And Away We Go…
Think back to last year at this time. We were beyond skeptical of the 2012 season. Persa was gone. Our secondary showed no hint of improving, and even worse, with the graduation of Jordan Mabin, seemed destinted to get worse. Our pass rush was anemic and we were losing some pretty big names on offense. We had no reason to believe a 1,000 yard rusher was anywhere in sight. Then BOOM! 10-3, a bowl win and as is now the mantra for this spring, just 5:03 away from a BCS berth. Yes, day one of practice was without pads, but with a mantra the team has embraced. They were THIS close to having an unforgettable season and it is the driving force to get them to focus on taking the next step in 2013.
Despite the littany of players (13) sidelined for the spring, there is very little drama as day two of practice is complete. We know we’ve got a 2-QB system. We’ve got an All-American back at PR and a potential B1G MVP at RB in Venric Mark. Yes, the big question is replacing three starters on the OL. There are still concerns at CB opposite Nick VanHoose. There are all kinds of exciting potential upgrades to already areas of strength, like the DL (ex – will Ifeadi work his way past Dean Lowry and the likes of Deonte Gibson?). We’re in a whole new realm of good challenges to have. We know what we’ve got coming back and we know the areas of potential growing pains, which based on what we thought going in to 2012 means we absolutely nothing.
Chris Emma reported from day one that it appears Drew Smith is the man to beat at the weakside (WILL) linebacker slot. Joseph Jones has converted to LB as well and is competing for the number two slot. Ian Park (C) and Eric Olson (G) are going to be the beneficiaries of some higher than expected reps on the OL due to some injuries. All in all, when we’re talking about who is competing for the #2 slot in a 2-deep, we’re at least mentally in a fun place as fans.
Here is a neat feature by Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports that puts Fitz in a very good light. Forde took the list of every college team and measured the difference between their 2012 final Sagarin ranking and the ranking in total number of NFL combine participants. Northwestern is tied for 90th with ZERO combine participants, but finished first overall in his math equation (+69) based on the high finish. It’s obviously unscientific, but leads Forde to the conclusion that his past year, Northwestern leads his league in doing the most with the least.
Oh Yes, Basketball
Northwestern hosts #16 Ohio State (20-7, 10-5) in a series that is becoming unique for the fact that the ‘Cats continue to play the Buckeyes extremely close, regardless of how high they’re ranked. The game is getting the ESPN2 treatment (6pm ct) which might not be a good thing. With a trio of blowout losses which NU mustered an average of 41 points, it seems unlikely the ‘Cats can repeat their feat of hanging with the Buckeyes like we did just a few weeks ago in Columbus. The ‘Cats looked like they weren’t even giving full effort a week ago when we got throttled by Wisconsin at home. Thankfully, there is only one more home game left after tonight, Reggie Hearn night next Thursday against Penn State.
March Recruiting Madness
Both Chris Emma and Louie Vaccher are reporting that this weekend is a big one for Northwestern recruiting. Several prospects will be in town to check out the ‘Cats including the likes of Marist TE Nic Weishar who is also making the rounds to Michigan and Notre Dame right now. Parrker Westphal, one of the higher touted prospects on the ‘Cats list, a 4-star CB (Ohio State, Nebraska and slew of others) will also be on campus this Friday. There are reports of several more that may be attending and I’m sure both PurpleWildcats.com and WildcatReport.com will be all over it.