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    With Camp Behind Them, 'Cats Look Ahead to Game Week

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Pat Fitzgerald, his staff and his players are set to enter official game-week preparation beginning Sunday.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Pat Fitzgerald, his staff and his players are set to enter official game-week preparation beginning Sunday.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Aug. 24, 2012

    The 'Cats, on Wednesday, practiced publicly for the last time before winding down in preparation for game week. So, before looking ahead to the season-opener at Syracuse, Skip Myslenski provides some final training camp scatter shots on a variety of subjects.

    * Pat Fitzgerald on the offensive line: "The whole group is doing really well. I think we're probably as athletic as we've been. We were reminiscing about Tyrell (Sutton's) offensive line (in 2008) with (Al) Netter as a freshman, (Ben) Burkett as a freshman, I think Doug Bartels was a freshman. We were young. Kurt Mattes (a sophomore). It's much more (athletic) and deeper. So, we'll see. Hopefully they'll play as well as that group did."

    * Two redshirt freshmen who could be in the mix on the offensive line are the 6-foot-5, 280-pound Geoff Mogus and the 6-foot-4, 290-pound Matt Frazier.

    * Defensive co-ordinator Mike Hankwitz, on whether corner Demetrius Dugar and safety Davion Fleming have locked up starting roles: "I'm pleased with where they're at. But it's kind of an on-going competition because we've got a lot of guys who want to play. DJ (Daniel Jones) has done some good things. And Nick (Van Hoose) has done some nice things. And Quinn Evans has done some good things. So it's a good place to be. When you've got competition, that keeps the pressure on and it brings out the best in everybody. They can't just relax and assume they've got a spot locked up."

     

     

    * Fitzgerald on The Sky Team, which is what the defensive backs call themselves: "I really like the job (redshirt sophomore) Ibraheim Campbell's been doing back there as our leader. A guy who had a lot of experience a year ago, maybe a little bit before he was ready. But he learned through that, gained experience, and now he's really doing a great job leading back there. So I'm pleased with where that group's at right now."

    * Fitzgerald on how his defense can be more aggressive than it was a season ago, which is one of its stated aims: "I think it's more important attitude-wise than it is schematic-wise. There's that old coachism out there, "It's the Willies and Joes, not Xs and Os. The Xs and Os? Who cares what you run? More importantly, how do execute it and what kind of attitude do you execute it with? And I think our defense was very motivated through the positive talk they heard through the blog sites and all the wonderful articles they had to read during the offseason. They lived it. They know. They weren't pleased with the way they performed. . . You get what you deserve, and we deserved everything that was said about the guys. They took it personally. Guys like Bus (linebacker David Nwabuisi), who've been out there, and (end) Tyler Scott and (tackle) Brian Arnfelt and (end) Quentin Williams and (linebacker) Damien Proby, Ibraheim Campbell, they were not pleased with they way they played. We were not pleased with the way we coached them and the way we performed. The great news is I'll be done talking about this in about a week. Hopefully we'll show up and play. That's the ideal destination and goal."

    * One of the major goals of that defense is to get more pressure on the quarterback, which was the subject that began this interchange with Hankwitz: "It's going to have to come from everybody. You can't say one guy's going to provide the pressure. We're going to do different things as coaches, work harder on it. We're going to try to get different people in different positions. It's going to be a solution-by-team. It isn't a solution by one guy or by one thing. It's going to be multiple things that we're going to do to create more pressure."

    Does he look to Scott and redshirt freshman end Deonte Gibson to do that?

    "They're part of it, yeah. But to say it's all on them, that wouldn't be fair to them. And it isn't going to be the solution totally either. We researched it. We looked at why. We came up with some solutions that we felt we had to deal with across the board. It wasn't just any one thing. We're using multiple different things to create that."

    Will there be a greater variety of defensive looks?

    "It's a little of that. It's part of it, yeah. We've got to be more aggressive in our calls. But we've also got to be more effective when we do rush the passer. I mean, you can draw up blitzes. But if they get a hat-for-hat, you're not going to get the perfect thing every time where someone comes scot-free. So we've got to beat guys one-on-one. Then there's other times when we do have to bring more people. So it's a combination of a lot of things."

    Fitzgerald often references the last Super Bowl and says the Giants had the ideal situation since they got pressure using just their four linemen. Can his line do that?

    "At times, yeah. But we're not going to rely on that all the time either. You know, our first two years we could get it done with four more than we've been able to the last couple of years. So we didn't have to do this many different things. But it comes to a point where you realize you can't get consistent pressure with four, and then you've got to do other things. That's kind of the point we're at right now. I do think our four-man rush will be much better. But we do feel we have to take other steps too."

    * When asked if any true freshmen have a chance to play on defense this year, Hankwitz mentioned end Dean Lowry, end/linebacker Ifeadi Odenigbo, corner Dwight White, and safeties Traveon Henry and Terrance Brown. But then, speaking of all the freshmen generally, he said: "It's all based on how they do, how much they're going to have a chance to play, and then it also boils down to depth. Who do we have in front of them? So we do have some young guys who have a chance to help us this year. But we're going to wait until the end of this week to see where they're at, and how much they're going to project to play. Our basic premise is don't take a redshirt off a guy who plays here and there. Why waste a year? If he's not going to play a considerable amount, it's kind of wasting a year. And in some cases, we've waited until the second, third game, and as injuries defined it, all of a sudden he had a chance to play a lot and we've done that. So in some cases we'll wait. Other cases, we'll have a better idea at the end of this week."

    * Offensive coordinator Mick McCall, on quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian: "It's all about game plan. It's all about putting the pieces of the puzzle together. As I've always said, we're going to be ready to play two quarterbacks. We have to be ready to do that. That's the nature of the position right now, especially with the spread. So those guys got to be ready to play, and the third guy's got to be on the deck ready to go as well." That third guy would be redshirt freshman Zack Oliver.

    * McCall, on how many of his deep group of receivers will be used: "We've got to be ready to play seven, eight guys. You have to because of the speed and the way we play and the tempo. So those guys all got to be ready to go."

    * As for the next couple days: The 'Cats held a mock game Thursday that lasted some 60-70 scripted plays. But, said Fitzgerald, "Don't take that the wrong way. It's not a very labor-intensive day. It's more of a focus day. Substitutions. We'll have some things go wrong by design to see how we handle it. Some guys go down, see if we get the substitutions right. All that kind of stuff." Then, later, they will have a special teams' situation practice. "I don't know how long Jerry (Brown, the defensive backs coach) and Hank have been coaching. Like 1,458 years," Fitzgerald said of it. "So we've got a whole list of special situations that might happen in the kicking game, and we go through it either on video we have or in our walk-through to make sure we touch all the bases."

    On Friday, so the players are permitted to sleep in, with breakfast and lunch pushed back an hour, which will be followed by a lifting session and the team meeting where this year's captains will be announced. "The players will vote," Fitzgerald said when asked how they're selected. "Very similar to everything we do, I think it's important for the players to have their voice heard. The guys that they respect and believe in should be captains. Everyone does it a little bit differently and I respect the way people do it. But we believe in doing it after camp (after) we've gone through all the preparation phases we can go through. Winter workouts. Winning Edge. Spring practice. Post-spring. Summer workouts. Then Camp Kenosha. The guys, especially the older guys, now know exactly the most-respected and trusted guys on the team that will be given the honor and the privilege and the responsibility of being our captain."

    Friday night, prior to a Meet The Team Night event at Ryan Field (6-8 p.m.), Fitzgerald and his staff will finalize the game plan for the 'Cats' season opener and then, he finally said, "The whole program gets Saturday off. No one's allowed to be here on Saturday. Shut the lights off. Pull the circuit breakers. For our coaches and our staff, kiss your wives goodbye and hug your kids. If you're female members of our staff, it's say goodbye to your husbands `til February. I just think it's important to give everybody a day off here. We've done that for the last couple years, and everybody kind of comes back, `Camp is over. Here we go. It's game week.

    "There's always great excitement, great anticipation."

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