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Northwestern Week 3 press conference: Pat Fitzgerald, Wildcats prepare for Duke

After a straightforward win over Eastern Illinois to move to 2-0, Pat Fitzgerald and his Northwestern Wildcats team are gearing up for their first road test of the season. Northwestern will travel to Duke on Thursday for a Saturday game that may map out the course for the rest of the season.

The Wildcats released their Week 3 depth chart Monday, and then Fitzgerald and select players met the media. Here's what they had to say:

(Video, courtesy of Northwestern Athletics, below)

- Fitzgerald said Adam DePietro, who went down with an injury Saturday against EIU and did not return to the game, will be out against Duke. The severity of the injury is not yet known, but DePietro looked to be unable to put any weight on his right leg coming off the field.

- Fitzgerald confirmed that Brad North was available for "emergency use" on Saturday. When asked if North was still the starter at center if healthy, he said, "we'll see how the week goes... He didn't snap the ball well enough a couple weeks ago. He's got to be better, he's got to be more consistent. He didn't practice a lot last week, so we'll see how this week goes."

- Fitzgerald on Connor Mahoney, who is listed as the starting left guard on the Week 3 depth chart, and who was a defensive lineman until this offseason: "It's an evolution. He's still evolving. He's not there yet. But I would say that about our whole offensive line. We're far from being where we need to be."

- Fitzgerald on the decision to move Mahoney over to the offensive side of the ball after last season: "He was maybe four or five on the d-tackle rotation; I saw the [Ben] Oxleys coming on, the [Fred] Wyatts coming on, getting [Tyler] Lancaster back, and I just felt like the younger depth on the d-line was going to force Connor into a tougher situation. And I told him I was moving him [to offense] to compete to start. And through injury, he gets his opportunity."

- Matt Miccuci has been on kickoff duty for both of Northwestern's first two games. Fitzgerald said that is due to a nagging injury that Jack Mitchell has been recovering from. Fitzgerald did not commit to either as the kickoff specialist once Mitchell returns to full health.

- Fitzgerald on facing Duke, whose quarterback, Thomas Sirk, is a first-year starter: "You've got to do a great job researching not only what they've done in these two games, but then also schematically what they did a year ago. [We] try to predict, to the best of our ability... what we should anticipate seeing, and then be prepared to adjust."

- On multiple occasions, Fitzgerald said that Duke has been "pretty vanilla" from a scheme standpoint so far this season. The Blue Devils haven't been challenged by Tulane and North Carolina Central.

- Fitzgerald on Anthony Walker: "He's been pretty darn good unblocked. I think he's going to get blocked a few more times now."

- Walker said Fitzgerald asked him late last year whether it felt like he was playing in high school yet. "And it really didn't," Walker said. "All the way to the end of the year, it didn't feel like I was back in high school. And he said, 'well then you're not there yet.' This year, the game has started to slow down for me a lot."

- Fitzgerald said Duke will be "the fastest team we've played yet this year."

- Fitzgerald on Duke's offense: "Similar to things that we've seen from other opponents. They're a gap scheme, power running game, quarterback run game, play-action pass off of it. They've got very good speed on the perimeter.

- Fitzgerald on Duke's defense: "They're very aggressive. They came after Tulane... Jeremy Cash is a great player, their field backer. He's great in the kicking game... He's fun to watch on tape. And then they roll about six guys at d-tackle."

- Warren Long and Dan Vitale were NU's offensive players of the week. Deonte Gibson, Matt Harris and Dean Lowry were the defensive players of the week. Long snapper Chris Fitzpatrick took the special teams honor. Parrker Westphal was one of the practice players of the week.



Justin Jackson, Warren Long

Nick VanHoose, Anthony Walker