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Pat Fitzgerald media availability notes: Mike Kafka, NFL Draft, Park to miss rest of spring and more

Fitz talked NFL Draft stock, Mike Kafka, and a whole lot more.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It was a short meeting in Welsh-Ryan Arena, but we were still able to pickup some interesting tidbits from Pat Fitzgerald as he addressed the media for the first time since the team got back from their spring break.

Mike Kafka
  • As we previously wrote, Mike Kafka will be working with the wide receivers. Pat Fitzgerald said Kafka will fill the same role that Tommy Rees had when he was here.  Said Fitzgerald, "from a staff standpoint, you put guys where we need an extra set of eyes, so Tommy [Rees] was with the wideouts, Mike fills that position."
  • Fitzgerald also pointed out that under NCAA guidelines, you can "only have four total" graduate assistants, so no assistants will be working with the quarterbacks. He wants to have the extra eyes working with the bigger position groups.
  • On the process of adding Kafka to the staff: "Mikey was very interested in getting into coaching when he was done. He lasted six years, that's a heckuva run. I'm really happy for him with his career and happy to have him back. The neat thing is we've been able to see more and more guys have interest in getting into coaching, so it's been good."
  • Fitzgerald closed the Kafka talk by saying: "It's good to get him started. I hope he makes really good coffee. That's his job.
Dean Lowry and Dan Vitale
  • On Dean Lowry: "a lot of people thought that Dean kind of solidified himself as a draftable guy.  The video speaks for itself, he's a high motor big guy.  There's a shortage of big bodies in this world and he's 6-6, 296-pound guy that ran well.  If his arm length was an inch and a half longer he's probably a top 50 pick."
  • Fitzgerald added that "it'd be nice" to the have the problem of not picking someone up because of an inch difference in arm length.
  • On Dan Vitale: "Danny offensively is gonna find a niche in somebody's offense, some offensive coordinator is going to fall in love with him, but he's probably going to have to make his money not only in that position but in the kicking game."
  • Fitzgerald said Vitale impressed in all positions during the Senior Bowl.
  • Fitzgerald is high on both Lowry and Vitale's pro careers, saying, "I think both guys will play for a while. Both guys will probably go to an organization that doesn't always necessarily look for the height, weight, speed, cookie-cutter guys, they'll look for guys who are players."
  • Fitzgerald also said at least one team is interested in Dean Lowry as a tight end, even though, according to Fitzgerald, Lowry "hasn't run a route since high school."
Odds and Ends
  • On the wide receivers: "the move with Solomon [Vault] and Marcus [McShepard] over there instantly increases the athleticism and playmaking ability, so that's been very positive. Both guys are a work in progress. I think Cam [Green] and Charlie [Fessler] have had good starts to the spring and expect those two guys to get better and be productive. Nice to have Flynn Nagel back running around a little bit. He played 4 games only so you kind of look at him still as a redshirt freshman so I think we're gonna have some pretty good competitive depth there, which quite frankly the last few year's we haven't."
  • Nagel hasn't been fully cleared, but is practicing in a non-contact jersey.
  • Northwestern football had it's best academic quarter ever. 80 players had a 3.0 or higher GPA, smashing the previous high of 64. The team had a collective GPA of 3.23, which Fitzgerald called an "unbelievable quarter."
  • Auston Anderson was banged up "a little last year," but the lack of playing time was mostly due to being "caught in a competitive group."  Fitzgerald said Anderson and John Moten are in competition right now.
  • Ian Park will not practice for the rest of Spring Ball due to injury, but Fitzgerald expects him to be ready for the season.
  • When asked if Park was a starter, Fitzgerald initially said that he's "not sure" he's ready to view anybody as a starter, but did say that you could pencil in Eric Olson and probably Connor Mahoney as starters, and "after that, we'll see how it shakes out."