Yech. That is the thought of anyone suffering through a miserable Chicago commute at the time of this post. YES! That is the mindset of most Wildcat football fans on the eve of the kickoff to Northwestern’s spring football. The ‘Cats are getting all kinds of press, including this feature by USA Today’s (and LTP fav) Paul Myerberg (aka the king of college football countdowns) and this great Q&A exchange between ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg and Pat Fitzgerald.
I’m going to share most of this post on Rittenberg’s Q&A, but first, it is important to note 13 players in total will be sitting out this spring football season with injuries. I’m not going to get too worked up over the injury list, but it is pretty deep. Three starters, including LB Damien Proby, CB Nick VanHoose and OT Jack Konopka are all out. Plus, several key players expected to compete for starting jobs are also sidelined including both Paul Jorgensen and Matt Frazier on the OL, while the DL misses out on Will Hampton and Deonte Gibson. WR Kyle Prater will be out this spring as well. Yikes.
Fitz continues to become more comfortable in his information sharing and the like with the media. It may be his single biggest growth area in his seven years in Evanston. There were several key things I gleaned from the exchange with Adam Rittenberg.
- Moving up practices maximized potential injury recovery time AND accommodated the finals and spring break schedule.
- Momentum of the success while contrasting that with a “starting over” approach was intriguing.
- The seemingly Moneyball-like analytics he’s referring to as to how they are approaching implementing the bigger picture schemes after getting the foundation set.
- Speed, speed, speed. When a coach acknowledges a team trait like this publicly, you know he’s giddy about it.
There are 15 practices set between February 27 through the April 13 Spring Game (heretofore always in all caps to underscore its importance). This time of year I wake up every morning (or check online every afternoon) and hold my breath that there are no (more) injuries. It’s the ying to the positive yang of hoping today’s the day we land that next commitment (or is it ying to the yang?). Fitz specifically mentioned the ‘Cats “Winning Edge” workout regimen and how he knew based on last year’s measurements that the team was on to something big. Well, I’m working on a story right now on this program and how much it’s become legend and lore among former Wildcat players. Stay tuned for that.
You can also already tell Fitz isn’t shy about the Big Ten title as the stated goal. He’s slipping it in to responses already, yet another sign of media relations changes. Last year, too, he was pretty vocal about being THIS close to it and even acknowledged that the media didn’t believe him (after a 6-7 season), but he was confident. Now, a year later, his assessing the fact both Kain and Trevor will be very much a part of the Big Ten title quest, and the way he addresses it head on is something that media, even national media, like Paul Myerberg, are promoting as a realistic potential. Everyone is 0-0 again and the momentum is on our side. I’m excited to get in to some football. How about you?