We continue our Q&A series with Philip Rossman-Reich, a blogger for the popular Northwestern blog Lake the Posts. Philip was a writer for his own blog, Rise Northwestern, until merging it with LTP. He's a graduate of Northwestern and is currently studying at the Levin School of Law at the University of Florida. We caught up with Philip to ask him about NU's upcoming season, fan support and the program in general.
How has fan support change since you've been in school?
It was not too long since I graduated, but even in the time I was at Northwestern fan support really changed. The added emphasis that the University has put into the marketing of the program has really paid dividends. I remember my freshman year in 2006 how you could easily get into games as a student well after kickoff and how a whole host of my friends left the fated Michigan State game at halftime thinking the game was over and feeling they needed to get back to work.
I get the sense students do not feel that way anymore. The campus has done a really good job rallying around the team and its sports in the last four or five years and it felt like there was a ton of unity on campus spawned from the sports teams. The games become a lot more fun when the students are really into it like they have been at this time.
When (or if) do you think NU will see the payoff of its improved recruiting classes?
At some point, right? I always (mockingly) said that there is always a reason a recruit chooses Northwestern. Usually I mean it in a derogatory, self-mocking manner. But it is becoming more apparent that recruits want to attend Northwestern and are buying into what Pat Fitzgerald is selling. I think the Wildcats have reached a very solid level of consistency that they are doing a great job maintaining. Getting to that next level will take some time. But there is no reason to think right now that Northwestern will not continue to compete for and in bowl games. Getting to that next level will be on how it all comes together.
Pat Fitzgerald is still improving and learning as a coach. I think we will see him utilize his talent better and we will see things continue to move forward with this program.
How do you think NU should use Kain Colter this year along with its other quarterbacks?
I think Northwestern should make sure Kain Colter is playing one position. They cannot have him playing three or four different positions (although he is capable). He, and the team, needs consistency particularly at the quarterback position. I think Colter should be the team's quarterback. I do not believe we saw him do all he can do passing-wise (again, it was a comfort and consistency thing). If NU turns the job over to him, he may feel freer to make mistakes with the passing game. Plus he should now be fully recovered from the shoulder injury that held him back for some of last season (and the early part of his career).
Colter's versatility is too valuable at the quarterback position. If he can master the passing game, he could be a really deadly option for Northwestern to rely on.
In your experience interacting with fans, what are they most optimistic about for the coming season?
The talent level. I think we all have seen the team bring in more highly touted recruits and bring in players that are better and better on paper. Everyone is excited to see how it all comes together on the football field. This sense of optimism is really pretty high among the Northwestern fans I talk to. Maybe it isn't so much optimism but the feeling that comes from having higher expectations. We expect more out of this team. That brings a lot of pressure, but a lot more rewards too. It is a great time to be a Northwestern fan.
What will be the X-factor for NU this season that could make or break their year?
The defense. It seems like every year Northwestern can rely on its offense to put up some gaudy numbers. There are so many questions on the defensive end again and the team is likely going to go on how the defense does. Pat Fitzgerald is a defense-first guy and I can sense frustration in the fan base that the Wildcats have not figured things out on that end.
Really, Northwestern's defense has not been entirely consistent since Fitzgerald was playing. It is a puzzle that Northwestern needs to solve to get to the next level. And so, keeping an eye on the defense's development will be critical for Northwestern this season.
What's your season prediction? Record and postseason?
I think Northwestern surprises some people this year. The Wildcats probably finish the regular season 7-5, or 8-4. The Wildcats play better, but have their typical let down game and their typical upset game. I am kind of seeing a Gator Bowl or TicketCity Bowl appearance (anything to avoid Little Caesar's, I guess) in their future. Northwestern will play an exciting brand of football once again and show steps in the right direction toward that level of competitiveness Northwestern fans yearn for.