So, the basketball season ended on a sour note, and we are reduced to rooting for an NIT championship instead of watching Northwestern's first NCAA Tournament game. This is unfortunate, especially because NU's bubble run had managed to get me to pay more attention to basketball than I have in years.
On the bright side, we are less than six months from a real, live Northwestern football game! Jump for a roundup of spring practice stories.
As a preliminary, here is the spring schedule from nusports.com. NU has held 5 of 15 practices so far, and the spring game is on April 14.
A little while ago, Herman posted a good collection of questions about spring practice. I don't think NU is likely to dramatically change defensive approaches, but it is worth keeping an eye out for changes after the disappointing defensive performances of the last two seasons. The question about running backs blocking is particularly important with Drake Dunsmore's departure, as NU will likely use more 4 receiver packages where the running back is the only potential blocker beyond the linemen.
Next, the NU Sports website has a lengthy two-part interview with Pat Fitzgerald. Part one consists of the normal platitudes about how great he thinks the team is. Part two is more interesting, as Fitz offers thoughts on position battles. Normal warnings about taking anything a football coach says about his own team apply, but the most interesting piece of the interview is a direct statement that Fitz considers Colter the starting quarterback and won't have him practice at receiver during the spring.
Otherwise, there isn't much news here: the running backs are deep even without Mike Trumpy practicing, the receivers have talent but little proven production, nobody is going to replace Drake Dunsmore by himself, the pass rush is a problem, linebackers are adequate, and the defensive backs are a mess. This is all reasonable, but none of it is particularly surprising. Fitz does emphasize the potential of Tony Jones, who missed all of last season due to injury, at receiver; this seems to be a theme, as the report on the first full pad practice includes the same sort of material.
The receiver theme continues with Adam Rittenberg's video over at the WWL, which gives us the shocking news that the NU has a lot of receivers and few proven defensive backs. He also reports on an eastern sunrise observed in the Evanston area. His Q&A with Fitz, while mostly the same old empty answers to the same old empty questions, does give the first solid timetable I have seen for action on Kyle Prater's waiver to play next season: action can't officially begin until the start of the spring quarter, when Prater will be enrolled at NU.
The Tribune's day one update has a few position change updates, and they expect an answer on Prater's waiver by June. They also have Adonis Smith landing at UNLV; I hope he does well (but not too well). The Tribune also has a Q&A, where Fitz says that most spread offenses play multiple quarterbacks. There seem to be some mixed messages coming from his office. His response to Teddy Greenstein's suggestion that the key to a Big Ten title is "more talent" is also calculated to raise hackles.
What's that? All I offer is weak commentary on old articles? Er, yeah. Spring practice is hard to comment intelligently on from California. Still, this is an important part of the year; the spring offers an opportunity for players to work on fundamentals and the coaches to experiment a bit without disastrous consequences. Hopefully, part of this experimentation involves finding an effective coverage that the defensive backs can execute.