Pat Fitzgerald’s second offseason press conference is in the books, and if we’re being honest, he didn’t give us much more than we already know about this 2019 Northwestern team.
All the typical Fitz-isms were in play on Wednesday: the team looks great, everyone is excited, seniors are teaching the younger guys and the QBs are in a tight battle that we won’t know the result of until August 31.
Most of what we heard from players/coaches during Wednesday’s press conferences is the stuff we’ve been hearing all offseason and it sounds like a broken record at this point, but we didn’t leave yesterday’s press conferences completely empty-handed.
Here are five things we learned that we didn’t already we know:
The Wildcats have another grad transfer punter
In case you missed it in the flurries of interviews and posts from yesterday’s press conferences, NU has another graduate transfer punter in Andrew David who will likely be the favorite to assume the punting duties given his experience at the role. Until David was announced yesterday, Northwestern’s punting unit was a major area of concern for this team with no one on the roster possessing proven ability at the college level.
David spent time at Michigan and TCU prior to arriving in Evanston, and reportedly chose the Wildcats over Notre Dame.
Fitz offers a perspective on national recognition
At the Big Ten media days a few weeks ago, we heard a lot from Fitz about the team’s lack of national recognition despite the Wildcats’ phenomenal conference record over the past two seasons as well as recent consistency in winning bowl games and as underdogs.
However, at Wednesday’s press conference, we saw Fitz take a bit of a new approach in addressing the topic of Northwestern’s national recognition.
“Those that don’t cover us weekly or monthly or cover the Big Ten, they kind of define our team based on a handful of games and they were all losses. Multiple Duke losses, loss to Western Michigan, loss to Illinois State, loss to Akron last year, that ends up being our national narrative which I told the team ‘if you want to change the narrative you need to go out and earn it’... We can’t have those [losses] if we want to be a team that gets national recognition and national respect but that’s not given, that’s earned, and we understand we’re in control of all of those things.”
This is a pretty straightforward take from Fitz that I’m sure all Northwestern fans would agree with, but I think it’s one that often gets overlooked as we tend to complain about the ‘Cats being overlooked by preseason polls and Vegas win totals. NU has turned in their fair share of “Top 25 worthy” performances in recent years, but for every marquee win, there’s also been an Illinois State. There’s been a Western Michigan. There’s been an Akron. Until the program proves those types of losses are in the rearview mirror, its quest for national recognition can only carry so much credibility.
Two new faces at superback
According to the official 2019 team roster, former defensive lineman Tommy Carnifax and Trent Goens are now superbacks in Mick McCall’s Wildcat offense. Goens’ potential switch had been announced in the spring, but the Carnifax news we just learned about yesterday.
We have no word as to whether they will exclusively feature on offense (they probably won’t), but this could signal a shift in the way Northwestern approaches the superback role in 2019 given their scarce options. The Wildcats don’t appear to have a ‘catch-first’ guy to play superback like they’ve had in the past with Cam Green and Garrett Dickerson. The conversion of bigger guys like Goens/Carnifax to the offensive side of the ball could mean that the NU offense will utilize its superbacks for more inside running-down packages and adding an extra receiver out wide instead of a superback in passing situations.
Northwestern is as talented as Clemson
According to Hunter Johnson.
HJ really excited about returning talent. Says the talent at NU is on par with Clemson— Inside NU (@insidenu) August 7, 2019
Not much to this, but it was nice to see Johnson show a little swag and quotability at the podium in a way we haven’t really seen from him this year.
The high number of medical retirements on this team is concerning and should raise eyebrows
By my count, at least nine former NU football players have announced medical retirements since the start of last season.
Jeremy Larkin retired midway through last season, and Cam Green announced he’s permanently stepping away from football at the end of the season. Chee Anyanwu and Austin Hiller also announced their medical retirements from the sport over the offseason.
And on Wednesday, Fitz confirmed that the following players have also left the team due to medical reason: Eric Eshoo, Jango Glackin, Brian Kaiser, Mason Suitt and Jackson Tirmonia.
I don’t have a full take/opinion on this right now, it just feels like something that must be acknowledged and must be pointed out beyond how the retirements affect the team from solely a football standpoint.