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    BLOG: On Quarterbacks and Running Backs

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    "I'm getting trust in it," 'Cat quarterback Dan Persa will say, referring to the Achilles he ripped up last November.

    And what does he mean by that?

    "Just kind of stop thinking about it. I think that's one of the biggest hurdles with any injury of this magnitude. Once you stop feeling the pain in it, after a long stretch with no pain, you start to trust it more and you realize you can do things your body wouldn't let you do before."

    But, frankly, just trusting more is not enough, not enough if he is to perform with the alacrity he did before going down in the Iowa game.

    There must be total trust, trust enough that he banishes all thought of his damaged part and does not worry about a recurrence and believes, firmly believes that he can once again operate as he did in the past. He must say, quite simply, fuggedaboutit, and then let it rip.

    This is a truism, a sentiment The Scribbler has heard often over the years from any number of athletes coming back from serious injury, and so we ask Persa if he is at that point where he is ready to say, "Fuggedaboutit."

    "I'm close. I don't think I'm there yet. But I'm close."

    So you're still holding back?

    "A little bit. It's not as strong as it needs to be just yet. But I'm almost there."

    Do you know what you need to see or feel before you do say, "Fuggedaboutit"?

    "Yeah, yeah. I do. I can't put a finger on it. But I know what I need."

    So it's more instinctive?

    "Right. Yeah."

    Persa was speaking here late Tuesday morning, the final time he would be meeting with the media before the 'Cats Saturday season opener at Boston College. He served up no headline news, which indicates the name of their starting quarterback against the Eagles will not be known until he trots onto the field in Chestnut Hills. But he did offer that peak into his psyche and this bit of info when asked about his mobility. "Lateral's fine. Lateral's real easy for me," he said. "It's straight ahead, putting the strain on the Achilles, that's the hardest thing."

    The 'Cat roster is littered with 21 seniors and not only have some of them openly opined that they feel this will be a special season. One of them, Persa, is also a Heisman Trophy candidate with a marketing push behind him. Now here is his backup, the callow sophomore Kain Colter, and we wonder how that leaves him feeling, knowing that he may be the man on Saturday against BC.

    "It's a mixed bag of emotions," he admits. "I'm nervous a little bit. I'm excited for the opportunity. I'm confident. I'm anxious to get to finally play. It's a lot. But I definitely don't want to let any of these seniors down with my play, so I'm just preparing to the best of my ability. I'm going to lay it in God's hands, let Him handle it, and go out there and just play the game I've been playing my whole life."

    Last fall, after he stepped in for Persa, Evan Watkins would say he sometimes found himself thinking too much and not just playing the game he had played his whole life. So we wonder if that is the case with Colter, who has just finished a practice where he overthrew at least three open receivers.

    "I don't think I'm thinking too much," he says. "We studied BC hard, so I'm prepared mentally. But football's a game of reaction, especially playing quarterback, so when things change or stuff breaks down, you've got to be able to react to things very quickly. So it's just settling down a little bit, slowing down and making good plays."

    Has the game itself slowed down for him, which is one result of experience?

    "It has, it has. But I've still got a long ways to go, a lot of things to learn. I'm sure it will slow down a little more. I am a sophomore and if I did start this week, it would be my first collegiate start. So I'm going to have to get in there and settle down a little bit. But I'm confident that I'll do that."

    Last fall, as a true freshman, Colter often practiced with units that included wide receivers Rashad Lawrence and Venric Mark and Tony Jones, themselves true freshmen. But rarely did he get a chance to work with Jeremy Ebert and Drake Dunsmore, Demetrius Fields and Charles Brown, the primary targets in the 'Cats passing offense. So it is no wonder that he says, "The guys from my class I feel I have the most chemistry with. Living with those guys in the summer, when we had nothing to do, we'd come in here and do routes together. So I feel I have good chemistry with those guys."

    And what of the older guys?

    "I think the biggest thing getting all those reps (with the ones) helps is getting some chemistry down with the receivers. Last year I didn't get a chance to throw many balls to Ebert and Drake and guys like that. Getting a lot of reps with the first team helps that, so I'm confident there."

    The running back job belonged to Mike Trumpy when the 'Cats opened camp, but then he faded and Jacob Schmidt ascended to the top of the pack of candidates for that position. Now, on the depth chart for Saturday's game, the starter is listed as either Trumpy or Schmidt. "The last couple of weeks Mike's come on a little bit in comparison to the start of camp," Fitzgerald explained. "Jacob is as consistent a player as we have in our football program and that's why he put himself in that position."

    In what areas did Trumpy come on?

    "Just consistency. Just consistency," said Fitzgerald. "From a standpoint of doing the little things right not some of the time but all of the time. That's what it comes down to at that position."

    His coach's comments were later relayed to Trumpy and, as he listened, he silently nodded. "I started off practicing, I thought I was doing very well, but then I kind of tweaked my hamstring (before the 'Cats left for Camp Kenosha) and was out a little bit," he then said. "When I came back, I was very rusty, I would say I was not mentally focused, mentally sound. I wasn't me. It took some soul searching, focusing, to get back to where I was. I came back and tried to be as physical as I could be, and it snowballed from there. I gained more confidence as I continued to do better and better, and stayed focused."

    What caused him to not be himself? The injury?

    "I don't know. I just wasn't. I don't know. I've been injured before. I just came back rusty and wasn't mentally focused. I can't explain why. It was weird. But I did a lot of soul searching, well, not really soul searching. But I was like, I've got to change it around and get back to where I was."

    And now?

    "I feel great."

    THE SEARCH IS ON: Fitzgerald also said this about his running backs:
    "It's not like we had a bell cow (at that position) over the last few years. So we pretty much laid the gauntlet out to those guys that we'd like to see somebody take it, and the guy who's been the most consistent doing it has been Jacob time in and time out. That's what happens when you're a little bit of a younger player. . .and you play as a redshirt freshman (like Trumpy) or a true freshman (like Adonis Smith). They made a lot of good things happen, then a lot of things that maybe just coaches see that drive us crazy. I think they've improved. I think they've gotten better in camp. Again, we've got good depth there and we'll see how it plays out. For us, if somebody steps up and becomes our bell cow, he'll get the starting nod. I look forward to that day. I look forward to that day."

    We were surprised to see the 5-foot-10, 215 pound true freshman running back Treyvon Green take some snaps with the ones and so we asked Fitzgerald if he too could be in the mix against BC. He smiled and just said, "I guess we'll find out on Saturday, won't we?"

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    We had 50 purple clad fans at 'Rush Street' cafe in LA going crazy on Saturday, and brought down the house singing "Go U Northwestern" after the victory! The crowds will only get bigger!

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