Weekly Wildcat Watch

One outlet called the commitment of Georgia guard Jershon Cobb "the most prestigious commitment of the Bill Carmody era." See what else people are saying about Cobb, as well as football coverage that focuses on Mike Kafka's monster game last year at Minnesota, and how UM plans to stop him. Calling it trash-talking may be an overstatement, but you could certainly call it, uh, chirping...

OK, a little tardy once again. But hey, at least it won't be quite as long of a wait until next week's Weekly Wildcat Watch! And besides, the hoops news of Jershon Cobb's commitment was a bigger deal on Sunday, and on Monday I just had to chime in on Mike Kafka's outburst.

Alas, this week's WWW…

First off, some Purple Reign stories that you may have missed.

We'll start with a pretty big hoops story: the commitment Cobb, a 6-4 guard from Decatur, Ga. Cobb, a three-star prospect, is NU's first 2010 commit, and he's a good one at that. A source told PR that Cobb was a top target for the class. Definitely a good score for Carmody and Co.

In the story, I first give the nuts and bolts on Cobb and include a few quotes from him.

Then I talk about what may be even more interesting than the news of Cobb's commitment: The idea that maybe – just maybe – this could open up a pipeline to Georgia. From the article…

But Cobb will be the only player on next season's roster from the South – capital S – and the first in years to come from below the Mason Dixon line. So Northwestern's recruiting map is expanding.

What's more, NU is targeting a handful of other players from Georgia for the 2011 class. So this could, theoretically, be an in-state connection with future prospects.

Four-star Georgia natives Julian Royal, Shannon Scott, and Dai-Jon Parker were all on campus this summer, as was their two-star Georgia Kings teammate Henry Brooks. Those four are much ballyhooed, and between them, schools like UCLA, Texas, Florida, Georgia Tech and many, many more on the hunt. So they're far from a shoe-in.

But maybe with Cobb on board, these other Peach State products will join the Northwestern tree.

May sound like a bit of day-dreaming, but there is precedent for this. Take a peek at the 2003 roster. Looks a bit like this year's: players from Illinois, from Croatia, from Canada – old hat for coach Bill Carmody.

But there are three outliers in terms of location: Patrick Towne, Winston Blake and Jason Burke. Each came from Plano, Tex. Sometimes, it seems, players travel in packs.

Qualifiers abound the article, and I am well, well aware that reading too much into Cobb's signing is foolhardy. This doesn't mean Georgia will be a new breeding ground for NU hoops. But, it's still interesting to think about. We can dream, right?

Whether others from the Georgia head Evanston way isn't the news. Cobb is the news, and he's a big get for the program.

Another story from the past week was this one. In it, I am basically talking about how incredible Mike Kafka's game was last week. Indeed, how record-breakingly good it was.*

* Like I say toward the end of the article, there is no ulterior motive to my gushiness over Kafka. I am not trying to score points with the football folks, I don't know Kafka well, I'm not doing him a favor.

No, my story on Kafka was inspired by two things: First, his outlandish game against Syracuse, a game in which he broke multiple NU records – including a consecutive completions mark that had stood since 1962 – and nearly shouldered the Cats all the way to a road win. The fact that he threw a late-game INT, one that ultimately sunk NU, may have overshadowed his greatness on Saturday. That's why I felt it important to make sure that people understood the historical significance of the game.

My second reason: Kafka has taken a lot of heat in his career. Some message board folk talk can't stop talking about how horrible his freshman season was, and how much more qualified backup Dan Persa is to be the starter. Now, these Kafka-haters are kind of the fringe of Northwestern fandom – they are like Charlton Heston to gun advocacy or Cheech to the pro-pot movement. But still, they're out there. And if you look at some message board threads – like this one – you'd think Kafka is the reason not only that the Wildcats won't go undefeated, but also that the icecaps are melting and the dollar is sinking.

So it's not that I get something out of defending Kafka. I just want to play some role in reshaping the dialogue surrounding this overly-maligned QB.

This article springboarded off a comment made by Donnie Webb (in this email exchange) where Webb called Syracuse "an anti-cupcake school." Curious, I dug around a bit and looked at SU's past schedules. Indeed, there are not many cupcakes. Home-and-homes with FSU, Auburn, Iowa, Illinois, Penn State and, of course, Northwestern.

Another pre-Syracuse article was this one that looked at NU's running back depth. The weekly email I get about the Wildcats' injuries showed that Stephen Simmons – the team's leading rusher – was questionable, along with backup Jeravin Matthews; of course, Alex Daniel was already lost for the season. There was no prediction, just conjecture about what would happen if Simmons couldn't go.

Well, Simmons couldn't go, and things didn't go well.* NU went for just 1.9 yards per carry. And even if you take out Kafka's -7 yards on 13 carries – he was sacked a bunch – it's still less than 4.0 per rush.

* Arby Fields's game on Saturday was curious. Purple Reign doesn't often question coaching decisions, and really, between pumping up Kafka's game and detailing Mick McCall's prior success as an O-coordinator, PR is pretty kind (I'd say). But what gives with Fields only getting two carries against SU – one of which was for 25 yards? Why? Why not more touches? Jacob Schmidt had 10 carries for 30 yards with a long of SIX YARDS. Don't get it, and I don't have a good explanation. I haven't heard a good explanation either. Unless he turns out to have gotten hurt on one of his two carries (not likely), Fields should have been playing more. Period.

Wrapping up this week at Purple Reign…this article is about the steady increase in difficulty of Northwestern's schedule through four weeks. It's relevant for about five more days, so read up!


OK, moving on…

This is a preview of this week's Minnesota game from the Chicago Tribune. In it, Teddy Greenstein discusses how Minnesota is geeked for the chance to corral Kafka after he set the Big Ten QB rushing record last year against UM.

UM linebacker Lee Campbell is quoted saying,

"We'll definitely remember last year's game and not take 'em lightly. Northwestern is one of the teams that's circled on our schedule."

Kafka is quoted saying,

"That's good. I hope they come after me because that would open up a lot of holes for our receiving corps and running backs."

Love the chirping.

This one* focuses again on Kafka and his monster game last year against UM. Again, Kafka is quoted saying all the right things about Minnesota trying to shut him down.

"I hope so. Because then I think that's going to open up a lot of spots for guys like (superback) Drake (Dunsmore) and (flanker) Andrew Brewer and our receiving corps and our running backs.

"I think that'll open up a lot of holes for them to make plays. So, yeah, I hope they come after me."

* Also, at the bottom of the article, it says this about Jershon Cobb: "Northwestern's basketball team picked up its most prestigious recruiting commitment of the Bill Carmody era."

This is an article – surely a follow-up on the piece I wrote about Kafka's big game – about how Kafka couldn't care less about stats.

In it, Kafka says,

''I don't know what records I'm breaking, but it doesn't matter. The team matters. We'll bounce back. We have a strong team and strong leadership.''

On the hardwood…This one from the Chicago Tribune is all about Cobb. And this one, also from the Tribune, is about Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser. In it, the Tribune talks with Gasser and his coach, so it reads a lot like an article I wrote about Gasser this summer. Nonetheless, it does say that NU is one of the four remaining candidates for Gasser.

This article from the AP discusses the Wildcats' switch to morning football practices with the start of classes. (Really, it is just a recap of the SU game, but the tidbit about how the practice switched with the beginning of classes was interesting.)

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

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