Monday, March 26, 2007

Wake up, time for spring football

Northwestern's first spring football practice didn't start with a bang Monday. It started with a wakeup call.

A 4:30 a.m. wakeup call, according to Eddie Simpson.

"Coach (Pat) Fitz(gerald) is a morning guy," the senior linebacker said.

And so goes the story of NU football this spring. Practices that used to take place in the afternoons now start at 7:25 a.m.

"It takes a little bit of getting used to," Simpson said.

"I was against it at first, you know, (because) that means I have to go to bed at like 8 o'clock," junior running back Tyrell Sutton said.

But now, Sutton said, he likes it. And Fitzgerald claims there's a method to his morning mindset. Or maybe a motto.

"My way of thinking is, you go to bed thinking about football and you wake up thinking about football," Fitzgerald said, speaking in his usual upbeat manner after a practice that Simpson could only sum up in one, not-so-unexpected word:


But more shook out than just a little rust Monday.

Here are some items of interest from Monday's session, one of just four open to the media this spring (none is open to the public):

  • Junior quarterback C.J. Bacher, who stared NU's last five games (for a 2-3 record) in 2006, sat out practice while trying to recover from offseason toe surgery. Fitzgerald said he's optimistic Bacher will perform in some drills next week and might be ready to go full-speed in the spring's final two weeks.

  • Fitzgerald also said that, unlike last spring, defenders will not be able to hit quarterbacks. "(We need to) make sure to keep these guys healthy," Fitzgerald said.

  • With Bacher out, sophomore Mike Kafka and redshirt freshman Joe Mauro were NU's only available quarterbacks. Like the rest of NU's incoming freshmen, quarterback Dan Persa won't join the team until the summer.

  • Where's Andrew Brewer? The sophomore who started three games last season under center has made the full transition to wide receiver. He now is listed atop the depth chart at one of NU's four listed wide receiver positions.

  • Several other players sat out Monday, most notably junior safety Brendan Smith (offseason shoulder surgery). Smith, who recorded 68 tackles and three interceptions last season, could be back sometime this week, according to Fitzgerald, but likely won't parcticipate in full-contact drills all spring.

  • With the absences also came some returns. Players who finally made it to the practice field after undergoing injury troubles include once-touted linebacker Chris Jeske, now a sophomore, and defensive end Corbin Bryant, who played in two games last season as a true freshman before sustaining a broken leg in practice.

In addition to its practices, NU will hold its yearly pro timing day Thursday, where former cornerback/punt returner Marquice Cole, linebacker Nick Roach, offensive lineman Ryan Keenan, wide receiver Shaun Herbert and other 2006 seniors will participate.

--Patrick Dorsey

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