March 29, 2010
Fitz Talks About the First Practice
Fitz Full News Conference 3/29 (Wildcats All Access)
C. Bryant Talks to the Media 3/29 (Wildcats All Access)
By Skip Myslenski
NUSports.com Special Contributor
This is not exactly a news flash. But, for the record, here is what 'Cat coach Pat Fitzgerald said about his team's quarterback situation after its first spring practice on Monday. "I think it's Danny's job," he stated, referring to junior (in the fall) Dan Persa. "What happens on the field will determine if anything changes from here. You never say never. But Danny's put himself in a position to go out there first for a reason. It's hard to see anyone who works harder than he does. He has a relentless attitude with the way he goes about his business."
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Not so clear is the situation at running back, where last fall the 'Cats operated by committee. "Can we continue to develop the running game?" That is what Fitzgerald had said was his biggest technical concern even before Monday dawned and that was reason enough to track down Arby Fields, who even as a callow freshman had been a member of that committee. He was here asked first about the effect of the heart-breaking loss in the Outback Bowl.
"As soon as the game was over, he told us to flush it. We can't change it. We can't do it over. We'd like a better result, but we're trying to move on from it and do something different, do something better this year." ("It's over," Fitzgerald would say. "You hear us all the time around here talk about flushing things. You have to flush it out of your mind from the standpoint of the scoreboard ... The outcome wasn't what we desired. But I think we improved as that game went along. I think it proved to the country we understand what it means to fight. We've just got to play better, we've got to coach better. It's been a nice driving force this offseason.")
Was that game on the team's mind heading into spring practice?
"We were preaching, 'We've got to get over this hump.' In the locker room after the Outback Bowl, (senior corner) Sherrick (McManis) told us, 'We need to get over this hump.' We're getting there. We have a good season and then we get to the final stage, the big game, and we always come up just short. That's what we've been doing all winter. We want to get over that hump, go to that next level, make the next step."
Was it on his mind while he was working out?
"Personally, yeah. I hate losing. I can't speak for anybody else, but we want to make that next step. So as we're working, it's always, yeah, guys like Dan Persa, Corbin (Bryant), the leaders of this team who have been here awhile and haven't won a bowl game, they're constantly reminding us that we have to make that next step. So, yeah, I would say it's always in your mind." ("We carried a lot of that unfinished-business attitude into the winter and it was sustained with the Winning Edge. Now we need to go play football," Fitzgerald would say.)
Since he's from California, is he super motivated to get to the Rose Bowl?
"Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I tell people all the time I want to come back, play in the Rose Bowl. Growing up, as a little kid, my uncle (linebacker Scott Fields), when he was playing for USC, they played Northwestern and beat them in the Rose Bowl (in 1996). So I got to watch that game as a little kid. So it would mean the world to me to go back and be home for Christmas, New Year's. That would be awesome."
Does he talk to Fitz about that game?
"No. No. Not since my in-home visit when I was being recruited. But I'm on the other side now so it doesn't matter. I hate SC now."
What did they talk about?
"He didn't play in it, so it was hard for him to watch." ("I talked to him about how I had the best seat in the house on the sideline and I had these great frog skins and a cheesy beard. We started laughing," Fitzgerald would remember.)
Does he expect another season of running back by committee?
"Personally, I would like to take the job upon myself and get everything down. Whatever coach has in (mind) for us, if he wants to rotate us, we always want fresh legs on the field. But I'm going to take it upon myself to try and be the number one guy."
Is it different now that he has a season behind him?
"Yeah. Yeah. I feel I can go out there and just relax, just relax and play the game. I feel last year, I was thinking a little too much, I was afraid of making a mistake, I wasn't really being myself and doing what got me here. That's what coach said. We sat down and had a meeting, he said, 'Do what got you here?' You know, when you run timid and are thinking too much, you're not, it's hard to play the game. So I feel like now I can just come out here, it's more fun, I can relax, make big runs, relax and play the game." ("He's a sophomore," Fitzgerald would say. "He's got one more quarter to go academically. But he's experienced as much as any freshman in the country could and he's grown up, he's matured. He's handled his business well and he's grown up and I'm really proud of him. Now, like our whole team, it's let's take the next step. He's poised and prepared to do that.")
You say what-got-you-here. What is that?
"Just being myself, not thinking, just running and reacting. Coach says, 'Run and react.' I was thinking too much as far make this cut, make this play with this linebacker. I was just thinking way too much and I feel like now it's all natural to me. Having a year with the offense, I can just go and run like I've done it before." ("I see him just cutting it loose and having fun," Fitzgerald would say. "It's hard. You remember that transition from high school to college? I do. It's hard. And now you're playing football and you're the tailback and people are trying to kill you. That's a tough pill to swallow and for the first time, typically at that position, you're being humbled a little bit because you've always been better than everyone else. He handled it well. It wasn't easy ... Now he's poised to take the next step.")
A lot of guys say the game starts to slow down.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I remember when I first got here, everything was lightening quick, lightening quick. Everything was happening so fast and before I knew it it was the first game and I was playing. Now I feel, after a year, I've gotten stronger, I feel faster. I feel like I'm going to have a big year."
Is he also playing baseball?
"Yeah. We've had 22 games so far, I've started all 22 in centerfield ... We came back from Florida last night. We played about 11 games in the course of spring break."
How does he manage both?
"I've done it all my life and it's something I wanted to do. I'm not going to sit here and lie to you and say it's easy. But it's fun, I love traveling, I love playing baseball, I love playing football, so I'm just having a blast." ("Like I told him and his family, play football and play baseball, but football writes the check," Fitzgerald would say. "So when we practice, you practice and when it's game weekends, you go play baseball as long as you have a role and help contribute. If you're riding the pine, your hind parts are out here. It's not real complicated. But he's doing a great job for the baseball team.")
Any baseball obligations later on this Monday?
"Yeah. I've got to get in here for batting practice. Two-thirty after class, I'll be here."
Does he have any free time?
"Not much. Not much."
Is his future in baseball or football?
"When that time comes, I'll make that decision. I really don't know right now."