If you see one of the Northwestern freshmen this weekend, congratulate him: he officially survived his first week of college football training camp. Also wish him good luck: now is when the hard part starts.
“Now as you get to practice six and beyond, when your legs are gone and you’re really in the grind of camp, this is when those guys will begin to either focus and execute and do the things we ask them to do or it will kind of pass them by,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “So it will be a fun week up in Kenosha.”
While several freshmen impressed in their first week, Fitzgerald has been vocal in the past about his affinity for redshirt years, so many of these players likely won’t see the field this season.
If anyone has a shot at getting some playing time, it’s probably safety Godwin Igwebuike, who has really impressed in camp so far. The Pickerington, Ohio native is incredibly athletic and strong, able to play both safety and running back. On various recruiting websites, his position was listed as “athlete.” So far in camp, he has been working with the safeties, but he’ll do anything that will get him on the field.
“I’d love to play (this year),” he said. “Special teams, of course would be great and getting on the field 11 on 11 would be awesome too. Just whatever I can do to help the team out.”
He said that physically and emotionally, he feels prepared for college football. The hardest part is mental preparation with all of the new plays thrown at them this week.
“I’ve been trying to take some time at night to study which is kind of hard since we get back so late,” he said, “but that’s definitely the hardest part for me so far and hopefully I can overcome that.”
The most unexpected part of his first camp, Igwebuike said, has been the long days full of meetings and practices.
“Monday was probably the longest day of my entire life, that’s for sure,” he said.
Senior Kain Colter remembers his first week of camp, and said the overwhelming feeling is typical.
“Nobody’s used to this when they come in as a freshman,” Colter said. “We’re not used to having 13 hour days of just football. It’s a tiring process and you just have to stay focused the whole time so it’s easy to have a little lapse and have little mistakes but as a freshman, you’re going to make mistakes but the most crucial part is not repeating those mistakes. For them, that’s the thing they need to focus on right now.”
Colter has been working closely with freshman QB Matt Alviti, and is so far impressed with the Park Ridge, Ill. native.
“I haven’t really been taking a lot of reps with (the freshmen) but Matt’s doing really good since I’m working in individual (drills),” Colter said. “Some freshmen receivers that we’re throwing to look pretty good but like every freshman that comes in, they have a lot to learn, a lot to change. I feel like eventually they’ll get a little bit sharper.”
The big test starts on Sunday in Kenosha, Wis. According to Fitzgerald, Kenosha is where sophomore superback Dan Vitale really emerged, and he is now one of Northwestern’s biggest offensive weapons.
“One week is easy, you take limited reps,” Fitzgerald said. “We start putting them out there…next week to see if they can really handle it.”