Since last October–during state playoffs–I have grown preoccupied with the idea of former Maine South quarterback Matt Alviti leading the Rose Bowl 2016 charge, promotional campaign or not.
Big Ten Media Days reminded me of something. These incoming freshmen, once revered in high school, arrive to the most difficult environment.
I asked Kain Colter about Alviti. He responded: "I've seen him in workouts. I don't watch his highlight tape from high school. I mean, all of that's really pointless.
"Some guys step up and some don't."
Redshirting–at first trivial and boring to discuss– provides some basis for NU's success. Ibraheim Campbell was an unknown on the sidelines three seasons ago and tends to credit his redshirt season for helping him progress.
You can't imagine the repressed competition on the sidelines. Guys, I'm sure, think they can contribute immediately and get left out. It's the off-field mental toughness that translates to future success.
A "buzz" guy this offseason, Tyler Scott came to campus needing to learn an entirely new position. While even greater and more polished high school talent will walk through the doors (class of 2014), they are forced to rebuild their reputations.
In the past, truthfully, there has been a surprising lack of correlation between star ratings and on-field success.
Scott echoed many others in saying that the redshirt year provides an opportunity for some of the lesser-known talent to make strides. It sometimes evens out.
"It's definitely about learning our scheme," he said. "You could be the biggest freak of an athlete out there, but you need to pick up the defense. That's how Dean Lowry got to play so much. He picked things up very quickly and that helped him."
Scott mentioned work in the film room as the most important point of transition. They watch it everyday, and often include prospective recruits in these sessions.
This is another season in which some of last year's redshirts will be called upon to fill roles. The offensive line could use the help of Ian Park—my prediction to earn a starting role in that unit. Others can harness the energy, like Scott, and use these development years to an advantage.
As difficult as it is to stay focused in that first season, the process can work: Just look at the composition of NU's roster.
"You might be dozing off in meetings as a freshman," Scott said, "but if you take it seriously, you end up learning a lot."
Stay tuned to PurpleWildcats.com as Northwestern reports to practice on Monday afternoon.