April 10, 2008
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Before holding its first intersquad scrimmage of the spring season on Saturday, Northwestern wrapped up the first half of the spring season with a 19-period, full-pad practice Thursday morning.
Thursday's practice required some extra focus as the Wildcats endured light rain showers and 40-degree temperatures at their FieldTurf practice field.
The 'Cats used several team periods (11-on-11) at the end of practice to sharpen their playbook for Saturday's scrimmage, which is tied into Northwestern's annual Coaches' Clinic.
"The one word I've used the most to describe spring practice is 'competition,'" said head coach Pat Fitzgerald. "We have great competition at several positions, and Saturday's scrimmage should help reveal some things for our team.
"I'm pleased with our progress, but we still have a long way to go."
Plenty of attention has been given to NU's three new assistant coaches, coordinators Mike Hankwitz and Mick McCall, and defensive line coach Marty Long. Just prior to the start of spring practice, Fitzgerald completed his coaching staff with the addition of former Wildcat Louis Ayeni (1999-2003), who is serving as Northwestern's offensive graduate assistant. Ayeni replaces Eric Evans, who accepted a full-time assistant position at Albany.
Ayeni was a team co-captain his senior year (2003) and helped the Wildcats earn a postseason trip to the Motor City Bowl. Slowed with a myriad of injuries during his career, Ayeni began his NU tenure as a running back and special teams player, but finished as a safety. After a brief stint in the NFL, he is now back in Evanston to serve on Fitzgerald's coaching staff.
After practice, Ayeni spoke to NUsports.com about his time as a player for the Wildcats, his experiences in the NFL, what brought him back to Northwestern and several other topics.
Watch Ayeni's interview with NUsports.com
The board drill was back on Thursday, and the offense won 11 of the 20 bouts versus the defense.
Saturday's scrimmage is closed to the general public and media.
A reminder to NU fans who plan to attend the Spring Game on April 26: arrive at 9 a.m. in time to take part in the inaugural "Walk for Randy" -- for further information, click here.