Dan Persa is dominating just about every headline for Northwestern as we get ready for opening week. Rightly so — he has become the face of this year’s team with the #PersaStrong Heisman campaign and all the hype about him repeating as a first team All-Big Ten selection, not to mention the raised expectations for this season.
There are other players on this team however and lots to do before the Wildcats clash with the Eagles this weekend.
First, NU is still finalizing some competitions throughout the depth chart.
Fitzgerald said Mike Trumpy has come on lately and has improved enough, solidifying himself with Jacob Schmidt at the top of the depth chart. Fitzgerald said Schmidt was the most consistent running back and player on the team in camp and that is why he has earned consideration for the starter. Fitzgerald said he has not decided on who will start under center and who will start behind quarterback either.
It leaves plenty of mystery for Boston College’s linebackers to figure out. Although, it appears the Cats will use a running back by committee approach until somebody emerges. I still would not count Adonis Smith out and we will see him, Trumpy and Schmidt all on the field at some point Saturday.
The competition at kicker appears to be settled for now with Jeff Budzien taking place kicks and Steve Flaherty taking kickoffs. Fitzgerald said neither one lost the job, this is just how the coaching staff decided to go.
“The competition, frankly neither one of them lost the job, they both did a really good job. I couldn’t give Steve (Flaherty) a specific reason why he’s not doing place kicks and I couldn’t give Jeff (Budzien) a reason (why he’s not taking kickoffs). It was more consistency over time.
I’ve got great confidence in both of them to execute either job, just over time as we looked at everything, myself and Hank, we just felt like putting them in those roles were great. I’m really happy for Steve; he’s been fighting hard to earn a role over the last few years, and he’s done a nice job through camp. He’ll be on the ready ready if anything happens with Jeff placekicking wise, and flip it over, if anything happens with Steve, Jeff will still work kicking off. They’ll be 1a and 1b.”
That is the direction Northwestern is going at the all-important kicking spot for now. Again, this position still seems relatively fluid.
Promising freshman linebacker Collin Ellis, who was having a fantastic camp by all reports, is officially scratched from the first two games of the season. Fitzgerald said Ellis broke his thumb last Wednesday and the team will re-evaluate him following the Eastern Illinois game next week. Ellis was among those getting consideration for one spot at outside linebacker.
Ben Johnson is listed as the starter on the depth chart with Chi Chi Arguizo behind him.
While the focus has been on whether Colter can start for Persa, Northwestern is going to need its linebackers to step up and be ready to handle Chase Rettig and Boston College’s physical running attack. The “No-Name Linebackers” have a lot of pressure riding on them to make up for last year and any depth the team may have is a good thing. Bryce McNaul and David Nwabuisi seem solidly in place and Damien Proby and Arguizo have impressed in camp. Ellis would have been another nice piece to throw into the first this weekend and to see what he really can do.
The Cats might have to wait a while to get their first real look at the redshirt freshman.
The Wildcats netted one more commitment last night, bringing the number for the Class of 2012 up to 16.
California safety Terrance Brown announced his commitment to Northwestern last night on Facebook, according to Scout.com, making him the second safety to join the class. According to Chris Emma of PurpleWildcats.com, Brown committed immediately after Fitzgerald called him Monday with the scholarship offer. Brown favored Northwestern early on after NU was the first school to show interest in him.
Brown said he cannot imagine playing for another school.
“I was looking at them the hardest. I didn’t want to commit anywhere else. I can’t even put it in words. It’s football and education, it has me all excited. I know it’s a great situation for me.”
Certainly what you want to hear from a recruit.
A Preseason All-American
Finally, Sporting News named John Shurna a preseason second team All-American. Shurna averaged 16.6 points per game last season as he was limited by a sprained ankle and a concussion throughout Big Ten play. He never fully regained the rhythm of his non-conference play, when he averaged 24.4 points per game. Shurna is expected to once again take on a starring role this year for the Wildcats, especially with Michael Thompson’s graduation.