includes a pretty astounding 2.50 more wins than expected on the road.
College Football Matrix attributes these performances above or below expectation on the coaches. After all, the coach is consistent and has been involved in the recruiting process and the team’s formation.
This is a formula that favors teams like Northwestern, who do not bring in top-level talent but still perform well. It should be noted Ron Zook and Illinois rank fifth worst in the rankings, performing 2.5 games per season worse than their recruiting would suggest. Texas Tech was sixth with a -2 per season rating.
Northwestern is also the most likely team to upset you on the road over the last four years — looking at you Io_a. This is a sign of how well Fitzgerald and the coaching staff prepares his team and keeps them together for these tough battles.
As the Wildcats prepare to take on the Eagles next week (who lose one more home game than they are expected to according to College Football Matrix), you can be sure Fitzgerald will have his team prepared. At least, that is what history tells us.
LTP Meet The Team Night Report
LTP will be delivering a post either this evening or tomorrow morning with a recap of Meet The Team Night, which was “by far” the biggest turnout in the history of the event according to Jim Phillips. LTP was there and as fate would have it, the announcement of the boat names will have a small tie-in to his experiences at last night’s events. Fitz spoke and announced the NU section at BC is sold out for next week’s opener and he introduced the 2011 captains: Dan Persa, Al Netter, Jordan Mabin and Brian Peters. Anyone who was there saw Dan Persa struggle to walk off the stage.