Putting The Secondary Under The ‘Scope With Brian Peters

Vanderbilt week is in full effect. We started yesterday morning by offering up this overview of our week two opponent offering everything from week one analysis to a context of the two programs’ histories and quite a bit in between. Today, we are thrilled to have former Wildcat captain and safety, Brian Peters, join us to address the issues that most fans are still talking about with our secondary.

However, yesterday, Fitz held his weekly press conference and revealed a few interesting roster moves. The headline is that highly-touted freshman DE Ifeadi Odenigbo will play Saturday night, as Deonte Gibson’s injured elbow will keep him out of the game, forcing the need for Fitz to burn the redshirt of the undersized four star recruit. Odenigbo is just that good that NU can’t afford to wait.  He’ll don number 18 as fellow defensive teammate and senior, Hunter Bates, wears number 7.  Meanwhile, Demetrius Dugar gets the starting nod after a nightmarish starting debut on Saturday. However, safety Damion Fleming got dropped from starter to Ibraheim Campbell’s back-up on the two deep while Jared Carpenter, who did not play better than Fleming, in my opinion, moves in to the starting role alongside Campbell. You can bet that both Fleming and Jimmy Hall will be thrown in to action as well as Quin Evans at CB as Fitz and Mike Hankwitz continue to try and find pieces to the puzzle that will stick.

Let’s get on to the show with Brian Peters.  The Ohio native has had a suitcase summer. He is “living” in Chicago with fellow former teammates Dan Persa and Jack DiNardo, but it is essentially a mailing address as he’s been bouncing around NFL camps, Arena Football teams and is about to take off to Omaha, where he has been invited to take part in the UFL franchise’s fall camp. More on that in a bit. First, Brian spent his first Saturday ever as a football fan alum watching the ‘Cats. He didn’t quite know what to do or where to go, so he ventured up to the Nicolet Football Center and ended up watching the game with several of the redshirt freshmen and some old friends. He was gracious enough to offer his insights on the ‘Cats defense, which we appreciate, as few can offer such a knowledgeable perspective. Let’s get rolling..

LTP: Let’s start with the most obvious takeaway from the secondary on Saturday – pass interference calls – assess.

BP: Obviously being a former Wildcat DB, I’m going to be biased. I thought a couple of the calls were questionable. The ones on Demetrius Dugar in particular were suspect. The reason he got flagged was that he didn’t turn and look for the ball. You could see he was reading the receiver’s eyes and in what we call a great “win position”, but he simply didn’t turn and take a peak back. His hands were not out on the guy and he was right with the receiver and usually, when you keep your hands in on that refs don’t usually call that. Personally I thought it was ticky tack.

Davion Fleming also had one on either a post route or a corner route and he stuck his arm out, but I thought there was enough separation that it was a ticky tack call.

LTP: One of the obvious questions that comes up when there are so many pass interference calls is the balance between player execution or coaching. You know, if you don’t turn your head, you’re going to get flagged.  What are you taught and what’s on the player to execute?

BP: We get taught that every day in practice. Every one of us has a ton of reps on those exact situation. The biggest single thing it comes down to for a DB is poise. It’s split second timing. You have to make reads on the receiver’s eyes, his hands, your position, the ball. We’re taught to get in to that win position and when you get there, peak for the ball. From my standpoint it’s more on the players. I’ve seen Demetrius do it time and time again in practice. Some it might be poise, some of it might be timing – meaning, he may have felt the ball coming in and that he didn’t have enough time to turn because if you do, you might lose your feel for where the player is and then when he catches it he’s gone.

LTP: Think back to your first start and the reality of that in-game split-second decision making. Can you remember how much you improved from that first game to the next?

BP:  I had some appearances in a few games before I got my first real start. For me it was the Vanderbilt game in 2010 when I knew I was starting and going to play most of the game. Things are happening so fast, the speed of the game comes at you quick. Plus, the first game of the season is always a bit shaky as you figure things out and it seems to turn in to a street fight. It really doesn’t reflect how individual guys will be playing or even the team will be playing two to three weeks later. Take Doogie (Dugar) for example. The game will slow down for him next week and this week they will break it down for him, he’ll get tons of practice reps and the coaches will focus on the things that need improvement and he’ll be ready to go.

LTP: Obviously, we don’t want to give away any trade secrets here, but I saw a lot of man coverage on the outside without a lot of safety help over the top, especially on the deep routes. What did you see?

BP: It wasn’t drastically different from what we ran last year. They’ve changed up the angle technique and shading from last year. It was a bit more of deep zone and I guess it makes it easier for the safeties to have better three step reads and your run/pass reads and more control of your pedal steps and your quick steps. But, the what you saw on that outside man coverage was really Cover 4, which after the first five yards is essentially man defense. Playing corner in Cover 4 takes a ton of confidence because you find yourself on an island out there.

I thought neither of our corners played a bad game.  I thought Doogie (Dugar) was stride for stride with his receivers and had he not been flagged like we talked about, you would’ve said he had a good game. I thought he came up and made a couple of great hits that stopped plays from materializing.  I was really impressed with VanHoose, who obviously didn’t get as thrown as much at and I thought he played a good game, especially when you consider it was his first. Obviously there still throwing a lot of guys in to the mix with Davion, Jared, DJ (Daniel Jones) to figure out the right mix.

LTP: What was it like from your perspective, knowing the “D” inside and out, and now having to be like one of us – a fan, who has no control on the game?

BP: It was nuts. I was so pumped in the first half watching our defense, because it was just great seeing it all come together. We’ve played good halves of football before, but things just really seemed to be coming together, especially for a first game of the season. Then, well, the Cardiac ‘Cats thing struck again and I had to experience it as a fan.  When you’re on the field, you feel like you can impact each play and make an impact on others so this was hard to put in to words watching it. It was really a frustrating feeling.

LTP: What were your thoughts on our D-line play?. How aggressive was our playcalling in your mind and what type of pass rush did you feel we got?

BP: We didn’t have a great pass rush against Syracuse. We were inconsistent throughout the day. I loved watching our linebackers, but I’ve got to tell you instinctively, when watching, my eyes don’t go to the D-line. My eyes go to the safeties first and then to the secondary in general and then the linebackers. To tell you the truth, I don’t pay too much attention to the DL when I watch a game, it’s just how I’m wired. In talking with Jack Dinardo, the line play was inconsistent, but again, it is game one so we don’t need to paint a picture for that being the way it will be or point any fingers or anything.

LTP: What’s it like the next day after a game like that for the defense? Describe what it will be like for the defense walking out of the room when they watch tape. Will they be ticked off? Will they be just happy they won? Tell us what the emotions are like as you review that game on tape as a defensive player and then get ready for practice.

BP: The players will break off in to groups – by DBs, LBs or DLine – and watch the game by ourselves first. We’ll talk amongst ourselves and point out what we did wrong, what we could improve upon and really, that’s the brunt of what really happened goes on in that room. By the time you watch it with your coach you’re in to talking about specifics of what you could do better, why you did what you did and that kind of thing. The attitude is that game is really flushed on Sunday after watching with Coach Hank or Coach Brown. You emphasize the good, shore up the bad and that’s it, time to flush it and move on to the next opponent. Coach Fitz addresses the team and lays out the needs for the week and makes sure -win or lose – we’ve truly flushed the past game. I know in my five years there we really did flush it.

You have to have a certain kind of mentality to be a DB. Coach “B” (Brown) always told us you need to have a short memory.  You have to look at it as a way to learn and improve, but also flush it and move on to the next play or in this case the next game.

LTP: In the wake of the game there were quite a few fans and comments about DB Coach Jerry Brown and opinions about his role in the secondary’s play on Saturday. What is your take on Coach Brown?

BP: I know people tend to harp on Coach Brown after games like that and I take that personally, just like I took it personally when we played poorly last year, even though it’s not personal. I will tell you that a lot of it is execution on the players – it just is. Like last year, we gave up a lot of deep TDs when I was playing, Illinois sticks out in my mind; it’s a game that I still can’t swallow almost a a year later. When you turn and see a guy behind the coverage, your stomach drops and it is just an awful feeling. But that’s execution.

I can tell you, if I felt like I had a weakness in my game Coach Brown would always be there to either point it out and correct it, or, help me improve if I pointed out an area where I thought I needed help – and it worked. If I was hopping in my coverage he would have no problem to tell me to cut that s@$% out.  He would have no problem tell me I wasn’t playing physical enough and then we’d go hit the sled. I really believe it comes down to personal pride and I know that all of our players have it.

LTP: What did you think of Ibraheim’s game Saturday?

BP: He didn’t get a lot of action his way, plus he was out for a little bit. But, overall he played well from what I saw.

LTP: Do you think teams are/will scheme around Campbell based on the respect they have for him?

BP: I would hope he has that much respect,but he’s only a sophomore. The kid has a ridiculous amount of potential. He’s smart, he works hard, he’s dedicated. As a freshman last year when I watched him everyday you couldn’t help but root for someone like that. The sky is the limit for him.

I thought Davion Fleming had a good game. He was running down hill, he made some plays. It was a little tough for me to watch the coverage in the back half on television, because it would be cut off quite a few times and I’m used to watching the coaching tapes that get cut up.

LTP: If Coach Fitz and/or Coach Brown asked you this week to come in and speak to the secondary, what would your message to them be?

BP: Trust your technique. Coach Brown is out there teaching them everyday, Coach Fitz is weighing in as well. You’ve been taught it, now trust it. Every one of them, whether they are a senior or a freshman has been out there all fall camp everyday practicing the technique. They know it. You can’t take this first game to heart. I’m not trying to make excuses, but there are so many variables in this first game – nerves, playing in unfamiliar atmosphere, let it go. Every single one of those kids in the back half is more athletic than I was, so now it comes down to trust and poise. That’s what I’d tell them.

LTP: Nick VanHoose seemed to have a very good game. What did you think?

BP: I can’t say enough about him. He has so much potential, I’m so impressed. He has a trigger like Sherrick McManis, his twists are fun to watch and he likes to hit. He’s humble as all get out, doesn’t have an ounce of arrogance and is extremely coachable. He is a guy that you have to keep an eye on because he is going to be great.

LTP: Explain “trigger”.

BP: Quickness. The ability to get from 0-to-60 fast, but also the ability to read three step and turn his hips. It’s special, not everyone that plays DB has it, but he (VanHoose) does. With time and experience it is something that he’ll develop and help him become a very good player.

LTP:  Fans often speculate about wide receivers converting to DBs. This year, with so much talent at WR, this transition will likely become a topic of conversation. Explain to fans just how difficult (or not) it is at this level to convert from a WR to a DB.

BP: At this level at a skill position you’ve got to have a lot of athleticism, and that would be there so there is nothing to say they couldn’t do it. However, it’s the things like learning technique, how to shade, how to help yourself on your turns that take repetition and experience. We’ve got really smart players so I’m convinced they could do it, but it’s a process and takes some time, it would be hard to just flip a switch and convert.

A funny story was two years ago we would flip freshmen and redshirt freshmen to play the opposite side of the ball just to see what they could do and test their athletic ability. I think we called it “Garage Sale” or something like that.  Kain Colter, who is so ridiculously athletic, looked smooth playing DB because he is so gifted, I remember that. Most people struggle when we did that ,but Kain looked natural at just about anything he did.

We 100% need him on the offensive side of the ball, he’s too valuable there!

LTP: Brian, we really appreciate the firsthand perspective and insights. Before we let you go, tell us about your journey. Where have you been since graduation and what is on the horizon?

BP: After I didn’t get drafted in the NFL, I got invited to a few minicamps. First, I went to Tampa Bay where they asked me to play linebacker and I played pretty well, I thought. The next weekend, I had to choose between the Eagles camp and the Bears and I chose the Bears camp because they had more open roster spots and the scheme was more suited to me than the Eagles. I played pretty well, but I didn’t do anything to make them keep me. I played hard and did what I could, but it didn’t work out. I then kept working out looking for opportunities and for three weeks I went to Des Moines, Iowa to play Arena League with the Iowa Barnstormers, so that was an experience. I played “jack” LB and “field” corner, which is different because of the rules an player positions on the field, but it really helped me out because it was a man-to-man scheme. But, the season ended so I came back to Chicago and two weeks ago I got a tryout with the UFL Omaha franchise. They called me recently and invited me to camp. I still have to make the team, but I feel pretty good about it and I’ll be heading there soon. Watching Drake and Jeremy during NFL preseason and then the football this weekend has me really hungry to kep playing football.

LTP: Well, we’re all rooting for you, so keep us posted. Thanks again and we look forward to reconnecting soon. In the meantime, welcome to life as a Wildcat fan. Not as easy as it looks!


Sippin The Kool-aid

One of my favorite features anywhere is SippinOnPurple’s screen-by-screen breakdown of plays. This week, “MountainTiger” breaks down all three NU passing TDs in great detail with screen captures and in-depth descriptions of the plays and how they developed. I had the chance to re-watch the game last night as ESPNU featured it as the Game of the Week replay and Kain Colter’s ability to avoid the rusher on his TD pass was simply brilliant – he made it look so easy. It’s that intangible that will make him so valuable, especially until our line gets playing well as a unit. Great work by SippinOnPurple and a must check out HERE.

DiNardo & Bacher Share Their Thoughts

PRR, butting in here. For more thoughts and analysis from Northwestern alumni on Saturday’s win over Syracuse be sure to check out Jack DiNardo’s analysis at PurpleWildcats.com and C.J. Bacher’s analysis with Wildcat Report (if you subscribe). DiNardo writes that while the defensive line was inconsistent, nobody should overlook the importance of Northwestern rallying together to get the win.

LTP Flag Project

As you dust off your Northwestern “N” flags in anticipation of this weekend’s home opener against Vanderbilt, know the LTP Flag Project is still going strong. Click on on the navigation bar at the top of this page to see the map dotted with “N” flags around the world. Kudos to Anakin and Sharon, who missed the Syracuse game as they were on their honeymoon in Morocco, but brought the NU flag to let the world know they were there in spirit. Great stuff and congratulations on your marriage!

Sharon and Anakin celebrate a 'Cats win on their honeymoon at Bin el Ouidane, Morocco















LTP Purple Challenge
Calling all fans! We need a flurry of NEW season ticket holders to make our goal. We’re over 60 NEW tickets away from reaching our goal of 200 NEW season ticket holders. Let’s use the comeback magic of the Syracuse came coupled with what looks like a 70-degree night for the 7pm kickoff against SEC rival Vanderbilt to get back on track. Email us at laketheposts@gmail.com and let’s get going! We’ve got four straight home games to do some damage and get momentum going. Who’s in?

Poll Results

We asked, you answered. It’s quite amazing that we’re 1-0 and so few people are excited. I guess the bar has unofficially been raised in year seven. Take a look.

How are you feeling after week one?

  • I’ll take a wait and see approach. One game doesn’t define a season (46%, 209 Votes)
  • Not so good. The coach talk is rhetoric – nothing has changed in our problem areas. Tired of talk, I want to see action. (40%, 185 Votes)
  • Fantastic – we’re 1-0! (13%, 61 Votes)
  • Other (1%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 459

  • VaWildcat

    Great interview! Thanks for sharing your analysis, Brian!

  • Joe

    We were at Syracuse, as well as BC and Army last year. It’s treat to see the Cats play out east as we live in Vermont.
    Syracuse is LOUD!!!! Even with only 39,000 fans. And HOT!!!
    The new road uniforms are OK but it’s hard to read a lt of the numbers from the stands.

  • cepbd

    {” this week they will break it down for him, he’ll get tons of practice reps and the coaches will focus on the things that need improvement and he’ll be ready to go.”
    –so we got burned by the deep ball all last year, they’ve had spring and fall to practice…and they don’t know how to defend a deep ball? what were they expecting was coming?
    “Trust your technique. Coach Brown is out there teaching them everyday, Coach Fitz is weighing in as well. You’ve been taught it, now trust it. Every one of them, whether they are a senior” .

    Their technique has been awful and no one made a play. Brown teaches them either poorly or the wrong thing.

    “We’ve played good halves of football before, but things just really seemed to be coming together,”

    We still played only 1 good half of football. Secondary broke down…nassib tore us apart.

    This shit is all window dressing. It’s all fine and dandy saying the right stuff, but until our secondary actually makes plays, turns and looks for the ball, and looks like it knows what it is doing…I mean how can we trust anything our coaches/players say??

    So what exactly has brown taught them this offseason that we’ve seen improvement in? Vandy QB is prob gonna smoke us again if they abandon the pass early.

  • Indycat15

    You’re being a little bit o a Pollyanna here. That was some great analysis by Peters. One of the things he said that stuck me the most is that VanHoose and Colter have great natural skills. I think CB is one of the biggest “you have it or you don’t ” positions in football. Sugar may have been taught excellent technique but if thou don’t have that knack for finding the ball you’re going to be exposed. And since he’s starting you have to assume he’s the best we have available. Got get someone new? Good luck. That position is at white premium at the highest levels. ‘How can we trust anything the coaches and players have to say?’. Really? You really expect Fitz to have a candid chat with the media about what his thoughts are? Does any coach or player do anything other than give out platitudes? No! They’re trained not to. What they say amongst each other is entirely different than what we the people get to listen to.

  • Indycat15

    Sorry for the autocorrect typos

  • LondonAlum

    I think think the interview with Brian Peters is really interesting because it gives me a different viewpoint into what most of we fans believe is a coaching deficiency. While I would not expect Brian to bad-mouth his former coaches, he said some things in this article that made me think about position coaches’ responsibilities in a different light. I am not saying that changes should not be made at the end of the season if the secondary’s performance does not improve, but I do agree with Brian that there were likely to have been first game jitters and mistakes that may be easily solved during the coming week.

    A lot of critics seem to believe that Hank, Jerry Brown and other defensive coaches either do not know or do not care that the defensive played poorly at times against Syracuse. I don’t think that’s the case. I am attempting to be optimistic that the defensive performance will improve against Vandy. I will probably not be able to watch the game (as I will be at a convention on Saturday and the game begins at 2am on this side of the pond). but I am hoping to hear that the D played much better.

    Thanks, Brian, for your insights and good luck in Omaha.

  • wcgrad

    So BP answered the question that someone jokingly threw out during the game: Can we get Colter to play DB? Or Vmark? I agree with BP on keeping them where they are at, but it would be great if we could get more athletes like that to play that position.

    One Q for a football player:

    Are CBs at a premium because they aren’t featured players – defense is much more a team concept than offense – and therefore outstanding athletes want to play QB/RB maybe even WR because you get more notoriety? Then only if you’re not top tier do you end up being a corner. If you’re a really high level program where you’ve got a lot of these athletes trying to get PT, then you have a Kain Colter on offense and another equivalent on D. Is CB one of the last positions to get filled because so few guys have the skill set AND the selflessness of Nick VanHoose AND aren’t extremely valuable in other ways (Colter/Mark)?

    Final stat question: How many total starts did our corners total prior to Saturday’s game? How many appearances? I hope the game “slowing down” for these guys helps their performance improve throughout the season.

    • cornerback is easily the hardest position to play. so much athleticism is required and an ability to read the game as well as react to your receiver, all that at the same time. the absolute best play cb, and i think the best cbs get their fair share of credit (charles woodson, tyrann mathieu, champ bailey), so i dont think it has to do with fame or anything (cbs are often really early picks in the first round), just an incredibly difficult position to play.

  • 1st down rawr-rawr-rawr

    LTP, this is one of the best Q&A’s you’ve ever done. Very interesting and timely analysis. BP, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

    It’s easy to paint Saturday’s secondary breakdowns as “same old story” from last year, but it simply isn’t true. I didn’t see the kind of total communication breakdowns and wide open receivers we saw multiple times per game last year, letting QB’s like Nathan Scheelhaase have career days on us. With the exception of 1 or 2 plays Saturady (e.g., Evans falling down in coverage on one of the TD passes), we saw a talented senior QB with no pressure on him throwing the ball to well-covered receivers and either threading the needle or getting interference calls. Not that the resulting flurry of TDs was any different, but I think the outlook is. Rather than being physically outclassed or out of position like we saw last year, the DB’s Saturday were surprisingly in perfect position on most of these long balls. They just didn’t trust themselves to turn their head and make a play. You even see this mistake in the NFL when a DB panics and doesn’t want to give up the big play. I hope that watching the tape and seeing how well they were covering will give these new starters the confidence they need to, as BP said, trust the technique next time out.

    What concerns me more is what seems like our unwillingness to put pressure on QBs late in the game. Unlike last year, it seemed like our LBs were actually getting home when we blitzed Saturday. There was one drive in particular where we completely blew up 2 consecutive passing plays due to blitzes. SU adjusted on the next drive with some screens and quick passes, but it seemed like we abandoned the blitz packages for the rest of the game after that and allowed Nassib to really settle into a rhythm.

  • brooklyncat

    In all seriousness….we have a fan named Anakin?!?!?!?

  • BleedPurple2009

    Loved this interview. Thanks so much Brian and LTP!

  • chartmoose

    Awesome commentary — gives me a new appreciation for what we saw on Saturday.

    At the same time, Syracuse passed for 470 yards against us.

    I’m hopeful this will be fixed, but I am heavily discounting the coach & player (& former player) perspectives.
    If it’s fair to say that we have really good quarterbacks & good wide receivers (I think that’s fair), then I think it’s also fair that we shouldn’t expect the teams we play to gain twice as many yards through the air as we do…

    We all love the ‘Cats (that’s why we come here), but the poll suggests that we were all a bit disappointed by some aspects of the Cardiac Cats’ win on Saturday.
    All of us (including BP) appear to agree with that…

  • Rule 7, Articles 8 and 9

    “You know, if you don’t turn your head, you’re going to get flagged.” It’s worth pointing out that that is NOT the pass interference rule in NCAA football. Basically, NCAA refs are watching too much NFL on TV, and it’s reached a point where it’s affecting the college game.

    Also, Joey Galloway sucks. “These officials have now made themselves part of the game! Blah, blah, blah!” Um, Joey, they’re AWLAYS part of the game. Situational officiating is bad officiating. Please take your stupidity back to Columbus and keep it there. The personal foul on the hit on Siemian was a close call, but it certainly wasn’t a bad call. The flag was very consistent with the way that penalty has been called the past few seasons.