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.
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
We are two weeks in to our month-long LTP annual Pass the Hat campaign. We still need your help in underwriting th annual costs of keeping this site baked fresh daily! You can make a contribution by clicking here or email me at email@example.com if you have any issues. It’s one of the more humbling experiences to see the contributions come in from around the world. We’ll be passing the hat up until the Ohio State game, but from here on out it will be a footnote at the bottom of LTP posts. If you’re wondering why I make the ask you can check it out here.