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    BLOG: Who Is Where, and When, For NU Football

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    Notes, quotes and observations from Practice One of Day One at beautiful Camp Kenosha, where a light drizzle failed to stop the proceedings. . .

    * Sophomore running back Treyvon Green, who took a hard hit at last Friday's practice and was later taken to the hospital, accompanied the 'Cats on their journey north. He did not work out on Monday morning. But later coach Pat Fitzgerald said, "Trey's doing great. He's doing great. We fully expect him to be back for the opener.

    "When he'll return to practice? I guess you guys will see when I see. But it'll be sooner rather than later. He's doing terrific. Everything's great."

    * Last Friday, after taking a hit from safety Ibraheim Campbell, Green remained down on the field, where he was immediately attended by the 'Cat training staff. As he remained there for long minutes, a hush fell over the proceedings, and eventually Fitzgerald ended this practice early and sent his team to its locker room. Finally, accompanied by his head coach and his position coach Matt MacPherson, Green was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he underwent a battery of tests as a precaution. A scary situation? someone asked Fitzgerald on Monday.

    Return to Monday Practice Report

    "Anytime any or our young men go down and have an injury, it''s a scary situation," he replied. "But. . .he had full use of his hands and his feet, so we knew things were great. But it goes to a different page of the book when it (comes) to protocol, and our athletic training staff did just an absolutely tremendous job. He was in good spirits when I went over there (to the hospital) with him."

    Following a scary situation like that, we wondered, is there a chance his players might lose their (to use a term he favors) stingers?

    "I think. . .when a guy gets injured and taken to the hospital, it makes you pause for a second," he said. "But there's great brotherhood and love on our team, you could see (that) as our guys came together. We came back together as a team at 7:30 (some 90 minutes after Green was hit), when I had a little bit more information to share with the guys. That everything was going to be OK from the standpoint of worst-case-scenario. Then we shut down football for the night and said, 'Listen, if you guys want to share and have some brotherhood right now, let's do that. Otherwise, we'll reconvene and talk football tomorrow morning.' A good group of guys, not everybody, but a good group of guys hung out for a while. Some guys wanted to watch football. They watched it on their own. We didn't watch it with them as coaches. It kind of makes you pause and think about, 'Hey, what are we really here for?' It's about being together, and I'm proud of the way our guys handled it. I thought we came back and had a good practice Saturday from the standpoint of focus. Then based on what we had to go through this morning, I thought the guys came up here with the right attitude, good energy."

    * Campbell, in Monday's practice, certainly had good energy, and manifested no hangover after delivering the hit that sent Green to the hospital. In seven-on-seven drills, in fact, he dished out several more blows in what could be described as a physical session.

    * After that practice, Fitzgerald noted for all scribblers present, "We've got bumps and bruises right now in camp, so I wouldn't put a whole lot of stock in who's running with the ones (the starters) and who's running with the twos. We'll be flying them in and flying them out based on where some guys might have some bumps and bruises." With that duly noted, we continue.

    * The starter's reps at running back were split between MIke Trumpy, who tore up his ACL in the fourth game of last season, and Venric Mark, who was switched to that position late last year. "I'm very pleased with the way Venric's started camp. So I feel great about that," Fitzgerald later said. "Michael's getting just more and more confident. We did some drills here today where he's getting twisted up and he looks great. We're going to get Trey back, so we feel good there, and (senior) Tyris (Jones) has had a really good camp. So. . .we probably have a little more depth there than we've had the last couple of years. We'll see how that progresses, but they've been playing well."

    Has Mark, who had been used as a wide receiver before the switch, found his rhythm at his new home?

    "I think when we moved him back to running back, the position he played in high school, it came back to him real quick. From there I think he had a great bowl game, and that carried over into spring, and then he had the best summer since he's been here. He invested heavily. He's in great shape. He's having a great camp, I can't say that enough. Now it's the heat of the grind, and I'd be shocked to see any slippage."

    Is Jones, the brawniest of the bunch at 6-foot, 220, slated to replace Jacob Schmidt as the short-yardage back?

    "I don't think any of them could not be (that) right now. I think, right now, the way the whole group is running the ball, I'm not going to say there's one guy taking this role, one guy taking that role. Now. We'll see how it progresses. We'll see how the health stays. Then, package-wise, we'll see what we want to do."

    * The starters' reps on the corners were taken by the senior Demetrius Dugar, who has some experience there, and by the redshirt freshman Nick VanHoose, who obviously does not. "When you watch Nick as an athlete, he's really explosive," Fitzgerald said of the latter. "He's got great confidence in his skills. A great knowledge of our system for a young guy. And, athletically, he's as talented as the guys we have on the team. So, that being said, how has he earned it (his spot)? From the minute he walked into our program. A year ago, he was really, really, really close to playing. Then we got to that mid-point of the season and me, as kind of the general manager, made the decision, 'Let's redshirt him.' You can always look back. . .but I'm not sure he'd be at where he is today without the experiences he had last year out on the scout field."

    * The starter's reps at right tackle, a spot open now that Pat Ward has moved to the left side to replace the graduated Al Netter, were taken by sophomore Jack Konopka, who played superback last season as a true freshman and right guard throughout the spring. "Jack is doing well," Fitzgerald said of him. "This'll be a great week for him to get some work in there and we'll see how he plays. It'll be interesting."

    * As for Konopka himself: Last season, he said, he played at 275, but now he is up to 295. "So I feel more suited for the position," he went on. "During spring, I was a little underweight and got tossed around. But Coach Hoot (Director of Football Performance Jay Hooten) did a great job with in the weight room with us this year and I was able to put on a little bit of muscle.". . . He had no problem with the switch even though he moved from possible touchdown-maker to a position of anonymity. "I was actually excited," he even said. "Offensive line, I'm out there every play. It doesn't matter what the personnel is, what the down-and-distance is. I'm out there, I get to compete, I get to play. So I was all for it, ready to go full steam.". . . During the spring, he said, "I learned that I've got to be aggressive, as aggressive as I can be while maintaining technique. During spring ball, when I was at guard, I was a little tentative, thinking too much. 'Do I do this? Do I do that?' Now I know what to do, so I just go. I just go and play as fast as I can for as long as I can.". . . Finally, when asked if it was fun working with the starters, he said, "Yeah, it was. It was a different kind of beast, though. (Senior defensive left end) Q (Quentin) Williams and even (true freshman) Dean Lowry's been playing well. So it was a little faster, but it was still a lot of fun."

    * And finally, this memory jogger: A parallel switch happened a decade ago when the late Randy Walker moved Trai Essex, who had just made the All-Big Ten Freshman Team as a tight end, to left tackle, where he would start 37 consecutive games for the 'Cats. He would then be taken in the third round of the 2005 draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he has played for a pair of Super Bowl champions.

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