Was struck by several storylines from my time at NU this past weekend, so I refuse to write on one topic …
We’re an ADD society now anyhow, so here’s your “thoughts on the go”….bullet point style …
1) Venric Mark:
What an athlete. He told us in our production meetings Friday, he can run a 4.34 40 … and can dunk a basketball. He was recruited by Vandy, and burned the Commodores on a key 1st down run in the 4th quarter that led to the game-winning FG. But perhaps his biggest contribution are the decisions he made off the field, to contribute to his success on it. Mark told us he made a significant attitude change this past winter. “I was a bad teammate,” he admitted. Pat Fitzgerald added more insight: “He learned to push beyond what he thought he was capable of doing. (Venric) would be one of the first to come into the building in the winter. And I would be one of the first to greet him. If he didn’t have a smile on his face, I would make him turn around, leave the building and not come back until he had smile. There was a time he thought he was too cool for school.” Not anymore. He is beloved by his coaches and teammates. And the stat sheet.
2) Do the Quarterback Shuffle:
Fitz was very clear to us on Friday that he has 1A and 1B quarterbacks. Trevor Siemian “is not a backup” for us, he said. He added last Friday, Kain Colter had not practiced a rep at any other position other than quarterback. That’s likely to change, after Siemian led NU to two game-winning drives in back to back weeks.
3) There’s a lot of excitement surrounding freshman LB Ifeadi Odenigbo, who will be getting playing time this year because of injury. Recruiting services had him looking at Alabama, OSU, Notre Dame, and Stanford. Funny quote from Fitz when asked how the rookie is adjusting to college football: “The first day of practice, he went to the stadium, because that’s how they did it at Centerville. (Ohio) We straightened him out fast,” Fitz said laughing. “He will be better in October. He is learning on the run.” And trying to stop it …
4) Schedule Makers:
Fitz told us Friday, Vandy is a game that is important for recruiting. He said when he met with NU Athletic Director Jim Phillips, he asked for two things in a schedule: 1) 7 home games 2) Play schools NU recruits against (outside of the B1G). Boston College, Rice, Cal, Stanford, Vandy, Duke. Though Fitz said they are seeing less and less of Vandy and Duke on the recruiting trail. You will see Vandy and Cal on the schedule in the next two years. Followed up by Stanford and Duke.
5) Trainer Time:
Tory Lindley, Head Team Physician at NU, told me Saturday night was a first for the Wildcat training staff: Never before had athletic trainers been stationed high above in the press box, until Saturday.
Lindley told me the purpose is to get a better bird’s eye view of injuries, especially ones that happen far away from the NU sideline. A good example of this came right at the beginning of the game, when defensive back Nick VanHoose went down in the farthest corner from NU’s sideline. Trainers can perhaps see an injury happen better or see a player limping around in a huddle quicker from high above, than from field level. In addition, the folks in the press box will have access to the TV in-house feed to review replays and have a chance to phone down to field level medical staff and explain how an injury happened. Lindley told me the NFL started this method last year in the playoffs, and is now doing it during the regular season. Lindley believes NU is one of the only, if not the only FBS school, implementing this kind of training method.
See you in Ann Arbor this Saturday … leaving my shoelaces at home.
What a transformation he has made. On the field. But maybe more significantly, off it. We had a chance to meet with Mark and his teammate, Damien Proby on Friday.