Northwestern Spring Practice 3: Offense Part I

After the final scrimmage, the NU Coaches always talk with the media about the Spring Practices, changes that were made, what the team accomplished and who stepped up.<br><br> Here's Part III: <b>Offense Part 1</b>

Northwestern University has maintained its high scoring Spread Offense for the past 4 years and shows little sign of changing anytime soon.
But this year marked a significant changing of the guard up front on the offensive line, with the loss to graduation of two big members of the O-line and the loss to attrition of another.

But the machine keeps on rolling and seems to be able to put up points and gain yards, at least against the new attacking NU Defense.  The question I asked on the sideline at the end of the scrimmage was, "Is the Defense that good, or is the Offense that bad?"

That was the first question [posed in a little different way by Linsey Wilhite] asked of Randy Walker:
Was it a defensive kind of game or was it the offense out there?
I don't know, the offense made some plays too. I'd guess both sides of the ball.

I think the defense played well, I think they got better as the spring went on and that maturity that we developed, and especially we developed last year and sometimes is a difficult situation, I think, begin to take hold. We've seen guys play with more confidence, more maturity.

We've been able to, because of that knowledge, do some things. We've been able to expand our package, and create diversity, that some things that gives some problems.

I thought there was good on both sides of the ball. I thought the offense made some plays too, scored a couple of touchdowns, made a couple of big plays, but obviously the offense isn't as productive as we'd like to see it at this point, and mostly because we suffered too many "self inflicted wounds."

Once we take negative plays out of the offense, we can be pretty solid.
Are you considering a competition between "Baz" [Soph Brett Basanez] and Webb [Fr Alexander Webb] or does Baz go in one and ...
:"Baz" is number one, and I can't tell you for sure what happened today, it kind of runs together, all I know is that there's a green shirted guy out there I'm trying to protect..

I'm not sure who did what today, I know we threw a couple of touchdown passes, and that's good, but we'll just evaluate it...

Over the long haul in the course of the Spring, I think Brett has continued to grow and then take the experience that he had last fall and build on it and get better, of course I've seen good things out of Alexander, I think he's had a very good Spring.

The  real disappointment for him [Webb] last year is obviously the injury, but he missed all the practices. He really is behind most freshman , he has fewer practices than the average Freshman Quarterback at this point, so, he's got some work, but he's making big strides, so I'm pleased with both of them.

I think we have a great situation, the best I've had since I've been at Northwestern.
Who early made some moves and bolstered their situation in your eyes as the Spring went along?
Ironically, the third quarterback [Freshman] Derrell Jenkins, for a one week running back, he got a chance, he needs to put some lead in his pencil to be a real good one, but I think the progress, he's got some skills, and you saw that on returns today. He's the one making big plays on returns.

We've finally taken away his free pass card [green - don't touch - jersey] that quarterbacks get when they come here and he's playing football like the rest and he's seeing some football - he has some big play capabilities, don't be surprised to see Derrell not only as a return guy, but getting in the fray as a running back, and I think he has a chance to keep growing.
What about the "No Huddle?"
We've still maintained that No-Huddle as you've seen. We just want to spend more time in the huddle and do that.

There's no real logic to it. This wasn't a game - we're just trying to run plays
Is Matt Ulrich the solution at center?
Yes, no question. I suspected that all along, I said it back in the Winter, I thought he had the best chance of being what we were looking for at Center.

Now don't get me wrong, I think Jim Devine can be pretty good, he got some snaps prior to his injury. The same thing is true of Vince Clarke, Vince's got a chance to be a decent Center, but he missed some snaps - he missed some reps this Spring, he's out right now.

I really thought we needed to have a veteran guy going at Center, and I was a little concerned about - then again I had a lot of confidence in the guys I just mentioned and Joe Tripodi [RS Fr 6-3 280] [also sitting out the spring with an injury] - but I'd just rather have a 4 or 5 year guy sitting in the middle.

We are doing some crossover work, with guys going on both sides of the ball - Matt Ulrich is playing on the defensive line on the goal line. We'll take some defensive guys like Backes over and have them some offense.

 I like Matt Ulrich No doubt about it, he's just what we need there and we just need to build around him
 And the rest of the O-Line?
If we played tomorrow, I'd say Greg [RS So Greg Lutzen - #61 6-4 270] and Ike [RS JR Ikechuku Ndukwe - #60 6-5 325] are the two guards. I expect them to be very good for different ways and different reasons, but I think they can be very very good guards for us.

They need great summers, great separations, but you can't coach feet and you can't coach balance and they're big strong kids and they're both 3 and 4 year veterans and they're not rookies. I told both of them its your time, step up to the fight - its there take it.

But I think they'll get pushed. Its unfortunate that Joe Tripodi missed the Spring, he'll be back, in fact he's cleared to go now - wish he could have gone in the Spring.

Joe Tripodi
is a heck of a football player.  He did really a nice job last Fall. I fully expect him to battle those guys.

Jim Devine will be in that mix.

But right now ... those two guys ... I'm pleased with where they're at.
So forget that talk about [Incoming Freshman] Trevor Rees being your starting center?
I think he's a very good football player, a good signee. I'd really rather not play Freshmen, but he might. He could be in there.

I'd rather not play the freshmen, it happened, but we won 3 that year too.
Any Surprises this Spring?
[long pause] I expect them all to be good. That's my problem, I really think they're going to be good players.

We've got some good kids, and we've got a lot of prospects here today, so we'll see.
Next Up - Offensive Coordinator Mike Dunbar - in Offense Part II...and then some thoughts on who  will actually be on the offensive line and why there might be all that churn up front...

Questions after the scrimmage came from the media:
Including: Skip Myslenski - Chicago Tribune, Larry Watts - Evanston Review,
Linsday Wilhite - The Daily Herald, Roy Lamberton - Purple Reign,
and reporters from WNUR and The Daily Northwestern
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