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    They're Back: Wildcats Get Early Start to Spring Ball

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Pat Fitzgerald (center) and the Wildcats will hold nine practices before pausing for final exams and spring break in late March.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Pat Fitzgerald (center) and the Wildcats will hold nine practices before pausing for final exams and spring break in late March.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Feb. 27, 2013

    I. Campbell Postpractice Interview | Coach Fitz Postpractice Interview

    EVANSTON, Ill. -- The persistent snowfall that has overtaken the Chicagoland area this week did not keep head coach Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern from taking to the gridiron Wednesday morning to kick off 2013 spring practice. The 'Cats, barely eight weeks removed from their memorable win in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, became the first Big Ten team to open spring ball when they staged a lively 16-period practice in NU's Trienens Indoor Practice Facility.

    Coach Fitzgerald Talks Spring Practice

    The Buzz
    • Most visitors to practice Wednesday were quick to observe the presence of the numbers "5:03" printed in white on the back of the Wildcats' newest Under Armour workout shirts -- a symbolic move that Fitzgerald explained after practice.

    "We were 5 minutes and 3 seconds away from being undefeated," Fitzgerald said, referring to the amount of time the Wildcats trailed at the end of their three losses last season. "That's an incredible motivator. We looked hard at the reasons why that happened. It's one thing to talk about it, it's another thing to create habits when you're playing football. So in all of our workouts, we've created 5:03 of work that could come at any time, when we need to have better focus, better finish, better technique, better work ethic."

    • Northwestern returns plenty of talent all over the field in 2013, perhaps most notably in its offensive backfield. The formidable QB tandem of rising senior Kain Colter and junior Trevor Siemian was back under center on Wednesday, and Fitzgerald said Wildcats fans can expect more of the same going forward.

    "I thought a year ago, from the way that Mick [McCall] and our offensive staff put together a plan to use both Kain and Trevor's skill sets, it gave us a chance to win a championship," Fitzgerald said. "We just have to keep honing that package, but both of those guys can help us win. They do a terrific job already [as leaders] but helping us take that next step is going to be critical."

    Joining them in the backfield, of course, is he of the 1,366-yard rushing season, tailback and All-American punt returner Venric Mark. Mark was heavily involved in team drills during Wednesday's practice as he looks to match his output in a season that saw him accumulate the second-best single-season all-purpose yards total in school history.

    In all, the Wildcats return 84.2 percent of their receiving yardage from 2012, 95.6 percent of their rushing production as well as the three quarterbacks responsible for 100 percent of their 2012 passing yardage.

    • Fitzgerald announced on Monday, Feb. 25, a list of 13 players who will not participate in on-field activities this spring. They are: OL Matt Frazier, DL Deonte Gibson, DL Will Hampton, OL Paul Jorgensen, OL Jack Konopka, RB Mike Panico, OL Alex Pietrzak, WR Kyle Prater, LB Damien Proby, WR Andrew Scanlan, SB Jack Schwaba, DB Nick VanHoose and DB Jarrell Williams.

    Fitzgerald explained to media members after practice that all 13 Wildcats being held out of spring ball are expected to be at or near 100-percent health by the time spring practice ends on April 13. That, he continued, was part of the impetus behind moving the start of spring ball into February; the timing shift allows more time for the injured 'Cats to join their teammates in workouts, once healthy, between the end of spring practice and the conclusion of NU's academic year.

    • Fitzgerald retained all nine of his assistant coaches for the second straight offseason, making Northwestern one of two FBS programs in the country to boast the same full-time coaching staff in three consecutive years entering the 2013 campaign (Minnesota is the other).

    2013 Spring Practice Schedule

    Weds., Feb. 27 (7:30-9:30am)
    Thu., Feb. 28 (7-9am)
    Sat., March 2 (9:50-11:50am)
    Tues., March 5 (7:15-9:15am)
    Thu., March 7 (7:15-9:15am)
    Sat., March 9 (9:50-11:50am)
    Tues., March 12 (8:15-10:30am)
    Thu., March 14 (8:15-10:30am)
    Sat., March 16 (9:30-11:30am)
    Tues., April 2 (8:15-10:30am)
    Thu., April 4 (8:15-10:30am)
    Saturday, April 6 (9:30-11:30am)
    Tues., April 9 (8:15-10:30am)
    Thu., April 11 (8:15-10:30am)
    Saturday, April 13 (Time TBD)

    Note: All Northwestern Football practices are closed to the general public.

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