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Spring practice recap and observations with Pat Fitzgerald

See what Fitz had to say about his team as they turned the page on spring.

On the final day of spring practice, head coach Pat Fitzgerald spoke with the media. Here are some notes from his media availability as well as observations from a beautiful Saturday morning practice at Ryan Fieldhouse this past weekend.

What Coach Fitz had to say:

  • On not having a spring game: “I’d rather get better than have a marketing thing.”
  • On the quarterback battle: “This is quarterback change five or six that I’ve been through and Mick and I have been through five of the six together. We have a very specific plan. We’re not gonna rush things. We’ll give those guys ample opportunity to show they can be the right leader for our offense and for our football team.”
  • On when we will know the starting quarterback: “That decision will be made internally and long before any of you know and that is all by design.”
  • On communication: “Communication is key and it’s getting increasingly more difficult just because young people don’t communicate with their eyes and their lips anymore, they communicate with their thumbs. Nobody calls you. You don’t listen to voicemails anymore... We don’t take our cell phones on the field... so we have to do a better job of forcing guys to be able to communicate properly.”
  • On aspirations for his second life: “My next life I’m gonna come back as an influencer. I heard that’s a new profession. I’m looking forward to becoming that.”
  • On coaching this generation: “Young people don’t have the same focus we had with the players ten years ago. Instead of fighting it, you have to embrace it and if you don’t embrace it you’re gonna become extinct. You’re gonna become a dinosaur.”
  • On the state of the program: “We took the next step by reaching the championship last year, but we didn’t finish the job. We’ve had to go through the natural progression as a program. Back when I played, we had to get to a bowl game. Then we went through a number of years of trying to become a consistent bowl team. Now we’ve done that, and consistency won bowl games against top-level opponents. Since 2015, I think we have the 14th most wins of any program in the country...Who would’ve though back in 1993 that would ever be said.”
  • On Trent Goens’ transition to offense: “He’s done great but I anticipate getting him some work on defense in the fall too. I think he’s a guy that has the ability mentally to have multiple positions and multiple roles.”
  • On NU players’ 2019 NFL Draft hopes: “I’d draft them. I’m biased though.”
  • On Clayton Thorson: “He’ll be drafted. It’s just a matter of where and when. He’s a war daddy. Someone’s gonna get a steal. His best football is ahead of him.”
  • On his offensive philosophy: “We want to be as creative as we can execute. I like to do a few things really freaking good, like I know that you know I’m running this play and I’m still gonna kick your ass. To me, that’s exciting. That’s football.”

Other Notes:

  • Drew Luckenbaugh was taking reps at kicker due to Charlie Kuhbander remaining out with injury (Joe Gaziano also took some reps at kicker but was promptly sent back to defensive drills after shanking a 35-yarder)
  • Cody Gronewold and Jake Genyk both took reps at punter. Gronewold showed off a little more leg in his reps (sample size of three punts)
  • Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman spent the day battling with Cameron Ruiz in single coverage situations. Ruiz appears to be one of Northwestern’s preferred one-on-one coverage guys after the conclusion of spring practice
  • With JR Pace injured, Bryce Jackson and Brian Bullock rotated in-and-out of the second starting safety spot alongside Travis Whillock
  • Joe Bergin also worked in at safety but was playing with a cast on his left arm. Still managed to snag an interception while they were scrimmaging despite playing with one hand
  • Joe Spivak, a frontrunner to potentially fill Northwestern’s gap on the defensive line, was in a large boot and did not practice
  • From left tackle to right tackle, the favored first-team offensive line package appeared to be Rashawn Slater/Nik Urban/Jared Thomas/Sam Stovall/Gunnar Vogel