If you had any concerns that Kurt Anderson’s recruiting success wouldn’t translate to the football field, Jared Thomas wants you to quell them. The veteran offensive lineman believes that Anderson has already displayed his value in practices.
“He has all the knowledge in the world,” Thomas said. “He was a former player, someone that has done it all. He knows what he’s doing out there, and he has showed us so much already.”
After being promoted to lead the offensive line after Adam Cushing left to become head coach at Eastern Illinois, the new man in charge quickly landed three linemen on the recruiting trail, including four-star Peter Skoronski who had offers from Michigan, Notre Dame and Penn State, among others. Josh Priebe chose the ‘Cats over schools such as Ohio State and Auburn, while Ben Wrather selected NU over Penn State and a number of solid programs.
Although Anderson technically joined the program in 2018 as a “quality control analyst,” he made an immediate and tangible impact just months after taking the reins of the offensive line unit. If there was such thing as NU spring football awards, the coach was as deserving as anyone.
But recruiting can only accomplish so much on its own, and Pat Fitzgerald will be the first to tell you that he doesn’t care about the number of stars next to a player. The other aspect of being a successful college coach is the obvious one, the on-field coaching and the product on the field.
Northwestern’s most senior member of the offensive line, Thomas, could not have been more complimentary of Anderson’s on-field work thus far. It’s no surprise to see a player praising his new coach, but Thomas seemed to go to extra lengths when discussing the impact of his new coach.
“What [Anderson] is showing us and what he brings to the field, it’s really incredible,” Thomas said. “Every day you’re learning something new and we’re getting better.”
Acclaim like that shouldn’t be taken lightly from a player who has seen as much as anyone in his time in a purple uniform. The fifth-year senior started every game for NU at center last season, and has appeared in a total of 37 games on the line over the course of his career in Evanston.
Both Anderson and Thomas are going to have their work cut out for them in 2019. The unit has to replace three starters from last season, and will be one of NU’s more inexperienced position groups no matter who suits up in the fall.
But Thomas doesn’t see it as a concern, rather an opportunity for younger players to make their mark, with the help of Anderson.
“All the guys that are going to be starting for us have some experience, it isn’t like they’re coming in with nothing,” the Indy native emphasized. “We have guys that are being prepared to be ready, and guys that are willing to work to get better. We have a coach that is working for us to get better, and I have all the confidence we are going to do that.”
To see a senior captain and anchor exuding so much confidence about a first-year coach and overall young position unit should be somewhat reassuring for all Northwestern fans worried about replacing guys like Tommy Doles and J.B. Butler.
Maybe it is just a case of a player commending his new coach, but these linemen have certainly shown that they’re inspired and excited to suit up for the new leader of their unit, and that means something. A strong player/coach foundation is the first step toward changing the culture of unit, and Anderson seems to have earned the respect and attention of his players.
Anderson will have a lot to prove when he steps onto the field in Palo Alto on the final day of August, but he’s going to have his guys ready to go, and they’re going to be ready to go all season. Just ask Jared Thomas.
“Maybe we’ve had some slow starts in the past, sure. But we’re going to be ready to go 1-0.”
We’ll give Thomas an honorary “Bingo” for that one.