Long’s Shot

Later today, we’ll get to some interesting B1G doings ranging from the Pac-12’s vague apology to Nebraska fans being on the verge of mutiny in the wake of some serious heat for Bo Pelini that brought his hot-headedness to the forefront once again.

This morning, though, we’re going to focus on the Wildcats latest RB to grace the 2013 roster – Warren Long. A week ago, PurpleWildcats.com’s Nick Medline discovered that the freshman from Union City, California would likely be burning his redshirt. At the time I paused and thought “that’s odd, why would Fitz burn a redshirt, something he is loath to do on a RB so far down on the depth chart?” Of course, my paranoia set in and I immediately went to “that place” wondering just how bad Venric Mark’s injury must be. After the WMU game in the postgame interviews, it was revealed (it was visible on his arm during the game) by Kain Colter that Stephen Buckley had a wrist injury. But, that alone is not why it made sense.

Malin Jones is moving to Superback.  The uniquely named hybrid halfback/tight end position appears to be the RS freshman’s ultimate destination. If you go back and watch the Western Michigan game you’ll see #20 getting quite a few reps out of the backfield. Almost every time he was in the backfield he was one of two players split behind Kain Colter and he would bolt downfield to create the lead block.  Simply put, he lined up in the halfback formation and would release -either as a blocker or as a potential receiver.

The ‘Cats coaching staff may not have come out and stated this for the fans, but it seems pretty clear to me Malin’s role is shifting.  When you add in the injuries to both Venric Mark (hamstring…errr, lower leg) and Stephen Buckley, the depth chart doesn’t look so deep.  That puts Treyvon Green, the MVP of the team to date, as your starting RB with Mike Trumpy #2 and now Warren Long is either a #3 or #4 depending upon Stephen Buckley’s wrist.

Long had a beautiful first carry of his collegiate career. He has Stephen Buckley’s shoe to thank for that. The banged-up Buckley had just made back-to-back receptions with around 11 minutes to go in the 4th quarter and NU cruising with a 38-17 lead. Buckley pulled himself out as his shoe had come off and Warren Long entered stage left. Long immediately took the hand-off and jabbe to his left, cut back to the right, found a seam and beat the defender to the boundary for a 13-yard gain. Welcome to the big time! Warren immediately followed-up with a three yard reception to the same sideline. On the subsequent play he got stood up at the line and then gang tackled for no gain.

I don’t expect an official announcement regarding this backfield shuffle anytime soon. Jones is still a threat to run in the two-back formation, but watch it yourself and you’ll see he’s lined up like a Superback, blocking regularly like a Superback and occasionally – but not often – is releasing like Dan Vitale.  In the meantime, Warren Long is yet another Wildcat trying to make the best of an opportunistic situation as Wildcat Nation anxiously awaits the return of #5 Venric Mark.

Keep an eye on the RBs this weekend and pay close attention to both #20 and #34 and tell me what you see.

Pasadena Dreamin’

BTN.com’s Tom Dienhart has his weekly bowl projections out and he has..wait for it…wait for it….NORTHWESTERN GOING TO THE ROSE BOWL. OK, before you get too excited, he has us playing, gulp, Oregon. But, this is the first time in the Fitz era, I’ve actually seen anyone pick this in their projections.  Looooong way to go.

Monday Practice Notes

Fitz is doing exactly what you’d expect him to do – alert folks that Maine is 3-0 and an FCS team in a year when FCS teams are beating FBS teams with regularity. The theme of the week, though, was getting practice schedule back to “normal”.  Let’s hope it translates in to stepping up from the opening gun.

Moment of Silence for Mike Dunbar

Northwestern lost a member of its football family yesterday. Former OC, Mike Dunbar (2002-2005), who served alongside Pat Fitzgerald under Randy Walker, passed away Monday after a year-long battle with cancer. Dunbar was 64.

The ‘Cats will honor the highly successful coach by wearing “MD” stickers on their helmets this Saturday. Dunbar was 83-24 as a head coach (Central Washington, Northern Iowa) in addition to assistant stints at NU, Cal, Minnesota and Toledo among others. Our condolences to his family and friends.

LTP Pass the Hat
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  • cardiac cat fan

    I think the transition of Malin Jones to Super Back and the RB addition of Warren Long speak to a gradual change in Fitz’s coaching philosophy since 2006, that being, 1. your best athletes play no matter their class, and 2. player versatility within the offense vital to future success. With that being said:

    Last year NU kept a lot in the bag offensively until the first conference game against Indiana. For the first time that game we saw Colter and Siemian on the field at the same time (we know OSU has seen the film and will be ready for it).

    This season – like last season – the ‘Cats have been somewhat reserved offensively against non con opponents. I think because of injury to key players on offense and strength of schedule. My question is, come Oct. 5th what will that NU offense look like?

    also, how do I get my hands on that UA zip-up Fitz is wearing in the video? I want one!

    • Chaddogg

      Agreed. That’s a great zip-up….NU needs to do a better job marketing/selling the Under Armour gear that our coaching staff/players are wearing. I’m having a hard time finding a lot of the stuff I’ve seen on the sidelines anywhere in stores or online.

      • zeek

        Yeah, seems as if some of the stuff that the coaches wear (in particular HCs like Fitz and even KAH) has been specially designed for them. Understandable considering their positions, but would be nice if the fans could get access to some of this stuff.

        • David Plunkett

          They also need to offer more items with the stripe. I had to order from Fanatics.com, the BTN’s online store, to find something.

          • Fanaticat

            Gah! Now I stumble on that website after dropping $200 at Let’s Tailgate when I was in town last weekend. Why don’t they get all those great UA shirts with the Northwestern stripes that are available on Fanatics.com? They have so much other stuff in the store you think they’d be able to get more of the stuff that matches the uniform theme.

    • Old Fat Bald Guy

      Philosophy might have changed, but is part of it also that the recruits are better and closer to being ready when they arrive at NU?

  • zeek

    I’m not really sure what Nebraska fans expect. They don’t really recruit at the level of the top football powers (Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, etc.), and they’ll never be able to re-capture what made them special in the Osborne era into the mid-90s because so many more schools care about succeeding at football now. All those talented players have so many closer options that they didn’t have in the 90s or before that.

    I mean look at our recruiting this year; we have 2 of the preseason top 10 Illinois players.

    If they fire Pelini when he’s never won less than 9 games there or lost more than 4, it’s just unfathomable to me.

    • CatInTheHat

      All good points, but when you have a head coach telling the fans to go eff themselves, you have issues beyond recruiting and on-field performance.

      • Chaddogg

        As a counterpoint, I’d say when you have “fans” or “boosters” leaking 2-year old audio tapes of your coach in a private moment of frustration, where the only reason for the leak appears to be to embarrass the coach and kick him when he’s down, your team is going to have a hard time pulling an excellent coach to Lincoln.

        (I mean, really — you don’t think Fitz probably dropped a couple f-bombs in private over the fact that the team had to go to a silent snap count against Nebraska last year because our “fans” didn’t show up in sufficient enough numbers?)

        • CatInTheHat

          Oh, I’m sure. I do think that this was an egregious case. He repeatedly says “the fans, [F] the fans, [F] em all,” etc., within earshot of multiple members of the media as he is sitting down to do a postgame interview. I do think there is a difference between that behavior and Fitz sitting in his office saying privately to his staff, “these [F’ing] fans need to show up, it’s f’ing ridiculous,” or something like that. But yes, the motive of the fans or boosters who released that audio was obviously to stir up trouble.

          But I do think that Nebraska is one of those fan bases–classy though they are–that is a bit delusional regarding their place in the pantheon of college football.

        • LTP

          All of us, if taped unknowingly have moments we’d regret. I think the leaking of this strategically timed, illegally acquired audio is really, really bad.

          • Chasmo

            Coaches in the past used to go off on obscene tirades against reporters all the time and the reporters would shrug it off and not report it. [One of the most legendary is Tommy LaSorda’s five-minute f-bomb rant after — if memory serves — reporter asked him if Dave Kingman had hurt the Dodgers after Kingman hit a game winning home run.] The Nebraska beat writers present during Bo’s peeps obviously treated it the same way.
            Now it comes out in the media two years later because somebody want Bo to go. It will teach coaches a lesson, perhaps, that the old agreement about getting away with ranting in front of reporters no longer exists.

        • cece

          rocking great second paragraph!!!!!

  • Joe


    Very Interesting! (even if it is wikipedia)

  • Scooter

    Question regarding practice scheduling: Does anyone know if the ‘Cats plan to switch back to night practices next week to prepare for OSU at night?

  • PDXCat

    No disrespect intended but given the way Green is running and what Trumpy is capable of, I don’t find myself anxiously awaiting Venric’s return. Would I like him back? Obviously. But I don’t see this as a “well, without him I just don’t know how far we can go” situation.

    This is a by-product of the uptick in recruiting. We did just fine without Kain and V at Cal. And once things get squared away, if need be, maybe Harris can provide on returns what V did.

    • Old Fat Bald Guy

      I agree that NU isn’t missing Mark as much as we would have expected, but he’s a different type of back than Green or Trumpy. And I liked Harris’ kickoff return, but it’s one return against a MAC team. Given what the Broncos did on their remaining three kickoffs, I’d say the coaches don’t have a vast amount of confidence in the kick-coverage squad.

    • Mark

      The Cats don’t run the zone read running plays with Colter without Mark. After Mark went out we only see straight handoffs and some option pitch running plays, but no zone read with two dangerous runners in Colter and Mark. So far this hasn’t been a problem, but I think during conference play the Cats are going to face tougher defenses than they’ve seen so far so Mark, in my opinion, is indispensable. Not saying the Cats couldn’t win 8 – 10 games without him but the upside with Mark available is much, much greater.