Snippet of the Day: Making The Big Ten Grade
For a host of players, Saturday will mark their first Big Ten test. For the most part, those making their conference debuts comprise true freshmen like Traveon Henry and redshirt freshmen like Zack Oliver — and then there's Quinn Evans.
The Stanford graduate will make his Big Ten debut at Ryan Field against Indiana. And while Evans has played in conference games before for the Cardinal, he acknowledged that there will be something special about playing in a Big Ten game for the first time.
"Oh yeah, I mean I'm real excited to get out there and be a part of something I never have been, which is Big Ten football," Evans said. "I know it's going to be, Indiana's a great team. I'm just excited to go out there and have the opportunity to play."
Apparently, Evans still needs a little schooling in conference history, since the Hoosiers could hardly be considered a "great" team by any stretch of the imagination, but he has quickly become comfortable in Northwestern's defense, an impressive feat to be sure.
"Really just getting the playbook," Evans said. "Luckily, we have guys like Ibraheim (Campbell) and Jared Carpenter out here, which are two great safeties, here to help us a lot and are real great communicators, so I'm pretty fortunate."
Evans already sounded fairly comfortable with the Wildcats' system, stating that he had worked out most of the "hitches" that inevitably pop up when a new secondary comes together in training camp. Given the communications issues that burdened Northwestern's backfield last season, Evans' knack for picking things up quickly has to come as a huge relief to coach Pat Fitzgerald.
"He's a bright guy," Fitzgerald said. "He's worked at it."
Stat of the Day: Stopping Them Up Front
After a cornerback and safety led Northwestern in tackles in 2011, and backfield members made up four of the Wildcats' top six tacklers last season, the linebackers are experiencing a little bit of a renaissance thus far. In 2011, safety Ibraheim Campbell led the team with 100 tackles while fellow safety Brian Peters was not far behind with 92. Cornerback Jeravin Matthews placed fifth with 63 tackles and cornerback Jordan Mabin placed sixth with 62 tackles, despite missing the last game of the season. As strong as those numbers were, it wasn't necessarily a good sign for Northwestern, which was allowing opposing rushers to carve up its front seven and allowing opposing offenses to tear their way into its backfield. Having Mabin bring down Mikel Leshoure 20 yards out was never a good sign. So, coach Pat Fitzgerald must be happy to see linebackers Chi Chi Ariguzo and David Nwabuisi leading the way this season with 32 tackles and 26 tackles, respectively, and Damien Proby not far behind with 23 tackles. Yet, this defense will take on a brand-new challenge in Indiana on Saturday.
"Kevin has done such a terrific job everywhere he has been. He's been one of the most dynamic offensive minds now for nearly a decade," Fitzgerald said. "They put a lot of stress on you tempo-wise. They put a lot of stress on you with what they do schematically, and then obviously, fundamentally, they're very sound and have got playmakers, so it's going to be the biggest challenge we've had to this point as a defense. Hopefully, we'll rise to the challenge."