In case you've been living under a rock, NUSports.com is putting on the freaking full court press. To celebrate Pat Fitzgerald's upcoming 10th season at the helm of Northwestern football, the good folks in the Northwestern athletic department have decided to crowd-source an "All-Fitz" team. The rules for the nominations were pretty simple: be good at football and play at least one season under Pat Fitzgerald. If you've already submitted your answers, congratulations, but you probably did it wrong. These are the completely objective, inscrutably 100-percent-correct selection for the All-Fitz Team. You're welcome.
NOMINEES: CJ Bacher, Kain Colter, Mike Kafka, Dan Persa, Trevor Siemian
I think you can cross off a couple of these names immediately. Bacher had a fantastic junior campaign where he threw for 3,600 yards and 19 TDs, but that doesn't make up for throwing just as many interceptions as touchdowns in his career. Colter and Siemian shouldn't be in serious contention because they didn't have extended experience being a true starting QB. That leaves us with Kafka and Persa.
There's a lot to take into account here. Best game? Persa threw for 300-plus and ran for 50 to lead a late comeback over Iowa and tore his achilles after throwing the game winning touchdown. That's pure drama. But Kafka threw the ball 78 gosh darn times for 532 yards and 4 scores in the Outback Bowl against Auburn, a game that, if Northwestern had won, might have been the best in the program's history. It's still maybe the most exciting. So the best game category is just about even.
Longevity? Persa started 2 years for Northwestern. Kafka started all of one year and got spot starts in two others. But still, Persa started 20 games for Northwestern and Kafka started 19. It's a push.
Who won more? Persa-led teams went 11-9. Kafka led teams went 11-8. Another push.
Career stats? Persa completed nearly 73 percent of his passes in his career for a touch under 5,200 yards on 8.2 yards per attempt, threw 34 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He also ran for 709 yards and 10 scores. Kafka completed 64 percent of his passes for 4,265 yards on 6.7 yards per attempt, threw 19 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
I will begrudgingly yield that Dan Persa is the winner.
But I will openly stand by my thinking that he's overrated. The bizarre "Persa Strong" campaign definitely helps fuel that opinion. No one did the dink and dunk better and he did it on teams where there was no real threat at the running back position. Thus, Persa is your first member of the All-Fitz team.
NOMINEES: Omar Conteh, Venric Mark, Tyrell Sutton, Jacob Schmidt, Mike Trumpy
The running back position under Pat Fitzgerald has been a weakness more than it has been a strength. Sutton started his career under Walker, whose penchant for developing running backs may be unmatched. Who else could turn Damien Anderson, Jason Wright and Noah Herron into elite level Big Ten backs?
Conteh and Schmidt can be dismissed right away, and as much as I want to give the vote to Mike Trumpy based on his PA announcer call alone, he never rushed for more than 530 yards in a season.
The only reasons you give this to Mark over Sutton is if you're including his special teams work or you don't want to count Sutton since he started his career under Randy Walker. Neither reason is good enough. Sutton was the Big Ten Freshman of the year and a 3-time honorable mention All-Big Ten selection as well as being both a Sporting News Freshman All-American and the magazine's Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2005. Even though this all came one year before Fitzgerald became the head coach, it doesn't matter. Tyrell Sutton wins.
Wide Receiver (pick three)
NOMINEES: Andrew Brewer, Jeremy Ebert, Tony Jones, Ross Lane, Rashad Lawrence, Eric Peterman, Kyle Prater, Zeke Markshausen, Rasheed Ward, Shaun Herbert
Jeremy Ebert and Eric Peterman are stone-cold locks. There is no debate on that front. The question is who gets the third slot.
Brewer was a useful gadget/big play guy who actually started his career as a quarterback (just like Peterman). Jones was a deep threat, but only had one year with more than 350 yards receiving. Lane might be the most consistent performer, notching at least 375 yards in each of his four seasons in Evanston. Lawrence never caught for over 500 yards in a season. In Prater's best year, he tallied 535 yards, but didn't top 60 in his other years at Northwestern. Markshausen had the best single year of the group battling for the last spot thanks to his 91-catch, 858-yard season in 2009, but he caught only one other ball his whole career. Ward caught 50-plus balls for over 500 yards in his senior year. Herbert, believe it or not, had the best career numbers of any bubble player. He had 168 catches in his career for more than 1,900 yards and 9 touchdowns. The only problem? He only played one year under Fitz.
Unlike Sutton, who would still beat out Mark even if you take away his freshman campaign, I can't vote for Herbert because he's much more of a Walker player than a Fitz player. It's Zeke Markshausen who locks up the third slot. Partially because he was a walk-on. Partially because he has the best name. Let me remind you this list is objectively correct.
NOMINEES: Drake Dunsmore, other players not named Drake Dunsmore (Brendan Mitchell and Josh Rooks)
Drake Dunsmore. Next category.
Offensive Line (pick five)
NOMINEES: Doug Bartels, Joel Belding, Ben Burkett, Keegan Grant, Paul Jorgenson, Ryan Keenan, Keegan Kennedy, Brian Mulroe, Al Netter, Trevor Rees, Desmond Taylor, Dylan Thiry, Brandon Vitabile, Patrick Ward
Doug Bartels gets in because of his story as much as play on the field.
Ben Burkett gets in for starting 52 games in four years, 13 of which were at right guard after starting the first 39 at center and being named to the Rimington watch list twice.
Brian Mulroe gets in for his one honorable mention All-Big Ten season and one second team All-Big Ten selection.
Al Netter gets in thanks to his three consecutive honorable mention All-Big Ten selections.
Patrick Ward gets the last spot because he finished his college career with a freaking 3.94 GPA with only one A- and is basically inhumanly smart.
Defensive Line (pick four)
NOMINEES: Brian Arnfelt, Vince Browne, Corbin Bryant, Jack DiNardo, John Gill, Tyler Scott, Kevin Watt, Corey Wootton
Corey Wootton, Tyler Scott and Vince Browne are locks. So we're rocking at least three defensive ends on our front four. I still wonder just how good Wootton could've been both in college and the NFL if he didn't get his knee ruined on an insanely dirty block during the Alamo Bowl against Missouri.
On a related note, screw Missouri.
I'm giving John Gill the last spot. Two honorable mention All-Big Ten seasons and 42 career starts help. Ten sacks and 160 career tackles don't hurt either.
Linebacker (pick three)
NOMINEES: Chi Chi Ariguzo, Quentin Davie, Collin Ellis, James Hall, Adam Kadela, Prince Kwateng, David Nwabuisi, Damien Proby, Nick Roach, Nate Williams
Nick Roach was good, is still good and is a lock, despite playing just one year under Fitz. His NFL career helps his stock. Chi Chi Ariguzo is an easy pick too, and it's not just because of recency bias. Thirty-nine career starts, 333 career tackles, 5 fumble recoveries and three honorable mention All-Big Ten picks.
Which, once again, leads to an open race for the last spot. We have Damien Proby, who was a monster at middle linebacker, and a two-time honorable mention All-Big Ten pick.
But Nate Williams writes for this site and is a really cool guy who's said nice things about me on the twitter-dot-com before.
Love ya, Nate. But Proby gets the final pick. Please don't hurt me.
Safety (pick two)
NOMINEES: Ibraheim Campbell, Brian Peters, Brad Phillips, Brendan Smith
Ibraheim Campbell is the most recent guy, which helps, but so does the fact that he started 45 games and was a three-time All-Big Ten selection.
Brad Phillips is one of two in this group to make a first team All-Big Ten team. Plus he hit people dangerously hard. I tried to find the time he laid Shonn Greene out cold. Couldn't find it. What a bummer.
Phillips' occasional partner, Brian Peters, also had a first team All-Big Ten selection. His 12 interceptions rank 3rd on NU's career list.
Brendan Smith did this.
If giving up a pick-six while trying to drive down the field in 20 seconds with no timeouts left isn't peak Minnesota football, I don't know what is.
This is by far the toughest group to call. I'm giving it to Brian Peters and Ibraheim Campbell but I really wish I could give it to Phillips too. He's one of my favorite Wildcats ever.
Cornerback (pick two)
NOMINEES: Marquice Cole, Jordan Mabin, Sherrick McManis
It's Jordan Mabin and Sherrick McManis and we're moving on. In two years, when Nick VanHoose and Matt Harris finish their careers, this would be more interesting.
NOMINEES: Jeff Budzien, Stefan Demos, Amado Villareal, Joel Howells
Stefan Demos was a few games away from being a fan favorite at Northwestern. But having bad games at the Alamo Bowl and Outback Bowl makes people forget that you were an All-Big Ten-level kicker. Remember: don't kick it to Jeremy Maclin.
Just don't freaking do it.
Jeff Budzien wins. #BudzienForGroza #BudzienForHeisman #BudzienForMayor
NOMINEES: Stefan Demos, Brandon Williams, Chris Gradone, Slade Larscheid
LOOK IT'S STEFAN DEMOS AGAIN!
Don't punt it to Jeremy Maclin don't don't don't don't don't don't.
Slade Larscheid is running away with the voting right now, which is kind of funny considering his career stats. Let's look at NUSports.com's convenient breakdown!
Lars(c)heid began his Northwestern career as a placekicker and ended it as one of the Big Ten's best punters in 2006. During his freshman season, Lars(c)heid was 19-for-19 on extra points before becoming the first-string punter during his senior season in 2006. He led the Big Ten in punts that year and ranked fifth in the conference with 2,417 yards, good for a 37.2 yards per punt average.
THE FACT THAT SLADE LARSCHEID HAD THE MOST PUNT ATTEMPTS IN 2006 IS CONSIDERED A GOOD THING! SLADE LARSCHEID FOREVER! SPEARFISH, SOUTH DAKOTA STAND UP.
Special Teams Standout
NOMINEES: Hunter Bates, Phil Brunner, Bo Cisek, Pat Hickey, Venric Mark, Jaravin Matthews, John Henry Pace, Stephen Simmons, Sherrick McManis
Phil Brunner was an Academic All-American. Venric Mark was a regular All-American. But you know what they don't have?