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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get going! We’ve got four straight home games to do some damage and get momentum going. Who’s in?
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