Presser Notes: More praise for Vitale

Quick hits from Northwestern's Monday presser. The Wildcats return to action Saturday against Maine.

Pat Fitzgerald sees Maine as a well-coached opponent and respects their undefeated record, regardless of who they've played. He says that the Black Bears' defense is structurally very similar to Western Michigan's, and he has respect for tight end Justin Perillo: "They use their tight ends in a lot of great unique ways; a lot of motion, a lot of shifts. Justin Perillo does a lot to you." Perillo had a touchdown catch against Bryant last Saturday.

— NU will wear stickers on their helmets Saturday to honor Mike Dunbar, a former superbacks coach and offensive coordinator with the Cats from 2001-05. Dunbar passed away Friday after a lengthy battle with cancer. "We'll play with heavy hearts," Fitz said.

— Fitzgerald is excited to get back to a normal morning practice regimen. Northwestern's practice schedule for the first three weeks of the season has been derailed by travel preparation and a heat wave that hit Evanston last week. "There is nobody in the country more ecstatic than me right now," he said. "We can practice at midnight or four in the morning, I don't care."

— Though Fitzgerald was disappointed with empty drives that moved past the 50 on Saturday, he had praise for the way his offense recovered and responded. "A lot of self-inflicted wounds" need to be corrected this week.

Dan Vitale was in on a career-high 66 plays Saturday, and Fitz said it was the most physical game of his career. "Danny's role was a little bit different Saturday based on what we wanted to do schematically," he said. Fitzgerald compares Vitale's true freshman progression last year to Matt Harris' this year. That could be telling: Vitale's impact was limited through the first three months of the 2012 season, but wound up leading the Wildcats in receiving in the Gator Bowl.

— Fitz notes that Ibraheim Campbell has incredibly unique ball skills, and is continuing to play at an "all-Big Ten level." He compares his playmaking ability to the jump-ball game "500."

— Fitzgerald is excited to add speedster Miles Shuler next year, and says that he'll be a "terrific fit" to the program. Shuler was a 100 meter state champion in high school and, according to Fitz, will work as a "fast scout team player" before getting going next season.

— Brandon Vitable said that after Northwestern's sluggish first quarter Saturday, the team wanted to "just run at people." The center remembers that "guys were getting frustrated," and much of Northwestern's run-heavy offense was called for by its players.

Dean Lowry said he enjoys playing defensive tackle in Northwestern's four-end fronts, but lamented NU's inability to wrap up sacks over the last two weeks. "We started off strong that first week with four sacks, but we definitely need to finish the play."


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