Aug. 7, 2014
2014 Training Camp continued Thursday, but before taking the field for another spirited session, members of Northwestern's football family met with the assembled press at the Nicolet Football Center for the program's annual Media Day. Skip Myslenski takes us through the day's memorable moments.
Watch Northwestern Media Day Press Conferences
By Skip Myslenski
NUsports.com Special Contributor
BACK ON TUESDAY Brandon Vitabile was discussing quarterback Trevor Siemian, who is now clearly one of the `Cats leaders. "He's still a little goofy, which everyone says," he said here. "That's what he says about himself. `You know I'm a goofball, but when it comes down to it'-- and it's true! When it comes down to it, he's the guy who going to run over the biggest D lineman in the Big Ten. He's a dude. He'll do anything for the team and we know that."
Would he really run over that guy, we asked Siemian on Thursday.
"I would try. I would try," he said with a smile. "I can't promise you that I would or not. But I would sure as hell try."
THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB on a football team is now held solely by Siemian. "Yeah. Yeah. There's a sense of ownership," he said when asked if his unchallenged status has wrought changes. "I think I've taken over. Not just me, but other seniors on the team. Brandon and Paul (Jorgensen, the offensive tackle, Venric (Mark, the running back), Christian (Jones, the wide receiver). I think the seniors have done a good job taking ownership of the team and I'm happy to be a part of that."
A RECURRING THEME during this first week of fall practice has been the cohesion of this current `Cats group. "The lack of communication last year got us down a little bit, but the transparency we're throwing out there right now, it's open window, there's communication," superback Dan Vitale said back on Monday. "It's a lot different this year and it's a lot more comfortable, which is really good for our team. The mesh we have right now as a group is much better than it's been since I've been here."
"I fully agree with that. It's something we've worked really hard to establish, that we've talked about," Vitabile added on Tuesday. "We're trying to go the extra mile to make sure there's open communication between us, between position groups, the other side of the ball and the coaching staff. . .where they trust us and believe we want what's best for the team instead of being so self-centered and worrying about, `I did my job. So what?' That's not how it works. You can't win that way."
"There's a definite transparency that opened up in the spring and when things unfolded in the summer," Siemian finally echoed on Thursday. "Through that, we established a cohesiveness. Just being able to talk to guys, talk to guys in a different manner than I would normally. Whether it be a freshman coming in, or a sophomore, guys I normally wouldn't touch base with often. Being able to establish those relationships, I think, has really helped us."
For the layman out there, we said here, explain how that helps come game day.
"Football is an amazing game. It's the one team sport where you've got to have all 11 guys on the same page and you're really counting on the guy next to you," Siemian said. "You've got to feel him in your hip pocket, and know where he's at, and have that relationship with him. Have a sixth sense of what he's doing. So being able to communicate effectively, and having open doors, helps us out in that sense."
IN A SIMILARLY PRACTICAL SENSE, it turns out there are advantages to having just one quarterback as well. "It's been an interesting ride, I guess, playing with a couple guys," Vitabile said when asked about that. "I guess Trevor is more likely to get rid of the ball and not try and take off running down the field. I'm aware of that. So I've got to be really good at the point of attack, give him some time--"
"I don't know about that," Siemian now interrupted with a smile.
All listening laughed, including Vitabile, who then continued, "No. I've got to do my job, like always. But it's easier, instead of going to both guys on the sideline trying to see what they're seeing, I'm getting on the same page with one guy. So communication should be at an all-time high here."
"From a receiver's standpoint," Christian Jones now picked up, "it really helps to have a single quarterback because each quarterback has his different tendencies, and they tend to throw different routes differently. To be able to talk to one quarterback and let him know what you're thinking on certain plays really helps you be on the same page when you get in difficult situations in games."
"I just have to say it's great because we are a spread offense," Venric Mark now concluded. "I'm 178,175, and I can be moved out into the slot, and I can play running back. When you've got a quarterback like Trevor, he can spread the ball around and teams have to respect his passing. So you never know what we're going to do when it comes to the read option. He can pull the ball back, he can throw, he can hand it off to whoever's at running back. I think he has the tools. In the past, he has shown he can run, get that third-down conversion. Does he do it often? Maybe not. But he has done it, so he is able to do it."
MARK DELIVERED THOSE LAST LINES with the deadpan look of an accomplished comedian and got what he sought. Laughs all around, including from Siemian, who was then asked if he had ever been timed in the 40.
"Yes," he said stolidly.
And what was his time?
He paused and then, deadpan himself, said, "I think it was (a Mark-like) 4.38."
SIEMIAN, OF COURSE, has long worn number 13. This season defensive end Deonte Gibson will do the same. "I've always wanted to be a little bit like Trevor since I've been here, so," he began when asked about switching from 98. "No, honestly, it's a new chapter I wanted to do. The first few years I've been here, I've had a little bit of an injury problem, just random things happened and I missed some time. So I just wanted to switch it up completely and get a fresh, new start, especially after a year like last year. Start new. New number. New year. Hopefully that signifies some success."
It also turns out he wore No. 13 in high school in honor of his older brother, who was his favorite player growing up and who himself had once worn it.
AND FINALLY, GIBSON, on what the `Cats are looking to prove: "It's somewhat of a redemption (year) because we went 5-7 last year coming off a great season in which we lost three close games and could easily have been in the Big Ten championship game competing for more. So it's just proving to ourselves-- we know that we should be at the top of this conference. It's time now to show everybody what we already know."
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