Three days prior to their season-opening clash with Maryland, DE Earnest Brown IV, LB Blake Gallagher, OL Gunnar Vogel and TE Charlie Mangieri, four of Northwestern’s most-experienced players, addressed the media.
Earnest Brown IV
On being a veteran on a more inexperienced defensive line: Brown stressed his confidence in the D-line due to their depth, knowledge of the game and physicality. He referenced Joe Gaziano as someone who was a leader in the past and said that he has to “[follow in] his shoes and lead the team as well.”
On what he learned about himself coming back from injury: Brown said his mom reminded him to stay positive throughout the entire process, which lasted six months. “The future isn’t guaranteed,” he said.
On which younger players he’s been most impressed by: Brown praised fellow defensive lineman and sophomore Jason Gold first, saying he expects him to “have a day” against Maryland. Brown also described Malik Washington, a sophomore receiver whose name has become somewhat of a hot topic in the past few weeks, as focused and hungry.
On how the offense has looked in practice: Brown said that, under Bajakian, the offense is running plays that he’s never seen before in his four years at NU. He added that he “can’t wait” to see them execute on Saturday.
On “bring your own juice,” the newfound mantra for the Wildcats that he created: Without fans, Gallagher said the team will be relying on itself to supply energy more than ever before. For younger players that won’t see too much playing time, he said the biggest responsibility on game days will be keeping the sideline energized, but that players in the game will also need to up their level of passion and intensity to account for the lack of fans. “We gotta bring it ourselves because there ain’t no one in the stadium that’s gonna do it for us,” he said.
On preparing for Maryland without knowing who will start at quarterback for the Terps: Gallagher sees both potential starters (Taulia Tagovailoa and Lance LeGendre) as good athletes despite the lack of tape on either. He said preparing for both and executing their plan will be the keys to success on Saturday.
On which younger players he’s been most impressed by: Gallagher alluded to safety Brandon Joseph and Rod Heard, two redshirt first-year defensive backs, as training camp standouts that he expects to “make some plays on game day.”
On the benefits of having the entire starting linebackers group back: Gallagher noted the chemistry and the number of reps he has with fellow starters Chris Bergin and Paddy Fisher as strengths that they can build upon as a group.
On the potential for missed tackling issues early in the season: Gallagher said that, despite the coaching staff doing a good job getting defensive players as many reps as possible in position, missed tackles are a concern for the Wildcats as much as it is for other college teams across the nation due to fewer padded practices happening prior to the season’s start.
On Ethan Wiederkher’s transition to right guard: Vogel said that the transition has been “really smooth” for Wiederkher, who he noted has played the majority of his career at tackle. Their friendship off the field, he added, has made matters easier for them as a unit while playing.
On what his advice to Peter Skoronski is before his first career start in the Big Ten: Vogel said that despite his true first-year status, Skoronski has impressed him with his maturity, preparation, strength and intelligence. As for what his advice has been, Vogel said he’s told Skoronski to “cut it loose and go get after guys” and not be overwhelmed by the moment.
On new starting quarterback Peyton Ramsey: Vogel said that it’s clear Ramsey has “spent years perfecting his craft as a quarterback” and that everyone’s expectations for him are high “because he’s shown he can do it in practice.”
On the importance of adaptability on the offensive line: Vogel noted the particular importance of depth given the potential havoc COVID-19 could wreak on the depth chart. According to Vogel, offensive line coach Kurt Anderson has always stressed that “the more positions you can play, the more valuable you are,” so he’s not concerned about having offensive lineman play snaps at unfamiliar positions.
On which young players on the offensive line have impressed him most: Vogel was quick to mention Peter Skoronski, saying his skill is “not a well-kept secret anymore,” but said that the entire offensive line room — specifically Josh Preibe, who he expects to play this year — has been impressive and is prepared to step up should COVID-19 cause roster disruptions.
On the running back corp: Vogel called the running backs the group he’s most excited to see this year, dubbing them an “absolute stable full of horses.” He said he’s most excited to see what Isaiah Bowser can do now that he’s healthy, but also named Drake Anderson, Evan Hull and Jesse Brown as players who can “make guys miss in open space but also put their head down and get us hard yards when we need them.”
On the difference between a superback and tight end: Mangieri said there isn’t much of a difference between the position names, but that more rotation between players should be expected under Bajakian than in years prior.
On what graduate transfer John Raine brings to the program: “John Raine’s a baller,” said Mangieri, citing his impressive film in multiple formations and leadership ability, which he compares to that of Ramsey.
On “bring your own juice”: Mangieri called it a “mantra we’re starting to live by.” He said that offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian “does a great job bringing his own juice every day,” and that he’s very excited about what he’s done to the offense.