The expectation for 2011 is that Persa will make an increased effort to keep himself healthy. To achieve that, he will have to limit the amount of running he does, both designed runs and scrambling. Returning experience at the running back position will certainly help keep Persa's contributions to the ground game few and far between.
"The less running I do the better just to keep myself healthy," Persa said. "[We have] great backs, especially Mike [Trumpy]. He's put himself in a position to have a big year, and I think he's going to."
In addition to a more experienced backfield, Northwestern returns four starters on the offensive line. For Persa, the increased experience in front of him is invaluable.
"We know what's coming. They've seen every scheme and every blitz, so they're prepared for most things," he said.
Experience on the line and in the backfield will be helpful, but perhaps the most vital experience is in the receiving core. NU returns standouts Jeremy Ebert and Drake Dunsmore, as well as Demetrius Fields, Rashad Lawrence, and Tony Jones, all of whom saw significant playing time last season.
"It helps a lot. I have guys almost like a safety net," Persa said. "You make a bad read, make a bad throw, they're going to make a play on the ball and hopefully make a catch for you, so it helps a lot."
Persa will need all the help he can get from his fellow offensive starters. According to Coach Fitzgerald, the process of preparing for the season may be more difficult for Persa than last season.
"He's going to come back to football not in the shape maybe the last time he played," Fitzgerald said. "That's going to be really frustrating. How you shake the rust off, look at it from a bigger perspective, yeah, you have to take it day-to-day."
Injury recovery aside, Persa has been hyped for this season more than any other NU player in recent history. With consistent Heisman talk from Fitzgerald and those close to the program, Persa has had to keep a level head during the off-season.
"Obviously you grow up thinking it'd be cool to win the Heisman or to be named with the Heisman. When it happens, it's almost a surreal thing," Persa said. "That's why I don't put too much thought into it. It's cool, but it's kind of out of my control…[Coach Fitzgerald] has said take [expectations] with a grain of salt. Things will come, but at the end of the day, you can only control yourself."