Aug. 5, 2013
WATCH: First Day of Practice | Coach Fitz Interview
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Depending on who you ask, it has been either a very quick seven months or a seemingly interminable seven months since Northwestern lifted the Gator Bowl trophy on New Year's Day in Jacksonville. But no matter which camp you belong to, there is no denying the excitement surrounding the Wildcats' official return to the practice field Monday in Evanston.
The 'Cats spent the majority of the summer together on campus, working day-in and day-out in the weight room and on the practice field with Northwestern's football performance staff. The results of that hard work and cohesion was on display Monday as NU hit the ground running with an up-tempo practice, the intensity of which belied the fact that the 'Cats were sporting only helmets, practice jerseys and workout shorts.
As head coach Pat Fitzgerald looks at the start of his eighth season as head coach of the Wildcats, he sees a team stocked with veterans who will be trying to integrate new players in new, key roles.
"We've got a lot of holes to fill, just like every team in the country," Fitzgerald said before practice Monday. "We're a new team, a new beginning as far as having this whole team together. Spring ball was a little bit different with the returners we held out, the freshman class not being here and the (previous) seniors departing.
"Position battle-wise, obviously we have to identify three starters on the offensive line and we've got great depth there in competition. We're looking forward to seeing the battle in the secondary, and (finding) a third position from a linebacker standpoint. All the different pieces, how do they all fall together, what's this team going to look like -- those are questions that need to be answered."
Below are a few additional takeaways from the first official practice of 2013:
|Reaction from Day 1 of Practice|
Taking the field under overcast skies and amid cool temperatures, Northwestern worked its way through eight practice periods -- focusing on individual skill work -- before the threat of thunderstorms became to great. The Wildcats made the quick move to the indoor Trienens Hall and picked up where they left off, moving right into seven-on-seven and team scenarios to close out practice.
As with the start of each new season, there were a few new faces getting their first taste of a Northwestern football practice Monday. One such individual was Northwestern's new Director of Video Operations, Darby Dunnagan, who arrived on staff just a few short weeks ago after seven seasons in a similar position at the University of Memphis.
There was, however, a first-year member of the coaching staff who would be rather recognizable to Wildcats fans. Former linebacker standout and 2010 graduate Quentin Davie recently returned to his alma mater as an operations and recruiting assistant, and on Monday found himself with the important task of DJ'ing the entire Wildcats practice.
There are several aspects of a Northwestern football practice which, because they are part of the daily routine, come as second nature to the Wildcats' corps of returners. But Monday was a day for 28 true freshmen to go to school on the proper way to run through dynamic warm-ups, take a water break, and complete their postpractice drill lines. (They'll have plenty of opportunity to practice how to practice.)
Quarterback Matt Alviti...
"First practice at Northwestern and it's great so far, really fast-paced so it's a little tough getting used to the up-tempo practice. For the most part I thought it went pretty well. There were a couple mistakes but there's always going to be mistakes being a freshman on my first day."
With practice No. 1 in the books, Northwestern will, for the remainder of the week, stick to today's schedule of morning meetings, walk-throughs and lifts followed by a 4 p.m. practice and ensuing team meeting. On Saturday, the Wildcats will pack up and head north to the University of Wisconsin-Parkside for the 21st iteration of Camp Kenosha. The 'Cats will train in Kenosha until Monday, Aug. 19, a stretch which includes a visit from their friends at the Big Ten Network (on Tuesday, Aug. 13) as BTN resumes its tour of conference training camps.
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