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 firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story of adding a new season ticket to the mix.