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Stanford gameweek press conference notes

We have football on the horizon, folks.

NU Athletics

Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern’s newly-announced captains for the upcoming season spoke to the media on Monday. Here’s what they had to say:

Pat Fitzgerald

On the aforementioned captains: “I’m fired up about our four captains. I really think that these four guys represent what is great about our program.”

On the trip to Palo Alto: “It’s exciting to go back to the Bay Area. Last time we were there we had great fan support when we took on Cal. I am anticipating having that same type of fan support… It’s unique having back to back trips to California obviously with the Holiday Bowl and now with the opener.”

His feelings on the quarterback group: “Great. I told the squad this morning I thought that the whole room had a great camp…They’ve been terrific teammates and I think they have done everything in their power to improve and get better. I think we have multiple guys that we can win, and win championships, with.”

When asked whether he would consider implementing a two quarterback system if the competition was tight: “Yeah, maybe.

On K.J. Costello: “He’s a great player. He reminds me of [Daniel] Jones from Duke the past few years…He’s a guy with a high, high ceiling. He has all kinds of Stanford passing records and there’s been a handful of pretty good quarterbacks that have played there…He does a great job spreading the ball out to all of his weapons.”

On the Stanford offense: “They recruited really well at wide receiver. They’ve got an outstanding tight end…It sounds like [the offensive line] are all now healthy…That offense has been one of the most difficult to stop out west in [David Shaw’s] tenure.”

On who Stanford’s offensive scheme compares to in the Big Ten: “A lot of West Coast principles, so to speak, in that offense. So all of the teams that we see West Coast styles of: Wisconsin’s got a little bit of it, Michigan’s had it, Michigan State…I mean everybody’s got it. We have it.”

An area of the team that gives him confidence: “I think the depth that we have collectively as a team is the best that we’ve had to start the season.”

On new starting punter Daniel Kubiuk: “Yeah, he’s starting. I’m fired up for Kubes. He’s been here a long time…He’s had to battle through some injuries. A couple years ago, we expected him to be our starting punter and unfortunately he got hurt, so he missed multiple years. He’s had a great camp and he gets the opportunity to do it first.”

On what the opener reveals about a team: “I like it in 72 degrees and as much adversity as I can create in practice. But, you learn a lot about your squad in the opener. How do we handle everything that happens in game? I pulled up a lot of the stats from the Florida-Miami game for the team meeting today. What a great lesson learned from watching a game…You see 14 penalties on one side and 11 sacks. The other penalties on the other side and the choices and the decisions that were made. That’s the challenge of college football. You gotta prepare your team. You gotta harden it. You gotta put them in position to be prepared for the opener to the best of your ability.”

On this year’s freshman class: “I really like the class a lot. I think it’s one of the best we’ve ever recruited top to bottom. I feel great about the class…the good news is we come out of camp in a really good spot health wise. Are there guys that I expect to play four games? I would hope the entire class we could get four games out of.”

His reaction to Andrew Luck’s decision: “I sent his dad a text to express our thoughts… We recruited Andrew and we have the utmost respect for the Luck family. I’ve been on different committees with Oliver when he was with West Virginia and then with the NCAA so I know the family very, very well… I was going to the rental car return when he called me, Andrew did, and told me he was going to Stanford when I was on vacation with my family… My hope is, more important than anything, that the courage he demonstrated over the week is inspiring to all of those that come after him and play.”

On if he ever thought NU was in the mix for Luck: “Yeah, I thought we were right in the mix, absolutely… You know, he made a great decision to go to a great school. He had a great career.”

On the status of the superback position: “Trey is doing great. He is progressing every day. Charlie has been fantastic since he’s gotten here…a rich, rich Northwestern tradition in that family…So, just a young guy that’s continuing to grow and he’s earned the opportunity and I look forward to watching him play.”

Fitz’s full presser:

Bennett Skowronek

On being named a captain: “I’m very honored, very humbled, and it means a lot. It shows the respect of my teammates. I was very surprised when Coach Fitz called me into his office, but it’s a great honor. One of the biggest honors of my life. I can’t wait to help move this team to heights we haven’t been too.”

On TJ and Hunter: “Both of those guys are looking great. The whole offense, the whole team, actually, we’re all confident in whoever is out there on the field. So, we’ll let Coach Fitz and Coach McCall decide that, but the ten other guys on offense are gonna be behind that person, 100%.”

On potential breakout wide receivers: “I think a lot of guys in the room are gonna have a breakout year. First, you look at a guy like Riley Lees who's getting the opportunity to start this year after being behind Flynn for a couple years. A guy like J.J. Jefferson, I feel like the freshman-sophomore year is always the biggest jump for any player, so he’s had tremendous growth as well.”

Jared Thomas

On the quarterback competition: “We’ll all know when we run out on the field, but either one, whichever quarterback runs on out there, we’ll all be ready to go.”

On Kurt Anderson: “He’s fun to be around. He’s a technician himself, he’s a very good teacher of the game. We’ve really enjoyed having him on the field and in the classroom too.”

On when he started to assert himself as a leader on the team: “Last year after the Nebraska game, obviously we had three redshirt seniors. Coach Fitz came up to me on a Monday practice and goes, ‘You’re playing too well not to be a leader.’ I really appreciated him for doing that because it allowed me to break out of my shell and be a little more vocal. It was from that point until now that I’ve really taken it by the neck and run with it.”

On how the offensive line will avoid last season’s slow start: “Being the leader of the group, it starts with me. I have to come in with the right mindset each and everyday to bring others along with me. And then it’s the way we prepare… I have to always bring the right mentality, the right mindset. I think it’s contagious when you bring positive energy to the group because then everyone will follow and it makes it fun for everyone to be a part of… I think we’ve really taken on a personality as a group to just be infectious with our energy at practice.”

The full video of Thomas and Skowronek’s comments:

Trae Williams

On Stanford: Costello is a very good passer. Bigger dude, has real good arm strength, arm talent. Can fit in a lot of good fade balls, back shoulder, throws it really well… He throws the deep ball very well. He trusts his guys. He’s got a really big receivers to throw to, also which makes it a little easier. He’s sneaky athletic also… He’s a good quarterback.”

On the best aspect of defensive back group: “We’re deep and we’re hungry. We’ve got a lot of guys who are ready to go… we’re hungry to get better and change the narrative and really start locking teams down and making a difference.”

On the impact the defensive backs could make with NU’s strong front seven: “We gotta hold up our end of the bargain and that can make us a really great defense if we can show that same dominance that they have shown for the last, how many years, we can take it to the next level.”

Paddy Fisher

On the mentality he brings that has helped Northwestern’s defense generate turnovers: “It’s that ‘want to’ and then it transforms over time into an instinct…it’s one thing that I try to spread around to the defense. To make sure we get to the ball and make sure we’re punching.”

On the matchup versus Stanford: “Stanford is a very talented team. Very physical team with a great head coach… It’s gonna be a dog fight, a street fight… We have to bring our A game on the road, too. It’s gonna be a really good game.”

His favorite all time NFL linebacker: “Of all time? Luke Kuechly, for sure.”

The full video of Fisher and Williams’ comments: