Monday With The Wildcats

Northwestern coaches took advantage of the bye week for time on the recruiting trails, while coordinators stayed in Evanston to work with players. On Monday, the Wildcats regrouped and turned their attention to their game with the Fighting Illini. Get the details from the Nicolet Center in this PW Monday with the ‘Cats.

Pat Fitzgerald opened up well wishes for Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill, who checked himself into the Mayo Clinic for tests on his health. "He's a great friend of mine and tremendous person," Fitzgerald said. "You hate to see anything negative happen to anyone. He may be the toughest person in college coaching. Our thoughts and prayer for a speedy recovery."

• As usual, Fitzgerald touched on weekly awards from Army week. They are listed below:

o Offensive player of the game and offensive playmaker: Jeremy Ebert

o Offensive practice player of the week: Torrin Dupper

o Defensive player of the game and special teams player of the game: Jeravin Matthews

o Co-defensive players of the week: Tim Weak and C.J. Bryant

o Special teams player of the week: Nick VanHoose

• The Illinois week depth chart lists Jack DiNardo and Collin Ellis on the depth chart, fresh off injuries. Fitzgerald said that implies they're going to play.

• Fitzgerald addressed former Illini star Martez Wilson's comments that Illinois was Chicago's Big Ten team. He said, "They won a football game. When you win a rivalry game, sometimes, emotions get the most of you. If I'm not mistaken, it's trademarked to Northwestern. Now that he's in the NFL, we can go for some infringement."

• As will be the case all week, Northwestern players will be asked about last year's fiasco against the Illini. Senior CB Jordan Mabin addressed the game last November. "It's a new season," he said. "We've learned from the past, we know what happened last year, it's a whole new team, we've got new players in new positions, we just got to go out and play our game, Northwestern football."

• Coming off a bye week and entering Big Ten play, the Wildcats see Saturday's game as the start of a new season," said senior LB Bryce McNaul. "Anytime you enter Big Ten play, it's a different season. Everything is zero-zero against. All of our goals are attainable still."

• It took about seven minutes (which is possibly record time) for the words Dan and Persa to be mentioned. Fitzgerald was asked when the media will know that Persa will play. He joked, "I don't let you know anything, let's stay par for the course there." He went on to say, "I fully anticipate that Dan will play. How much (he will play) will be determined as the week goes. He's had a really good five-week period. He's gotten stronger and stronger. He was close against Army but we as coaches made the decision not to play him."

• Persa was asked if he'll be a bit too animated for his return. "I'm not really that type of guy," he said. "I don't get too high or too low, I'm even-keeled. I may be a little excited to begin with, but I'm not really that rah rah guy."

• Later on in Fitzgerald's time at the podium, he delivered a great quote on Persa: "I think the guy is pretty good. They put his picture on a billboard. I'm happy to have that guy back."

• Fitzgerald was asked about the ever-changing college football landscape, and how the Big Ten conference has played their cards. He said, "(The Big Ten) feels very confident in where we're at from a foundation standpoint."

• Fitzgerald touched on his conversation with sophomore quarterback Kain Colter, who blamed himself for the loss against Army. Fitzgerald told Colter, "In the end of the day, the reason why we're in a position to win is because of you."

• Former Wildcat Mike Kafka is now getting a chance to play for the Philadelphia Eagles, and may become the first NU alum to start at quarterback since Randy Dean. Fitzgerald commented on his former quarterback. "Everyone is really proud of Mike," he said.

• Senior guard Ben Burkett discussed his new role as a guard and how Brandon Vitabile has played at center. He mentioned how it will be beneficial to help Vitabile as Big Ten play begins.

Dan Persa also talked about the new guy who will be giving him snaps. Persa said he has a rhythm with Vitabile from preseason practices. He said, "I've practiced a bunch with (Vitabile)—all through camp.

• Jordan Mabin had nice things to say about freshman receiver Christian Jones. "I think he'll be a great receiver here at Northwestern," Mabin said. "Maybe one of the best."

The Wildcats will continue their week of preparations with a practice Tuesday morning. Stay with for coverage of the entire week as Northwestern gets ready for the Fighting Illini.

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