After Pat Fitzgerald went through the media scrum in the morning, the players took to the podiums in the afternoon. Here are some highlights. Our Ryan Fish and Ben Goren break it down.
- Christian Jones says his knee is “very close to 100 percent,” which is comforting news. Jones had to have a second surgery during the spring on the same knee (nothing major), but the fact that he should be close to all systems go for Kenosha is key for a wide receiving unit that is shy on playmakers.
- Jones went on to say that confidence is the last thing to come back after the injury: “Until you get used to running those routes and doing everything you used to do over and over again, it’s hard to really get confidence back.”
- It does help that Jones has worked through an ACL tear before, which he suffered in 7-on-7 drills in high school. Jones said that “to know that I went through [the high school injury rehab] blindly and to know I have more support and more resources made it a little easier this time.”
- Jones said that he would bring an XBOX to battle Inside NU’s Henry Bushnell in FIFA after Henry claimed that he could beat Jones. Vegas has Jones as a slight favorite.
- Jones said that NU “practices a little harder” run Iowa comes into town. No “Fitz hates Iowa” comment from an NU player this time, but it’s still clear that that game is circled.
- Dan Vitale also circled Iowa on the calendar, saying it’s always a fun game between the two, it’s a rivalry and it’s NU’s homecoming this year. He also said the blowout loss to the Hawkeyes was last year’s toughest loss. When asked if it was because Fitz hates Iowa, he laughed and said “I wouldn’t say that.”
- Vitale says he’s “grown to love” the superback term because of its versatility. He says that superbacks get the offensive signals in more depth than the other players do before each play, and that may allow him to help the younger quarterbacks during camp.
- Vitale obviously wouldn’t commit to a quarterback that he hopes will start. He pointed out the good qualities in each, said he’s built a repertoire with all of them so far. He says he’ll be honest when talking with the coaches about who he and the other team leaders feel most comfortable with.
- Vitale pointed to inconsistency, field position and not being able to move the chains as reasons for the poor offense last season.
- Vitale called Justin Jackson the “one of the best players [he’s] ever played with… if not the best on offense.”
- Fitzgerald wasn’t the only one raving about Garrett Dickerson today. Vitale had a to say about him, too: “He’s like my brother. I think he’s gonna take it to a whole other level this season. I think he’s ready to be a big time player.” He also said we should “definitely expect” to see more plays this year with multiple superbacks on the field at the same time.
- Vitale’s actual brother, Tommy, is a freshman linebacker for Northwestern. It’s the first time those two have played on the same team since they were kids, and Vitale seemed excited to have him on board. “It’s the coolest thing in the world. He’s loving it. This is something we’ll share forever.”
- Nick VanHoose hemmed and hawed at whether this year’s secondary is the best unit he’s been a part of. Cites the loss of Ibraheim Campbell as key and says he is “one of the most hard working people I know.”
- VanHoose didn’t hesitate to “definitely agree” that this secondary is the deepest unit he’s been a part of. He says Parrker Westphal has a great work ethic and “badly wants to be great.” He says the redshirt freshmen could contribute this season.
- Sticking with backups, VanHoose says that Keith Watkins III and Marcus McShepard are “tremendous athletes” and will be “great contributors on special teams” as well as solid rotation and backup options.
- VanHoose said Jake Murray “will probably be…the next Brian Peters.” Murray is a 6-3 true freshman safety rated as a low-ish 3-star recruit whose other offers included Nevada, Air Force, North Texas, and UT-San Antonio. Awfully high praise from VanHoose.