I visited the Northwestern football office Thursday afternoon to chat with Pat Fitzgerald, offensive coordinator Mick McCall and defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz.
The joint was buzzing with activity as there’s less than three weeks before the Wildcats start spring practice --- which means the coaches are still cranking through 2010 season video and settling on their points of emphasis for spring ball -- yet the Winning Edge conditioning program (and thus the Wildcat Games) began on Tuesday.
And, yes, you read correctly about spring ball. NU gets started on March 7 as a response to some quirks in the academic calendar and as a way to give the players and coaches more time together before the spring quarter concludes in June.
Here’s the plan:
Week of March 7: Four practices (also Reading Week)
Week of March 14: OFF (Finals)
Week of March 21: OFF (spring break)
Week of March 28: Four practices
Week of April 4: Four practices
Week of April 11: Three practices, capped by Spring Game at 12 p.m. on Saturday the 16th.
Not only does this allow the coaches to hit the road recruiting a little sooner (Illinois, NIU and many others hold their spring games on April 23), the coaches and players can be together for four weeks before spring quarter ends. Ordinarily, they get two or three weeks together before the summer no-contact period begins.
We’ll hit on a lot of football topics in this space over the next week or so --- the “Winning Edge” conditioning program began Tuesday and Fitz says the squad is in the best shape it has ever been at this juncture --- but I’ll hit a few personnel things to get started.
--KAIN COLTER’S STATUS
If you recall, the true freshman QB rushed for 105 yards and 2 TDs in the TicketCity Bowl as part of his time-share with Evan Watkins. Fitzgerald and McCall both say Colter remains a QB, but it’s not like he’ll be practicing how to waggle in signals to incumbent Dan Persa.
“He’s a quarterback,” Fitzgerald said. “Oh, absolutely. But he can do a lot of things, though. We’ll have fun with him. There’ll be ways he’ll get involved. He won’t be watching a lot of football.”
Said McCall: “He’s a guy we’ve got to get on the field.”
--POSITION CHANGE (AND NON-CHANGE)
Freshman wide receiver Jimmy Hall, who impressed last fall before getting dinged up in practice, is shifting to safety.
Sophomore Roderick Goodlow, who retains three years of eligibility after sitting out the 2010 season after an operation to clean up his knee, hasn’t moved to defensive end. He remains an outside linebacker. And with two LB spots open due to the graduations of Quentin Davie and Nate Williams, let’s just say that Fitzgerald and Hankwitz are quite eager to see all Goodlow can do this spring.
--SURGERIES AND WHATNOT
As everyone knows, QB Dan Persa won’t be doing much during spring ball as his ruptured right Achilles’ tendon continues to heal. Fitz says he’s busy watching his teammates work out and filing away thoughts on their habits.
Starting OLB Bryce McNaul underwent shoulder surgery on Wednesday and will miss at least the first week of spring drills, though Fitz is optimistic he can return.
Starting DT Jack DiNardo underwent shoulder surgery, too, and he won’t do spring ball.
Nickel back Hunter Bates, who broke his leg in the TicketCity Bowl, also will sit out spring ball to aid his recovery.
Starting RB Mike Trumpy is getting close after missing the final two games with a fractured wrist. Sounds like he might miss the first week of spring ball, but return for the rest.
More to come in the days to come…