Pat Fitzgerald held his first preseason press conference at Northwestern today, and prior to his taking the stage, various offensive and defensive players were made available to the media. Here's what they all had to say:
- Sixth-year senior Sean McEvilly was forced to retire from football due to a chronic foot issue. Fitzgerald on McEvilly: "Dissapointed for Sean. He's been through so much. A couple weeks ago, towards the end of the summer, we had a little bit of a break, and with Sean, it just wasn't going to get to a point where he felt like he could be competitive."
Fitzgerald also joked that McEvilly looked "metrosexual now" — He has lost a significant amount of weight — and that he is going to get his Master's degree from Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management.
- Senior offensive guard Matt Frazier had a staph infection over the summer. Fitzgerald labeled the situation "scary," with "a lot of unknown." Frazier has gained most of his weight back, but there is no timetable for his return. Fitzgerald said they hope to have some more clarity on Frazier's health by the end of camp.
- Everybody not on the injury report is considered "probable or better for the Stanford game."
- Fitzgerald on announcing a starting quarterback: "If I can make that announcement publicly, I will. I think that's good for the quarterback, I think that's good for the team. But if it rolls through a date that we've set, then maybe there's a competitive advantage if I don't, so I reserve the right to keep any competitive advantage I can."
What this likely means is that if the competition is decided within the next week or two, Fitzgerald might announce it publicly. But if gets decided late in camp, or in the week leading up to the Stanford game, Fitzgerald might see an advantage in keeping it a secret.
- Fitzgerald had one quote on the QBs that many have been taking out of context. He said, "Ideally, you have 1A and 1B." But immediately afterwards, he said, "you've got a starter, and you've got a young man who's ready to go in no matter what happens... We've had that, even last year with Trev[or Siemian], we've had another guy ready to go, who's kind of 1B, he gets all the reps and operates like he's a starter even though on the depth chart, he's the No. 2."
So by 1A and 1B, he just means a starter, and a backup who is ready to go should something happen to the starter. Nothing new here.
- Zack Oliver said he feels "very comfortable" running the read option. He also said that over the offseason, he ran three or four miles per day to try to improve his mobility and get his lower body in good enough shape to hang with Clayton Thorson and Matt Alviti, both of whom are more mobile than Oliver.
- Oliver joked that he runs a 4.39 40-yard dash — a tenth of a second slower than Trevor Siemian's 4.38.
- Oliver said the read option will be a significant part of the offense no matter who wins the job.
- Fitzgerald said the first-team linebackers at the moment are Jaylen Prater (outside), Anthony Walker (middle) and Drew Smith (outside).
- Fitzgerald intimated that some position battles could carry over into the season, and while he clarified that the following quote does not apply to the QBs, he said: "If guys are close, I'm going to play both, or all three. Most positions, if there's not a clear-cut starter, Saturday could be a big evaluator too."
- Fitzgerald says he "feels great" about the depth on the defensive line. He also noted that some weights are listed incorrectly on Northwestern's official roster. For example, he said that redshirt freshman DT Ben Oxley, listed at 260 pounds, is actually 290 pounds. "I'm not worried about our size, I'm not worried about our toughness, I'm not worried about our strength... at all."
- Fitzgerald was asked about using the team's deep stable of running backs — guys like Auston Anderson and Warren Long — and in his answer, he mentioned true freshman John Moten as a guy he likes. With so much depth at running back, it's tough to see Moten NOT redshirting, but it's perhaps notable that Fitzgerald made a point to mention his name.
- Fitzgerald said that if he were to have been totally honest last year coming out of fall camp and heading into the Cal game, he would've said "you know what, not sure we're ready to rock right now" due to injuries during camp.
- In his opening statement, Fitzgerald gave some "neat little factoids," such as "we've gained 410 pounds of lean muscle mass, and we've lost 369 pounds of fat, and that's just the coaching staff," and "we've been able to feed our guys over 8,700 training table meals since January." So much for #StatsAreForLosers.