Mike Trumpy and Another Return

There are the big issues that we think about when it comes to Northwestern’s 2012 season — like how the defense will bounce back from the disaster of 2011 and whether Kain Colter can take control of the offense and be the full-time quarterback with all of its attendant responsibilities and pressures. These are questions that will be answered fairly quickly and will be recurring throughout the season. The answer to this next question might be a bonus… or might help answer those big questions.

For better or for worse, Pat Fitzgerald believes in a relatively balanced offense. The problem is he has never been able to get consistency from the running back position. Part of that is he has never had consistency there.

Tyrell Sutton was always injured and the other players he has at the position either could not adjust to the position or were better suited as grinding, short-yardage backs rather than breakaway guys. From Omar Conteh to Adonis Smith, no one has been able to take control of the position and give Northwestern the balanced offensive attack it so desperately needs.

One guy might have been able to do that. He is Mike Trumpy.

Let’s go back to a much happier time — October 1 in Champaign with Northwestern up 28-10 on rival Illinois. Yes, this time existed. The Wildcats were able to control the lead and keep the pressure on the Illini defense thanks to the return of Dan Persa, but just as much so thank to the steady play of Mike Trumpy. Trumpy had 12 carries for 63 yards that game, but averaged 5.2 yards per carry.

When he went down in the second half with a torn ACL, the air came sucking out of Northwestern’s balloon. The collapse was already beginning, but perhaps it hastened without the real threat of the run. Northwestern, it is very safe to say, missed having Mike Trumpy in the backfield.

Trumpy’s star-crossed career has been full of promise and full of tragedy. He had a career day at Wrigley Field against Illinois that was quickly forgotten because of the work Mikel LeShoure did to the Northwestern defense and the broken wrist Trumpy suffered that knocked him out the rest of the year. He got off to a strong start in 2011 with 182 yards on 35 attempts in three games — 5.2 yards per carry. There is not much more you can ask for from Trumpy, who was the top guy but still largely running by committee with Northwestern’s other backs.

Trumpy will be back, but he seems like the quiet guy in NU’s cadre of backs. Malin Jones got a lot of press as an incoming recruit, there is no guarantee quite yet he will pan out or be ready for the rigors of college football. There is “incumbent” starter Treyvon Green, who came on strong toward the end of the season at running back to have 362 yards on 97 carries. He never took the position either, leaving Northwestern with an inconsistent running back by committee.

In an ideal world, someone will become the “bell-cow” back that Pat Fitzgerald wants so badly. That guy may end up being Mike Trumpy if he can remain healthy. It may end up being someone else.

The one thing I think many people who follow Northwestern’s offense realize is that Kain Colter or whoever the quarterback is cannot do it all on his own. There needs to be some balance offensively. Certainly, the Wildcats cannot rely on Colter to be the top rusher like he was last year.

Trumpy has never been the featured back. He has always had to run by committee and his good has been met with some occasional bad. He has not had the time to be consistent because injuries have kept him in and out of the lineup. But we have all seen that Trumpy is a dependable running back who can grind out yards, fall forward and occasionally break one deep. That is something Northwestern needs from its running backs.

The running game is not going to improve overnight unless someone really takes over the position. It could be someone on the roster. It may not be. But someone or the entire group has to step up and make the ground game a true threat if Northwestern is to make a leap offensively and give the entire team the balance it needs for success.

All ‘Cats All Day

BTN has Northwestern programming slated all day long, which seems about right considering the ‘Cats open up fall camp today in Evanston.  From a football perspective, the ‘Cats ’11 Nebraska win is on a 3pm et, the ’95 Michigan win is on at 5:30 pm et, the ’04 upset of Ohio State is on at 7:30 pm et and a couple of 80s era hoops games – the ’88 win over Indiana (1pm et) and the ’87 win over Michigan State (11:30 pm et) are on as well.

LTP Ticket Challenge

Michael C. gets a shout out for adding one season ticket to his existing four seats and helping the LTP Ticket Challenge close in on the halfway mark of 100 NEW season tickets. We’re in primetime now folks. so let’s make a strong push for NEW season tickets and be sure to use the extremely weather-friendly schedule which features four straight home games after our season opener on the road at Syracuse. Email us at laketheposts@gmail.com to share your story of adding a new season ticket to the mix.

  • vaudvillain

    We like to talk about a “go for the throat” mentality, and moan about how many times we give up late leads. The reason we didn’t give up leads against Nebraska or Indiana last year (I know, one of those feats is more impressive than the other) is because on those days, our running game worked. We ran the ball, kept possession, and ran out the clock. All those late collapses were days when the running game didn’t work. The strategy was the same. The ground game just didn’t work those days. And as we well know, it has been a very long time since we’ve had a consistent ground game.

    If (and this is a big if) we can get a reliable 100-yard-per game rusher, we will be much, much better at protecting late leads.

    • Jim B

      MAYBE he will become the guy. I’m skeptical though. I had flashes of being good but he was just one of the rotation. Sure he showed promise but lets hope for the best but be careful not to over hype his return.

      As previously mentioned many times in the past by many others we are in serious need of a consistent running game. So deep at WR and shallow at RB. Fritz wants a balanced attack (we all do) but, not sure the talent doesn’t indicate throw much more often, except Colter’s passing ability down field is questionable. Maybe Colter is not the solution at QB. We will no doubt start him early but unless he has improved significantly it may be a rough B1G 10 schedule.

      Does anyone else still hate the Legends and Leaders names or the BIG 10 having 12 teams?

      • Doug

        Yes yes and yes. I’ve never understood what the hype about Trumpy is. He’s had 2 career 100 yd. games. One of those included a single 80yd TD run. That doesn’t really impress me. PRR say he has always had to be part of the committee, but if he had all the necessary skills to be an every down back, there wouldn’t be a committee.

        Also agree that we have a terrible mismatch of skills this year (with Colter at QB…possibly overall) and really hope that Fitz/McCall know what they are doing.

        And also still hate the division names (and non-geographic split). I was very opposed to having 11 teams, but had to stop wasting my energy caring, so 12 isn’t that bad I guess. At least its an even number. Could really use 9 (or 10 or 11) conference games though.

        • gocatsgo2003

          Yeah… McCall probably has no idea what he is doing and has very little to do with the fact that our offense has performed at a high level each year under his watch.

          • Doug


            Where exactly did I talk shit about McCall? I said I really hope they are right. And honestly, their play calling and game management leave a lot to be desired, so no, I don’t inherently assume they are right. Do they know a lot more about football and our players than I do? Of course. Does that mean they are always right — of course not. Hence, I HOPE they are making the right call.

        • Philip Rossman-Reich

          Yes, Trumpy was always part of the committee, but it looked like last year before his injury that he was really going to take over. He just never has been healthy for long enough to take over. The Wildcats really fell apart in that Illinois game after Trumpy’s injury.

          I agree, we need to see him for a full season before we anoint him as the team’s top back. He may not even be \100%\ coming off the ACL injury for this season.

  • dar0628

    Good post. I hope Trumpy can come back this year and shake the injury bug, but sometimes it takes years to get back to 100% after a torn ACL. I like Treyvon Green but I think he has more limitations. To me, the ideal situation would be Malin Jones burning his redshirt and getting the bulk of the carries with Trumpy, with the feature back dependent on Trumpy’s health.

  • theclaw

    i don’t know about trumpy. i prefer green. i had a couple players on the ryan field shuttle a few months ago talking about how trumpy doesnt try really hard in the weight room to rehabilitate. he acts like hes the **** apparently, which maybe we need a little bit of (cockiness), but we also need the hard work as well

    • you dont

      you don’t know s***. Trumpy works as hard as anyone on the team.

      • theclaw

        i never said i knew, i just am saying what i heard on a bus one day

  • theclaw

    regarding all the colter comments…
    I think colter will do an excellent job at qb this year. Think of Dan Persa in his sophomore year, we didn’t trust him to throw the ball at all, especially during the iowa win when kafka got knocked out. now think of colter last year, although he ran a lot, we let him throw a bit and his sophomore throwing was certainly better than persa’s sophomore throwing. the same goes for kafka before he became a starter, he couldn’t throw either. So i feel very confident that mccall will have made colter work a ton on arm strength and throwing this summer, and that although colter may not have the unbelievable arm persa ended up having, he will still have one that is certainly good enough to be a dual threat qb (i already thought his throwing last year was better than denard or tmagic). the thing he most needs to work on is stepping up late in games, which he struggled with a bit

    • cebpd

      you’re arguing different points here. Persa had an average arm. Unbelieveable? LOL.

      What receivers did Persa/Kafka have? Markshausen, Ebert, Dunsmore, Fields. short guys, fast, but short. they were not going to stretch the field, but they could get open in short field situations.

      Colter has PRATER, Jones(tony and Christian), Youngblood-Ary. They are BIG tall, lanky guys that can stretch the field. his receivers require a QB who can throw them the ball at many parts of the field, which Siemian and Oliver can do, but Colter cannot.

      We have different personnel that requires different QB’s

      • KL

        So you have personally been to practices and have seen Colter consistently unable to make deep field passes? You’re SO sure that Colter can’t make those throws, while the clear 2nd and 3rd string QBs can? Damn, I bet the coaches must be scratching their heads and wondering what to do about it.

      • theclaw

        im really beginning to question your reading comprehension skills cebpd, i said persa had an unbelievable arm, but in his sophomore year, it looked average and we never let him throw the ball.

  • Chasmo

    For all the reasons stated above, it is difficult to see Trumpy providing NU with a viable running game on his own. In addition, Trumpy has yet to prove he can stay healthy for an entire season. Durability is as important a trait as any a running back must have because the pounding backs take exceeds that of any other position.
    Trumpy, Green, and Mark have yet to prove they are legitimate Big Ten backs. If Malin Jones isn’t good enough to win the starting job, NU’s running game probably will be below average again this year.
    Let’s hope for the best.

  • cebpd

    He’s not good enough because he will not know what he is doing because the O is complex. hes a freshman, you need to know blocking schemes and all the other stuff, not just where to run the ball.

  • PaulK

    Danny Ecker at Crain’s reports that U of I finally responds to the “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” campaign with “Illinois. Our State. Our Team.” He says it will be incorporated in “a large-scale brand evaluation program” teaming with Nike in 2013. http://www.chicagobusiness.com

    • cebpd

      you’re a little late.

  • Mark

    What I saw from Trumpy was that he was coming on in 2010. He started using his blockers and setting up his blockers. He was more patient. He also showed a burst and was able to kick into a higher breakaway speed when he got a little space. Unfortunately he missed the Wisconsin and bowl game after hurting his hand. Last year again he showed he could be a very good Big 10 back. I guess we’ll see how he does this year; after hearing after the season that Persa played 2011 at approximately 50% and after the 2010 season that Demos was injured the whole year I don’t know if we’ll know how healthy he is. I guess if he’s averaging 100 yards a game we’ll know he’s 100% but if less we won’t know the reasons.

  • VAWildcat
  • Alaskawildcat

    On another NU related topic – Matt Grevers the alchemist turning Purple to Gold:

    Jim Rome had a great interview with Matt this morning on the premier sports talk show, The Jim Rome Show. Tuned in too late to catch whether there was an NU reference in the intro, but Matt came across as very articulate and insightful, garnering compliments from Rome on various of his answers. If you subscribe as a Jungle Insider you can catch a replay of the interview on the show’s website. Also a nice article on Grevers by Philip Hersh in the Chicago Tribune along with 400 more articles regarding Matt’s accomplishments in London that Google lists. Hersh and many of the others identify Matt Grevers as a Northwestern grad. Have to be proud of how Matt represents NU and recall how he came to Ryan Field after his last Olympic win and appeared on the field making himself available to us as NU fans during halftime. Would be great to have him back for Homecoming this year to lead the Homecoming Parade.

  • KL

    So you have personally been to practices and have seen Colter consistently unable to make deep field passes? You’re SO sure that Colter can’t make those throws, while the clear 2nd and 3rd string QBs can? Damn, I bet the coaches must be scratching their heads and wondering what to do about it.

    • Jim B

      Practices NO. last year Yes, Spring game Yes. Colter’s downfield accuracy is noticably below both Siemian and Oliver, though both of them may need develop reading defenses better. Playing time will help them both.

      I think we will see 1 of them, probably Siemian, get a lot of playing time in the non conference games and then come in if we get behind and have to pass.

      All 3 have positive attributes. My concern is the style of play is different between Colter and the others which could create difficulties if Colter were to get injured.

    • PDXCat

      I think with Fitz is not that we know better than him, but there seems to be this quasi-military loyalty thing he has going on, either for players or concepts. Many thought Schmidt wasn’t the best back available, but he started because he’d “earned it” (he was a senior, worked hard, etc.). The ridiculous rugby punts, though we seem to have a punter who can actually kick it high and far, still are a part of the game plan, because that’s how we’ve done it. I have some concern that despite what may happen in practice, Colter is Fitz’s guy (he’s earned it, LC guy, works hard, he’s a junior, etc.). Despite one of the back-ups being able to make better throws or be the better option overall–whether they can or not, who knows, we’ve seen Siemian only to a limited extent, though he was brought in last year because we needed to make up ground through the air (sorry for the oxymoron)–Colter will be the guy; he’s earned it and Fitz won’t retract his loyalty. Colter stands to be the QB for the rest of his time here, though some might say the team is better served having him as an offensive wildcard (think Ismaeli on offense, double passes, 2 QB sets, slot receiver, etc), like they tried to do with Venric a bit last year.

  • Mark

    Just watched last year’s Nebraska game again – I had tickets also. What I saw was that Siemian was good but the interception he threw was thrown into very tight coverage. What I saw, again, was that Colter could make all the throws. I have to believe that the coaches will put out their best six backs and receivers.