Northwestern Spring Practice 4: Offense II

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 IV: Offense Part 2

You can't talk about the NU Offense, without talking to offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar.
He came to NU from Northern Iowa and took over as OC when Kevin Wilson moved to Oklahoma. A former Head Coach,and OC, he slid into the role of running the NU spread, but had to deal with a new quarterback, then the collapse of Tony Stauss and the rise of Brett Basanez and Alexander Webb [and Derell Jenkins].

When I've asked him (kidding) about the [suppossed] NU QB controversy, he's said (kiddingly, with a twinkle in his eye) when one of his charges slips up, "I'll just run another one in there."

And last year at the Spring Scrimmage in Trienens Hall, towards the end he looked at all the media people on the stars and asked if we wanted to see any other plays.


He has a Head Coach's sense of humor, but he also knows how to run the spread and seems to enjoy concentrating solely on offense. This year, his challenges are bringing the freshmen QBs to the next level, and creating an effective offensive line decimated by graduation.
On the record, any surprises this year?
Not really, no, we took a lot of things during the spring you're trying to look and evaluate and I think that's what we're able to do and now we'll kind of narrow it down get more specific as we move into the fall.
We saw some option early in the spring, didn't see any today..
No we didn't run any today. Quarterbacks are in green and they can't get hit so in scrimmages we do very little of the quarterback oriented run stuff and that's pretty much designed. We practice that during the week when its what we call "tag off" or "thud" when it becomes live its not fair to the defense because we don't want those guys to get hit we don't run much of that stuff during the scrimmages so we didn't do any today.
So how about the offensive line?
We'd like to stay healthy - would be our first goal. Unfortunately we're rotating a lot of guys our numbers are down and they've had to play more than one position and its been real tough for them hopefully we'll get some of those young men back healthy and we'll be able to solidify that in the fall.

That obviously is going to be a real goal for us in the fall is to solidify the continuity and the health of the offensive line.
How did Brett Basanez and Alexander Webb do this Spring?
They both made progress. Obviously Brett has the experience from last year and Alexander needs it so we pretty much wanted to get those two ready to play obviously with us moving Derrell those are the two guys

I thought they both made progress, both made a lot of gains. We tried to put some heat on them in regards to throwing the football and doing some things. We know they can both run and we did a lot of that stuff today - Like I was just saying with Roy here, in scrimmages we just don't do the QB run because they're not live could get hit and they're both coming off injuries so we'd just as soon not have them go back and into that area so we don't but,

They've all made progress, they've made gains and they're seeing the field better in the passing game, throwing hot better, some of those things are the most challenging and difficult as they get into the season, the fun part for them is they're both pretty natural runners and they do a nice job with the run.

With those guys its really the passing game, the checks and the hots that go along with seeing the field its the biggest challenge for young quarterbacks supposedly.

Throwing Blitz is here to stay in this league and we see a lot of it
Is Derell Jenkins going to keep his hand in at QB just in case the other two get hurt?
Yes. We kept him there the first couple of weeks. we just wanted to evaluate and because of our numbers we're not able to go two and three groups in regards to reps in practice so we thought lets take a look at him at running back. He's just an athletic young man, and he's just too athletic not to have an opportunity to contribute somewhere.

What little I saw, I'm not directly involved with, it looked like he might have found a home there. He is obviously a gifted athlete and he is going to help this football team somewhere.

We're going to keep his hand in at quarterback I think and its something we're going to evaluate as the summer goes on and we have to keep a solid 3 or 4 going at quarterback and Walter Cale, a young walk-on quarterback, who hasn't scrimmaged is in the play too. He's making very good progress, and we're bringing in a young man out of New Jersey [Chris Malleo] we signed so we're still pretty solid at Quarterback. We'll have to see how it evolves but know Derrell can do it.
What about Joe Ferguson ?
Fergusen right now, medically has not been cleared to go full, so his status is way back there, still on hold in regards to - I don't know all the medical reasons - he's still on hold, and that's to be determined, I don't know. To be honest with you, you're talking to the wrong guy.

He's been able to do some individual, and stuff of that nature, but that's it.

I guess with Derell at tailback, you'd have to say that Walter's #3, yes.
And I guess you could say you're "littered" with wide receivers?
I don't know about littered, I'd like to have 6,7,8 more. You know typical coach, right? Always want more? But no, I think we have a good stable of wide receivers and some of them have had the angles and different things that has limited some of their running:

Kunle [Kunle Patrick] obviously, but he's a pretty established player. Brandon Horn, unfortunately missed more of the spring than we'd like, he's a young man that has some talent. I thought Roger [Roger Jordan] had a very good day today [2 TDs] - Roger has that experience that he brings to the table and Ashton [Ashton Aikens] contines to make progress and Philmore [Mark Philmore] has a lot of, lots of ability, he needs to work on taking advantage of his quickness and his speed. You know guys jump up in his face and "prep" him and you know he's a buck 75 soaking wet, so ...
Is There a Go To guy?
Not from a speed factor. Kunle [Patrick] is more of possession type guy I think but he runs great routes and gets open. I would say Philmore, Ashton and Roger are probably the vertical type "go to" type guys in regard to speed and size. We're able to get the ball up there with Roger because of his size. We've been able to do that a number of times this spring and Ashton and Philmore are the fastest and now that we've moved the Backes' [Jeff Backes]and all those guys to corner.
There are a couple coming in that are not to bad.
Well we signed five, so we think those kids coming in will contribute to the depth and we certainly hope so. There are some kids there that we think can run so we think that will so we think that is a position that we will solidify.
And that's the word from OC Mike Dunbar after the Spring Scrimmage...
He's Pretty upbeat about his offense, but he's also reserved about who will be playing up front, a critical piece of his offensive puzzle.

You also sense that the offensive coaches are expecting some of the incoming wide receivers to contribute as true freshmen this year. You'd hope they would have a year to get oriented and learn the system, and a couple sound of them like kids that would be spectacular as redshirt freshmen, but there are few teams that are truly deep everywhere, and with 85 scholarships, NU is no different.

The questions that are still unanswered:
  • Is Trai Essex coming back?
  • What will the final Offensive Line look like?
  • Is adding elements of the option the new "wrinkle" that spreads the NU spread?
  • Can the New Attacking Defense stop the run? or the pass?
The First Answers Come August 30th...
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