Quick hitters from that annual ritual called Media Day, when all teams are undefeated, all players are relatively healthy and all is right with the world. . .
* The 'Cat offensive line, in seasons past, talked often of having Hog Pride. "But what Coach (Adam) Cush(ing) said is, 'Hogs get slaughtered,'" guard Brian Mulroe would say early Wednesday afternoon. "So now we're The Big Cats, The Cats of the Jungle. We're going to pride ourselves on our athleticism, and also just being smart and quick. It's given us a good, new outlook."
Watch Media Day Interviews:
Coach Fitz Press Conference (BTDN on Wildcats All Access)
Jr. QB K. Colter Interview
So. WR K. Prater Interview
So. DB I. Campbell Interview
Jr. RB M. Trumpy Interview
Sr. LB D. Nwabuisi Interview
Sr. DL B. Arnfelt Interview
So. LB C. Ellis Interview
* There is an array of offensive glitter about this year's 'Cats. There is that will-o'-the-wisp, Kain Colter, at quarterback. There is a plethora of running backs that stretch from Mike Trumpy through Treyvon Green onto a rejuvenated Venric Mark. There is, most notably, a cornucopia of receivers who have hops and height and a chance to be a very special group. There is so much glitter here, in fact, that it is easy to be blinded by its radiance and forget this very simple fact: any offense begins with its line.
That is why we sidled up to Mulroe, who made clear that he was cognizant of this reality. "We know we have playmakers all around," he said. "So, as I've said before, we just have to give Kain, the QBs, time, and we have to make holes for the running backs, and then anything can happen. So, yeah, it's huge. It's all on us. Nothing can get started if we don't give them time and create holes and do our job."
And what kind of attitude does that produce in the line's room.
"We know it's all on us," he repeated quite simply and quite accurately. "All five of us have to work as one for us to be successful."
* Yes, in case you thought we'd lost our senses up above, Venric Mark is now ensconced at running back, which he played in high school. The 'Cats initially tried him at wide receiver ("To get him in space," explained 'Cat coach Pat Fitzgerald), but switched him to his old position at the end of last season. "What I like most about V so far is his attitude has been tremendous," Fitzgerald went on. "He's like a kid in a candy store. He's having fun. I told him the other day, 'You're a junior now.' He just kind of rolled his eyes. It's going fast for him, but he really invested this summer. He's in great shape."
"The years are going by fast and you just want to savor the moment," Mark said when his coach's comment was passed on to him. "As I think about it now, yeah, it really has gone fast. I remember when I first got here, and I can't believe I'm going into my third year."
Does that change his attitude any?
"I don't know about it changing my attitude. But I know for sure it gives you a sense of urgency. Coming into your junior year, it's bar none. You've got to make plays. We're all hungry for that. We really are."
Has he gotten comfortable back at his old position?
"I'm definitely comfortable. My sophomore year I was a little jittery because, as you all know, I didn't have a set position. I was moving around everywhere. I even played linebacker (to shadow Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson). But Coach Mac (running backs coach Matt MacPherson) does a great job of coaching us up. It's kind of a home atmosphere for us. I definitely feel at home there."
* Here is what Fitzgerald had to say about that group of receivers that has received so much attention: "This group looks to be as deep as it was when we had that three-headed monster a few years ago with (Eric) Peterman, (Ross) Lane and (Rasheed) Ward. We had a pretty good group back then, so, yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing that group evolve. But we haven't put pads on yet in fall camp. I really do appreciate you guys saying this group might be the best we've ever had. But I'm not going to say that yet. We've got a lot of work to do before that happens. I thought, as we walked out of spring practice, I'd say our secondary had a better spring that our wide receiver corps. They felt that way too. So we'll see how that evolves."
* That secondary, of course, was often beaten and much maligned last season. But a few weeks ago, while recalling its spring performance, Fitzgerald said he had noticed a change among its members. "They had a chip on their shoulder. And I think they practiced with an attitude," he said at one point, and then seconds later he added this. "I remember back when I was a kid, I had a coach, 'When are you going to be sick and tired of taking it? When are you going to do something about it?' I see that look in that group's eyes and I sense that in their attitude."
"We can't control what other people say," safety Ibraheim Campbell said Wednesday when that anecdote was related to him. "We know what we can do, so we're working on what we can do to get better among ourselves. We're going to play our hearts out every play, every game. What other people think, that's out of our control. We're just going to work non-stop. We're going to work as if we have something to prove. Nothing's given to us. We know we have to prove ourselves to everybody we face. We don't expect anything to be given to us. We're just going to work as if we're the underdogs no matter what. So I wouldn't say much has changed. But it's just more of a reason to work, the outside criticism."
* A new name in the secondary mix is corner Quinn Evans, a 5-foot-10, 177-pound graduate of Stanford who was granted immediate eligibility after transferring to Northwestern's School of Continuing Studies to get an advanced degree. (With the Cardinal, he redshirted as a freshman, played in 20 games over the next two seasons and sat out last year with an injury.) "He's an explosive athlete from what I've seen. He's got a willingness to learn," Fitzgerald said of him. "So based on the whole package that he brings as an older guy in that secondary, he's put himself in a position to compete for (a job). Now let's see if it unfolds and happens."
"I hope to come in and make an impact on the defense, help the unit out wherever I can," said Evans himself. "I think they've got something special here and I'd like to be a part of that."
* That secondary, by the way, now refers to itself as The Sky Team. "Doogie (corner Demetrius Dugar) came up with it," Campbell explained. "It's something we call ourselves to have a little fun amongst the defense, amongst the team. The Sky Team controls the sky, so we control the passes. We have to be in control of all passes, we have to challenge every pass and get the ball out of the air."
* There have been some fine nicknames hung on defensive lines. The Fearsome Foursome of the Los Angeles Rams. The Purple People Eaters of the Minnesota Vikings. The Steel Curtain of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But, alas, the 'Cats' D-line has yet to hang a label on itself. "We're trying to think of one though," Quentin Williams, one of its ends, will say with a laugh.
"But we have to get a couple sacks first," Tyler Scott, the other end, then adds with a laugh of his own.
Still, to Williams and Scott and tackle Brian Arnfelt, the question of sacks is no laughing matter. It is, instead, something the 'Cats rarely produced last season (they ended with only 17), something the 'Cats must do more often if they are to meet this season's goals. "It's definitely an area that we've identified (as needing improvement) and if we can't get there with four, we've got to be creative and do some things pressure wise and yet not give up explosion plays because we're doing that," Fitzgerald would say Wednesday. "That was a problem in the past."
What does he feel, we soon asked Williams, when he hears his coach describe the pass rush as an problem area?
"It makes me feel like I didn't do my job last year," he said. "But we're not really focused on last year, and we take it, it's not really pressure on us. It's really more of an opportunity and a challenge to us to step up. I think we've done that so far. We just need to keep doing that."
Here we told Scott that Mulroe had said it's all on his line when it comes to the offense. Does his D-line feel similarly?
"I think so," Scott said. "As a defense, everyone works together and our secondary hurt last year because we didn't get to the quarterback. Our sack numbers were really low. It's just something we focused on through spring ball, to summer workouts, doing extra stuff. Now, in camp, it's really going to be on our minds. It's what we have to go out and do."
Is there pressure?
"We're going to build on it. That pressure is something we take to heart," Arnfelt finally said. "Like Quentin said, we didn't necessarily do our job last year and that left a sour taste in our mouths. So we have to go out there and prove we can be this league's best."