Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald, defensive end Deonte Gibson, superback Dan Vitale and wide receiver Austin Carr spoke Monday at NU's weekly press conference. Here's what Fitzgerald and his players had to say:
- Fitzgerald said he expects cornerback Matt Harris to play. Harris missed two games after breaking bones in his face.
- Defensive tackle C.J. Robbins was not listed on NU's Week 10 depth chart. Fitzgerald said Robbins is "progressing," and is "day-to-day." True freshman Jordan Thompson is listed as a starter in his place.
- Offensive lineman Adam DePietro has been ruled out for the season after undergoing surgery.
- Fitzgerald called Christian Hackenberg "one of the best, if not the best quarterback in the country." He also called Penn State's QB a first-round talent, and said he's been impressed with Hackenberg every time NU has seen him.
- Fitzgerald said matching up with Penn State's defensive line, which is led by runaway FBS sack leader Carl Nassib, would be a "nightmare," and said that the way the Nittany Lions rotate guys on the line reminds him a lot of what he and his defensive staff try to do.
He also twice said that he thinks Penn State's two defensive tackles, Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson, will be first-round NFL draft picks.
- Fitzgerald on the bye week: "It depends on when you have it. It depends on who and how you're playing. From a standpoint of who we've played to this point, the challenges that we've had, we needed a little bit of a break, mentally."
Fitzgerald said over the bye week, the team had one hard Thursday practice, but other than that, there was a lot of work done in the weight room. "I felt like we got out of the bye week what we wanted to get out of it. And then I wanted them to recharge over the weekend, and get ready to get back for the grind."
- Asked to choose their favorite Halloween costumes, Deonte Gibson picked the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle foursome of Xavier Washington, Greg Kuhar, Jordan Thompson and C.J. Robbins. Dan Vitale chose Christian Jones' Egyptian pharaoh costume.
Austin Carr broke the news that Max Chapman, despite not being featured in the video, dressed up as Fitzgerald. "He must have gotten into Coach Fitz's closet, because he had Coach Fitz's shirt on. But it wasn't only that, he had the impersonation down pretty well." Dan Vitale chimed in, saying Chapman even had Fitz-esque tilted sunglasses on.
- Former Northwestern quarterback Zak Kustok will be Northwestern's honorary captain on Saturday against Penn State.
- Fitzgerald spoke of his respect for Jerry Kill, and said he and his wife will be making a donation to Jerry Kill's Chasing Dreams foundation.
- Vitale accepted an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game. He said Monday that he wanted to get that decision out of the way sooner rather than later.