As previously noted, it was a truly terrible call on my part starting a blog in mid-June, the exact dead point of any college's sports calendar, but I guess you could think about it as me having a few months to tune up, or something. Whatever.
Anyway, I'll be dropping fire on weekdays I don't have other posts planned in the form of these posts previewing how our football team looks at various positions. (That should eat up, like, two weeks.) Today, we take a look at quarterback.
Days Left til Football: 72 (Mad props to Nusports.com for doing the math!)
One Less Day Til Football Season, Post 1: Quarterback.
Mike Kafka (13) becomes the first human to actually use Madden's "juke stick" function in a real life situation, as he did for the entirety of a Minnesota-Northwestern football game.
Who played last year: CJ Bachér. Familiar, yes? CJ, the quarterback for three relatively successful seasons, was a generally solid QB. Pretty good, but nothing to write home about. What I'm trying to say is that CJ wasn't really a bad QB, but the one common thing linking most male Northwestern students was the ability to jokingly crap on CJ Bachér's throwing ability. It made for a great party ice-breaker. Anyway, CJ has moved on to be the star QB for my hometown franchise, the creatively named UFL New York, where he and star wideout Noriaki Kinoshita will combine what I believe to be the first 3/4 asian battery in professional football history. (correct me if I'm wrong, japanese football scholars.) Anyway, it's sad to see the end of the Bachér era, especially for enthusiasts of the letter "é". He will be remembered by a simple Bachér memorial plaque on a bronzed Hundo barstool. (But seriously, folks: all kidding aside, CJ was a really dependable player and a beacon of consistency. He will be missed.)
Who's got next: Mike Kafka. You're also familiar. For a refresher, watch this. (By the way, best part of this blog so far for me: rewatching highlights of games we shouldn't have won but did.)
Mike is one of the best running quarterbacks... well, I've ever seen. His skill at eluding people in the open field is preposterous, better than the stuff you see from some of guys who only run, and when he's got room ahead of him, he's got wide reciever speed. People fear that he can't throw, but that throw to Ebert was just perfect. I've watched Kafka play in games and in spring practices (for my article in here - mine's the one on the centerfold on the left side where the words meander around Andrew Brewer's crotch) and from a technical point of view, he's got the tools to be a good passer. I've seen him put touch throws over the top to guys on flies and fades three times I can think of. Meanwhile, the only pick I saw him throw in three practices and the spring game was a dump pass that bounced off of Steph Simmons' hands into those of a waiting defender. I'm sure he threw more, but from what I saw, he's become a better decision maker. People will remember his hideous throw for a pick 6 into the flat to a waiting Minnesota DB, but his picks aren't really bad throws in that they're poorly thrown, they're just stupid throws. He should've seen that guy waiting to pounce on that quick pass. In spring camp, he wasn't even making those throws. So here's my thesis on Kafka: he's got the tools. He can do anything we ask of him. He might not actually be able to put them all together for 60 minutes: even against Minnesota, he dug NU a major hole with two silly picks. Kafka has tremendous potential - let's hope he comes through. At the very least, he'll be fun to watch. My only fear is in the way we call plays for him - last year, after the "Oh sh*t" game at Minnesota, the coaching staff wanted to keep playing him even after CJ came back, but absolutely would not let the guy throw the ball. The key to any success from Kafka is going to be his ability to mix it up. As a runner, he needs open space, like, three or four yards worth. And designed draws won't give him that open space. What will are a few pass plays, establishing his arm, and then either one of those designed draws or a good ol pass play he decides to bust looses on, after all, that's how he got most of his yards in that game. But what won't work is the way we utilized him late last year, where he'd come in, run two draws and an option and then ride pine the rest of the way.
Is that an improvement? The jury's definitely still out. I'm not sure Mike Kafka will be a better QB than CJ, as impressive as I find his skill set. If the public eye is any indicator, while CJ was the occasional butt of those ice-breaking jokes I mentioned earlier, people talk about Kafka in hushed tones. (You could probably tell by the hushed tones that previous paragraph was written in.) For a dude who played two games, lost one of them, and needed a Minnesota missed chip shot field goal and a dramatic finish to bail out him throwing an inexcusable pick six, people talk about Kafka like he's an NU football messiah. Everybody, including me has a harebrained scheme about how best to use him. Mine is the essay-length space above me, some people think he should be a wide out, running back, people say he shouldn't be allowed to throw, everything under the sun. He's achieved cult hero status at Northwestern, and while CJ was by all respects a good QB, he never got the love that Kafka got immediately after that Minnesota game, and to the current day. I've got my fingers crossed that he'll prove he deserves it.
Who else we got? Well, there's redshirt sophomore Dan Persa, whose defining characteristic so far is his willingness to play special teams, even returning a squibbed kickoff last season, much to the confusion of the announcing crew and the delight of coach Fitz, who loves his Fitzian desire to randomly throw his body at other people and do whatever it takes and do things that are easily defined in coachspeak such as "grit", "determination", "hustle", and "flow". His days as a special teamer, however, are over, he's now our backup. He performed satisfactorily in spring games and practices, completing pretty much every pass he threw in the spring game if I remember correctly, although almost all of them were dinky little things nobody cared about.
There's junior Joe Mauro, who may or may not actually exist. His player profile says that the one person in all history he would like to dine with is Dirk Nowitzki, which sets off all sorts of alarms in my head, because Dirk is probably not in the top 150 current professional basketball players I'd like to eat dinner with. He is famous to me personally for getting into a fight in practice in my NCAA Football dynasty, getting suspended for three games, then getting into another fight in practice the week after he was allowed to come back, getting suspended for another three games. If my Playstation 2 is to be believed, QB # 14 needs some serious moral conditioning.
There's new recruit Evan Watkins, who, according to those people who pay attention to high schoolers, is good at quarterback, which is swell for all the people hanging around Northwestern after I graduate. (Unless I take a redshirt year for journalism, which doesn't exist yet.) Watkins is tall for an NU quarterback at 6-6, and is the heir to CJ Bachér's number, meaning he will presumably be the only mortal allowed to sit in the aforementioned Bachér stool at Hundo. (Metaphorically. Not in an underaged drinking way.)
To end, I have a bit of a sad note about the bottom of our quarterback depth chart. During the practices I attended for my spring article, I noticed all the quarterbacks pretty easily. (They had purple jerseys.) Every time I went, one boy in a purple jersey didn't get to play with all the other boys in purple jerseys. He played the dummy quarterback in the defensive line drill.He yelled hike, pretended to hand the ball off, or, sometimes handed the ball off, and then stood around for a few seconds, then repeated. Every other player in the drill was a lineman, and they would recruit some linebackers to come and put on red pinneys and play pretend running back, and they would run pretend plays. I always wondered why they needed a real quarterback to do a job which a linebacker in a pinney, a lineman in a pinney, a coach, a sports reporter, or, quite frankly, anybody with arms could have done. (Legs: optional.) I became quickly aware of this quarterbacks plight, and looked him up in my media guide. His name was Harrison Scott, #16. He threw for 5,700 yards in high school, was an all-state quarterback in his class, and, yet, somehow ended up as a walk-on at Northwestern, playing with all the defensive guys in a drill where he wasn't really allowed to throw or do quarterback things. I thought to myself: this quarterback deserves better. What harm could letting him throw occaisonally possibly do? When I wrote this article, I went looking for Harrison on the roster page, but he wasn't there. Only the other four quarterbacks were listed. Maybe he transferred to someplace he could play. Maybe he gave up on football to pursue his academics. Maybe Joe Mauro kicked him into a bottomless pit, 300 style. All I know is that it appears Harrison is no longer a member of the Wildcats football team.
The Purple Drank is sure he is in a better place, where he can participate in non-contact passing drills from dawn til dusk. You'll be missed.
Meanwhile, it's a good thing the Daily has editors, because otherwise, every article I wrote would be, like, this long.
Also, as you might have noticed, I'm overly enthusiastic about labels. And somehow, every post I've made so far has a different font, which is disconcerting, because I haven't tried to change them.