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Northwestern football media day: News and Notes

EVANSTON – As Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald addressed the media at the onset of Northwestern football media day, he began by saying, “Here we go, [it’s] the kickoff of the 2013 season. It’s an exciting time for everyone in college football but in particular for us.” After an offseason filled with various accolades and a stout recruiting class, Fitzgerald spoke highly of his team’s preparation--both mentally and physically. Here are some notes from media day:

-       Fitzgerald emphasized how much he and his staff were focusing on preparing their players mentally, stemming from tweaks in the structure of practice. “We are going to [change the practice routine] to stress our guys mentally,” Fitzgerald said. “I feel like we have a very experienced group and even though we’re still pretty young, we feel like we have a lot of experience. We wanted to put more on their plate. We felt like we were a little bit behind with our post-spring surgeries and that we needed to put more on our guys’ plates mentally to start things off here as we get going in camp.”

-       After praising the defensive line in practice early in the week, Fitzgerald expressed pleasure with the offensive line as a group but has yet to determine which five he plans on starting come the season opener at Cal.

-       Kicker Jeff Budzien hopes to takeover the kickoff role left vacant by the now-graduated Steve Flaherty. “I’ve been working on kickoffs quite a bit and I’m hoping to put my hat in the ring there,” Budzien said. “I’ve really been working in the offseason on getting my leg stronger and I think I’ve put myself in a position to compete for that role.”

-       Sophomore cornerback Nick VanHoose had high praise for the youthful defensive backs, citing freshmen Godwin Igwebuike, Keith Watkins and Matthew Harris, along with redshirt freshman Dwight White. “You can just see, from the film and playing with them, their quickness to the ball,” VanHoose said of the defensive backs. “This is a different speed, completely, when you get out there and when you can adjust faster, you can tell when someone can do that.”

-       Center Brandon Vitabile and the offensive line haven’t paid too much attention to questions about the their unit’s stability heading into the season. “Some people read into it more than others,” Vitabile said. “I guess it’s on a person-by-person basis. But we are aware of what people are saying. We know what people say but it’s not a driving factor for us. We have a game Aug. 31 and we are coming together, learning the plays, learning the offense and getting comfortable playing next to each other. We are having fun with it and getting better everyday. People are always going to say things, I guess, but we are going to just focus on ourselves the best we can.”

-       Venric Mark hates the nickname “Marknado,” preferring the befitting name of ‘Little General.’ “I do not like the name ‘Marknado’. I do appreciate whoever made the video. I can tell they took a lot of time to make that. It’s greatly appreciated,” Mark said.