Weekly Wildcat Watch

Corey Wootton's NFL prospects are analyzed, people get in their last-minute football predictions, a look at Mike Kafka's summer workout regimen, plus a blogger asks, "Is Northwestern Basketball Boring?" Stories this week coming from the Tribune, Daily Herald, ESPN, Daily Iowan and more.

Last week I started the Weekly Wildcat Watch by linking to articles by Purple Reign, and I think that's probably something I want to make a tradition. You know, just in case you missed any of the hard-hitting coverage I try to provide. So…

* This is a story I wrote early in the week taking a look at the similarities in Mick McCall's two years as an offensive coordinator – first at Bowling Green in 2007, then at Northwestern last season.

There were indeed some striking comparisons – Tyler Sheehan, McCall's QB at BGSU, averaged 36.6 throws per game in '07. And C.J. Bacher, NU's QB last season, averaged 37. Hmmm.

What's also interesting – to me, at least – is that Sheehan and Bacher operated significantly different offenses without McCall. In 2008, for example, Sheehan passed the ball but 33 times per game; in 2007, Bacher threw it 43 times per game – not insignificant differences, one passing more, one passing less.

And what makes it all the more interesting is that Sheehan and Bacher had nearly identical receiving corps in 2007 and 2008, so the decrease in pass volume that these two experienced from '07 to '08 wasn't a result of losing all their receivers. Anyway, I delve pretty deep into this stuff in the article…I can see you feverishly clicking that link this very second.

* In non-McCall news, this is an article I wrote after interviewing John Froland, a defensive lineman from Washington who committed to NU this week. Froland was a good interview, and he shed some light on the recruiting process. In particular, it was interesting to hear how fickle some schools were with their recruitment of Froland.

Now, of course there's always the possibility that the schools who were being flip with Froland didn't see him as a prized recruit, and thus didn't think it too important to foster a good relationship with him. Nonetheless, it sounds like NU targeted him early, unequivocally offered (without waiting to see who else would), and this week the Cats were rewarded for cultivating that relationship early.

Some of what Froland said…

"(Northwestern) came to me out of the blue and talked to my coach and all that. It wasn't, ‘Let's see who else offers and maybe we'll offer you.'"

"New Mexico and Colorado hadn't offered yet, and they would say, ‘Has anyone else offered? No? Well, we'll be in touch.'

"I told them, ‘Well, Northwestern wants me. They're trying to fill out their roster and they've offered.' And the next morning I got a call with an offer (from Colorado)."

"(Washington) called and said, ‘Why don't you come to our camp.' And it's like, ‘Why bother? I'm 30 minutes away from you. How about you come up to my games?' A school 2,500 miles away can take the time to come see me and talk to my coach and watch film, and you can't come up 30 minutes?'

"There's that sense that they really wanted me (at Northwestern)."

"At Oregon," Froland said, "it's just, ‘We have the nicest facilities, and if you don't want to be here then we don't care.'"

* Moving on, here is a story by a Scout.com NFL draft afficienado about how Corey Wootton is turning some heads.

* Also in the players-NU-needs-to-step-up category, in this story I chat with Arby Fields' old high school coach about what NU can expect this season from Fields. Northwestern, of course, needs to find a way to replace the production of Tyrell Sutton, who graduated after a storied career, and Fields has looked like the guy to do that. I get into why Fields has been so impressive, and also why his coach thinks Fields' game will translate to the next level.

* And on the hoops side of things, this is an article about Jordan Smith, who confirmed in a text to Purple Reign that he is making a visit to Evanston on Thursday.

A source close to the Northwestern basketball program acknowledged that Smith is not as much of a priority recruit as, say, the four 2011 prospects from Georgia who visited Evanston earlier this month. But the same source did acknowledge that NU is well aware of – and impressed by – Smith's scoring prowess.

The Orono (Minn.) High School product averaged 16.5 points as a freshman, netting double figures in all but six of his 26 games. And last season as a sophomore, Smith upped his scoring output to about 24 per contest. He notched a 49-point performance to go along with three games of at least 30.

Still, he's only 6-foot-1, and he's not all that developed just yet. But if Northwestern misses on a few other guys, and if they're forced to recalibrate its 2011 class, don't be surprised if Smith gets an offer.


Alright, how about some non-Purple Reign Northwestern news.

* We'll start here, in an article that recaps what you already saw on PR: Corey Wootton is making scouts drool.

A half-dozen scouts were there, several prominently displaying their affiliation with a jacket or shirt logo. Representatives from the Packers, Chargers, Chiefs and Saints were among those observing Northwestern seniors Brad Phillips, Brendan Smith, Sherrick McManis and, most prominently, Corey Wootton.

* Aside from having a good picture of NU taking down Juice Williams wrestling style, this article discusses Northwestern's secondary and how it is one of the strengths of the team. After breaking down the secondary, the article embarks on some prognosticating:

Northwestern will contend for a Big Ten title if ... skill players fill the void left by the likes of Tyrell Sutton, Eric Peterman and Ross Lane. The Wildcats have a host of options at running back (Stephen Simmons, freshman Arby Fields) and receiver (Andrew Brewer, Sidney Stewart, Jeremy Ebert, Zeke Markshausen).

The season will be considered a success if ... Northwestern wins a warm-weather bowl game. That hasn't happened in six decades.

* This is Adam Rittenberg's look at the release of Northwestern's depth chart for the Week 1 game against Towson. (You didn't think I'd get through this without citing Rittenberg, did you?) Nothing too groundbreaking, other than Rittenberg's acknowledgment that he (and I) may have missed the boat on Jeravin Matthews, a player Rittenberg and myself both predicted would be a key contributor this season. Sure, he still may be, but he's nowhere to be found on the two-deep depth chart.

* Last week I mentioned Rittenberg's alumnus status from Northwestern, a fact that may reveal itself in the amount of coverage that the Big Ten blogger gives to Northwestern. I thought it was especially telling that Rittenberg gives NU so much coverage because everybody has the Cats pegged at eighth or ninth in the conference. Everybody, that is, besides Rittenberg, who here says the Cats rank fifth in the Big Ten. Like I said last week, I love the amount of coverage Rittenberg gives to the Cats, but between that and a No. 5 Power Ranking, well, people may soon see that purple gleam in his eye.

* In the preview genre, this article from the Daily Iowan discusses Northwestern from a Hawkeye point of view.

* Here is an article discussing Mike Kafka's off-season work on his arm and throwing mechanics.

(Brett Basanez and Kafka) agreed to meet on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons throughout the summer. Basanez would work out at Halas Hall from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., then make the 20-mile drive from Lake Forest to Evanston to tutor Kafka, NU sophomore backup Dan Persa and Jason Kafka -Mike's brother who's a freshman walk-on at San Jose State.

They'd work on the field for two hours, then spend another hour watching film. Basanez's biggest task, particularly with the Kafkas? Getting rid of their baseball tendencies.

* This is a good blog post from Chicago Now looking at why the NU hoops team isn't on TV more. The title: Is Northwestern Basketball Boring? In last week's WWW, I cited this article, which points out that while there are 70 slots for Big Ten basketball games this season on national TV, NU will appear but once.

Well, this week's blog post makes the case – convincing or not, that's your call – that NU should indeed get more airtime.

* And finally, this article talks about how the Northwestern field hockey team will try to emulate the success of the NU lacrosse team.

To reach David Vranicar, publisher of Purple Reign, please contact northwestern.scout@gmail.com.,

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