Notes And Quotes

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald appeared confident and eager in Thursday's Big Ten media day press conference. Here's a look at some of the things Fitzgerald addressed about the upcoming season:

• To open: "This is arguably the most experienced team we've had since I've been the head coach. A group that's won as many football games as any other class in Northwestern's history."

• Fitzgerald said he has been giving advice to Dan Persa as he works through the recovery of Persa's torn Achilles tendon from last season:

"Number one, I wanted to talk to him about being patient, dealing with the rollercoaster. The first aspect is dealing with the fact that you're hurt and you can no longer play. What you're passionate about it's taken away from you."

• According to Fitzgerald, Persa's recovery is right on schedule:

"He's going to be back. It's going to be a little bit different because his body is going to operate a little bit different. He's 100 percent healed from the standpoint of the surgery, now it's about adding the strength, getting the conditioning level up, getting back to having fun. I know he's chomping at the bit to play football again."

• Northwestern will play 3 straight night games this season – Michigan, at Iowa, and Penn State on NU's homecoming. Fitzgerald said he was excited about the prime time appearances:

"It's going to be a lot of fun. There's something fun, especially when those lights come on, it's a neat environment. Our fans are excited about it…Our guys are excited about it.... Our brand is seen worldwide and nationwide to the recruits. We're thankful for that. That nighttime exposure is critically important for recruiting.

• Before NU can get to those night games, however, they must suffer one of the toughest out of conference schedules in program history:

"There's no question in my 10 years as a head coach, this will be our most challenging opener. We've got to have a tremendous sense of urgency in camp, not only to improve and get to where we need to be, but to get to Boston College. A few weeks later we go back on the road to West Point to play the option, to play that kind of football team, the physicality, the effort level they play with, how well they're coached. The discipline they play with is going to be a challenge for us. It's going to be critically important, in my opinion, that we start fast."

• Fitzgerald took an interesting approach to discussing the young core of linebackers that will take the field this season:

"I'm not going to mention any of their names. At the end of the day you have to go out and prove it, do it on the field. We got a lot of work to do. We have a young group. Guys like Bryce McNaul and Ben Johnson have played a lot of football for us. It's time for that group of guys to step up. When they do, I'll start talking about them a little more."

Before Fitzgerald walked off, he gave a classic "Go Cats" to the crowd of media. The king of coaching enthusiasm appears excited at the prospect of a special season in which Northwestern returns 17 starters, including 9 on offense.


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