A Nice Reception

When Kevin Johns left the Northwestern coaching staff, Pat Fitzgerald was looking for a new coach who fit with the Wildcats' scheme and personality. That's where Dennis Springer came in.

With a vacant spot on the coaching staff, Pat Fitzgerald began a search to find a replacement for Johns' spot. He interviewed a number of candidates, but found a good fit with the help of a recommendation from former Indiana head coach and longtime friend, Bill Lynch.

"Coach Lynch and I have a great relationship, and I have a ton of respect for him," said Fitzgerald. "That recommendation was enough for me to sit down and talk to Dennis. He's a great family man, great teacher, great recruiter, and a personality that I thought fit in really well."

It basically worked as a swap. Kevin Johns left to Kevin Wilson's coaching staff at Indiana, and Dennis Springer joined the Northwestern coaching staff. In the end, the Wildcats found the perfect fit to their coaching staff.

But with any coaching change, the hardest part is making the transition work smoothly. Being a part of a college football is a year-round commitment, and there's no easy time for a "smooth transition".

When Dennis Springer joined the Northwestern football program, he had to quickly jump in as a recruiter while learning the playbook and getting to know the rest of the coaching staff and his new group of players.

"I'm sure it's not too easy on him," Fitzgerald said of Springer's transition. "We've been trying to help him out, but he's doing a great job so far."

The Northwestern coaches were very familiar with Springer. He served for three seasons as Indiana's running backs coach and co-special teams coordinator. In addition, NU offensive coordinator Mick McCall worked with Springer at Bowling Green.

Now, Springer is getting to know the Wildcat players, and the players are getting to know their new coach. Thus far, that's been no problem for senior wide receiver Jeremy Ebert and the rest of the Northwestern receiver core.

"He's always upbeat, and always positive, we love that in the wide out room," Ebert said of his new position coach. "He really stands by us, and you can't ask for more than that."

The toughest adjustment for Springer has been getting to know how Northwestern operates. When Springer arrived in the Wildcat football program on January 31st, he had to temporarily leave his family behind so he could get right to work. That time was spent learning about Northwestern's program and studying Mick McCall's offense.

"I had a lot of time when I got here in Evanston to stay in the meeting room, stay in the film room, and learn this as fast as I could over the spring," Springer said.

The next adjustment for Springer to make was switching from coaching running backs to wide receivers. As a running backs coach at Indiana, he helped lead the Hoosiers to three successful seasons of the ground attack, with his best season coming in 2008, a season where his running backs rushed for over 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns.

However, making the transition to a new position was nothing new for Dennis Springer. In his 18 years of coaching, Springer has had six different roles on a coaching staff, including a couple as a defensive coach.

"Learning new positions and coaching new positions along the way, it only makes you a better coach," Springer said.

When Springer arrived in Evanston, he found himself in a fortuitous situation. He takes over a group of receivers that tallied more than 3,000 total receiving yards in 2010. With the exception of departed senior Sidney Stewart, the Wildcats' leading receivers from last season all return.

Now that he's the man in charge, Springer is working to make the entire group gel as one.

"With Jeremy Ebert, Demetrius Fields, and Charles Brown—who are the veterans of the group—they've been very, very good in the meeting room and on the field as leaders. There are some young guys who played last year as true freshman. Venric Mark, Rashad Lawrence, and Tony Jones. Bringing those guys along in spring is very important for this group. We're meshing well and working hard, so things are going well."

With the Wildcats' spring practices more than a month deep, Dennis Springer is now learning how Pat Fitzgerald runs practices, and adjusting his own style accordingly—one of the biggest challenges of joining a new coaching staff.

"Everybody does things a little bit differently," Springer said. "Coach Fitzgerald organizes things a little bit differently and runs practice and meetings a little bit different. It's just a matter of adjusting to the tempo of practice, the organization or practice, the scheme itself, so those are the major adjustments.

Now that Dennis Springer has been with the NU football program for more than two months, he is finally fitting in with the rest of the team. A coaching switch can often be a difficult transition as one coach leaves and another one enters the fold. It has been a smooth transition for Springer, thanks to his friendly and outgoing personality that makes everybody around him feel comfortable

"He's a great guy, and easy to talk to," Jeremy Ebert said. "It's been an easy transition for us so far."


Purple Wildcats Top Stories