Vitabile: 'You've got to be the dude'

This spring, Brandon Vitabile is preparing the offensive line to push back even harder.

Last season, opposing defenses knocked around Northwestern's injury-laden, inconsistent offensive line. This spring, Brandon Vitabile is preparing the unit to push back even harder.

The rising senior center anchored an offensive line that crumbled around him for most of 2013's conference play. Now, Vitabile said he wants to weed out complacency and focus on fundamentals.

"If you want to be the dude, you've got to be the dude," said Vitabile. "You can't expect to lead the guys being quiet, so halfway through [last season], I decided to step up and be more vocal.

"If you really want it, you've got to take the team over. You've got to try and get the guys going, motivate them. You can't sit back and watch."

Beyond making sure his teammates accept nothing but their best efforts, Vitabile said he wants to foster a culture of accountability between players and units alike.

"We're trying to get that right where we don't the coaches to intervene and we can pick each other up," he said. "It means something else when it comes from another guy. For someone to see what I'm doing wrong, it means they're paying attention. It means they care."

Getting the offensive line to be more aggressive is another focus for Vitabile. The center said his unit can't afford to hesitate at the line, and needs to start beating defenses to the punch—two of 2013's major problems.

"Everyone was a little tentative, trying to wait and sit back, you know? We got to make the first punch, strike fast, because a lot of game are won and lost up front," he said.

And restoring fundamentals is a big part of making that first punch even stronger, Vitabile said. The center said revamping basic techniques now can pay major dividends later in the year, when the lights are brighter and the stakes are higher.

"When things get tough, you fall back on what you were taught at the beginning," he said. "When the game's on the line, 30 seconds left, we're driving down the field—what I'm going to rely on is what I practice now in spring and the summer."

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