The Torch is passed

Northwestern University named Pat Fitzgerald their 29th Head Football Coach on Friday, July 7th. It was a popular choice - Fitz is an NU Legend, but he has the same issues that Randy Walker had as they head into Camp Kenosha...

Pat Fitzgerald has a tough job...
The former NU All-American has to follow in the steps of a legend, and his mentor, Randy Walker, as the youngest head coach in Division I.

NU's AD, Mark Murphy, put the age thing to rest by just putting it out there - "He's 31. That's just a number."

For Fitzgerald, coaching the Wildcats was his dream job - on Friday July 7th, that dream came true, about 6 years earlier than anyone thought.

The NU team has taken a big hit in Walker's death, still the Wildcats have a lot of positives as he takes over:
  1. Tyrell Sutton - the freshman running back phenom should come back and pick up where he left off last year.
  2. The "other" running backs - Brandon Roberson, Terrell Jordan, Omar Conteh - all are capable of breaking big plays.
  3. A veteran offensive line with significant depth - they replaced their only senior loss up front,  Zach Streif, with a Redshirt Junior who both started and backed up last year.
  4. At the center of the line is one of the best spread centers in football, Trevor Rees. He means no more errant snaps.
  5. A solid 8 receivers on the 2 deep. All of them have had significant playing time, and most have scored.
  6. 3 experienced linebackers - 4 experienced backups
  7. Brandon Smith and Bryan Heinz at safety - two decent backups there and Marquice Cole at left corner.
  8. There's no need to play true freshmen. For a change the 2 deep is pretty solid - As recruiting coordinator, Fitzgerald helped recruit many of the younger players, thosse kids are his kids also.
However, the issues facing Northwestern remain the same:
  1. C.J. Bacher`, Mike Kafka or Andrew Brewer at quarterback, [or will it be by committee].
  2. Fixing the worse defense [statistically] in the Big 10.
  3. Who plays right CB - Eric Peterman, Cory Dious or Deante Battle?
  4. When does the defensive line start to really pressure opponents? 3-4 or 4-3 defensive front?
  5. Who replaces Fitz as the linebacker coach?
He does retain the coaching staff from the Spring but the Cats will still be dealing with the emotions of losing their leader, Randy Walker, suddenly when the season starts, especially opening at Walker's old school - Miami of Ohio.

Offensive Coordinator Garrick McGee is considered by some to be an spread offense guru. A former QB and and NFL offensive quality control guy, his challenge will be to speed up the offense, make NU a tougher team to defend - possibly bringing back the no-huddle, maybe some 2 back or 2 quarterback sets. There are rumors that McGee skipped his vacation this year to expand the playbook.

Greg Colby
, the defensive coordinator, still wants more speed; up front, in the backfield, and would run a 3-4 if he had the personnel. NU has the linebackers to put 4 or even 5 out on defense - but until there's a consistent pass rush, NU's d-backs will get picked apart. Jerry Brown, the d-back coach has had to deal with limited resources in the past and is still looking for another good cover corner.

Something Fitzgerald did tell the press conference - he's going to let his assistant's coach. He'll run the special teams - he made an allusion to on-side kicks - but he appears to understand that you can't do it all.

Perhaps the best thing that Pat Fitzgerald will bring to NU Football is his intensity, and the need to excel on and off the field. With him on the sidelines, we probably won't hear rumbles of "thats not the way Randy would do it."

Instead, look to the final words of his opening statement. "We will be relentless in everything we do"

Just way he played 10 years ago at Northwestern.

You can send your direct comments or "back door" information
directly to Coach Roy
[or comment on the Purple Boards]

Coach Roy74 on AIM

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