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Rashawn Slater and Riley Lees Videoconference Notes

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Two major pieces of Northwestern’s offense opened up about student-athlete life during COVID.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Conference-Football Championship-Northwestern vs Ohio State Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Media week continued with updates from OL Rashawn Slater and WR Riley Lees. Northwestern’s senior offensive leaders discussed coping with COVID and their hopes to return to campus soon.

Rashawn Slater

On his current situation with COVID-19: “I’m back home in Sugar Land, Texas with my family. I have been since this all started...doing real good. As you guys probably know, strength staff, coaching staff, nutrition staff, everyone has been in awesome communication with us. So, we, really have been given everything we need...We’re on the same page with the strength staff, so they’ve kind of personalized as to what we’re supposed to be doing. I’m fortunate enough to have access to weights and a lot of places to run and do position work. So, I’m doing really good as far as that goes.”

On classes: “Northwestern professors that I’ve had have been super understanding and accommodating. Obviously, they didn’t have a ton of time to prepare, but usually that has not been at our expensive. They’ve maybe even eliminated some work just to make things less stressful for us.”

On returning to campus: “From the beginning of this process, the communication has been health and safety is the number one priority for all of us, and I really just trust the staff to do the research and continue to make those decisions according to that. I know me and most of the guys, if not all of the guys, are really excited just to be back and with each other. But we understand it’s going to be a process.”

On his name being floated in 2021 NFL mock drafts: “Honestly, it’s kind of just been focusing on the academics and football is really what I’ve been doing right now. It’s been such an adjustment that that’s all I’ve had time to really do. Even going forward, that’s kind of my thought process is take care of my senior year first.”

On the offensive lineman potentially meeting informally: “We’re a bit more spread out so it’s not as easy. As far as I know, no one has been together... We have our meetings with Coach Anderson which are awesome. We also have accountability partners, and pretty much every group has these, where we’re just trying to send each other videos of us working out. A younger guy will send me that, and I’ll kind of critique him, or I’ll send stuff to Coach Anderson. We’re definitely finding ways to improve our technique while we’re apart even though we might not be together physically.”

Riley Lees

On his life circumstances around COVID-19: “I’ve been in Libertyville with my parents basically since this started. But the same with Rashawn, the strength staff, the nutrition staff, everything, we’ve been given the tools that we need to kind of stay in shape during this time....nothing new for me. I might be going back pretty soon, hopefully, so I’m looking forward to that.”

On his academic life: “This has definitely been the most unique quarter of my life, academically...a lot of busy work outside of the class that’s more than normal, but the professors have been awesome. It’s been pretty easy to be in communication with them. I’ve done a couple office hours where it’s literally a one-on-one Zoom meeting with the professor or the TA...It’s been pretty smooth, it started off a little choppy. But now that we’re eight, nine weeks in, it’s almost the norm now...it took an adjustment being in college for four years and having a routine and having to change that suddenly, but I’m pretty used to it now.

On throwing the football with Peyton Ramsey and other receivers: “We just got in contact. I was his [Ramsey] host on his visit, so we’ve been in contact basically since the start of this process. We kind of were talking, since we’re not able to be at school, if we wanted to get started throwing with whoever was around in the area. So we did that, me and Ramaud, Ray Niro, guys were in the area that were willing to go and see people...it was good. It was good to get a little routine and start to find a little groove with each other and see what his ball flight’s like and just see a ball out of his hand...and it was nice to catch a ball.”

On the football dynamics behind the Ramsey/receivers throwing session: “So, Peyton was in the process of beginning his install with the new offense with Coach Jake. So we were kind of going over concepts and then just running it and telling him what we’re thinking from what we’ve experienced in spring ball. Most of it was just routes on air and just talking the concepts and then running the routes based on the concepts just so he can see how we run things and just to start the process of getting to work and getting ready.”

On reluctance behind returning to campus: “Obviously everyone has had a different experience with the coronavirus. It’s affected people differently so, I think, everybody might have a different answer to this. I personally have faith in the university and the health professionals to put us in a position where we’ll be at a minimal risk, if possible, if and when we begin going back into lifting and running...I’m personally just going to put my trust in them.”

On Bennett Skowronek’s departure in terms of his role: “I haven’t really thought about that just because it’s been the group that we’ve had for a long time. Since, like week four, when Ben unfortunately got hurt last year. The room that we have now, that’s just the room that we’ve had, and I think everybody’s growing. We have a lot of experience coming back. Ben’s the only receiver that’s leaving...In terms of my role, I’m just going to do what’s asked of me. If that’s to be the guy on third down, fourth down or the red zone, then great. I’ll go do that to the best of my ability, but we’re hoping that everybody can get some production this year...we’re looking to get back and just be explosive and make some plays this year.”

On the state of the team: “We’re just trying to stay where we were at the end of spring ball because we felt we were at a really good place, so we’re trying to maintain that as much as possible through this situation.”

On the quarterback room: “Everyone’s had their fair share of snaps, so that’s good to have everyone have experience. And then Peyton coming in it just adds another level of competition, which is honestly just better. It’s the best for any situation. Even if we had another receiver coming over, it’s just more competition. It allows for people to play better. You ultimately need to grow to be the guy, and that’s what we’re looking for. I’m excited. There’s a few guys coming back to the area pretty soon. We’re all gonna be throwing. I think like four out of six of them will be here soon, so we have some opportunities to start throwing once things start opening up a little bit in Illinois. So, I’m just looking forward to seeing everyone’s progress and then going into camp whenever that may be.”

On the lack of playmakers at WR: “We need to make more big plays. That’s why our offense was so stagnant last year. That’s been the focus, that’s what we’re trying to do. And we got the guys to do it.”