Wednesday, April 25, 2007

More Rees trouble

This was supposed to be just a series of exerpts from Wildcats Watch's recent interview with coach Pat Fitzgerald, and we'll get to that. But first, a more pressing issue: Senior center Trevor Rees has been suspended again.

Just a year after he returned to Northwestern from an academic-related suspension (which eventually landed him at Houston Baptist University), Rees was suspended indefinitely Tuesday, according to a release from the athletic department. Though NU declined to explain, the Pioneer Press is reporting that Rees was charged with three traffic violations, including driving under the influence, stemming from an incident early Sunday morning.

It's anyone's guess how serious this is. If the reports are true, Rees faces charges similar to those faced by offensive coordinator Garrick McGee earlier this offseason. McGee came out of it with a reckless driving conviction, and was back on the sidelines for all of spring practice.

So will Rees be able to return in time for summer camp in Kenosha, Wis.? Given NU's history of second (and third) chances, it wouldn't be a surprise. But if he doesn't, where does that leave the Wildcats and their already thin and inexperienced offensive line?

Heading into spring, it appeared the offensive line had four solid starters (Rees included) and one spot -- right tackle -- up for grabs. Sophomore Kurt Mattes appeared to fill that spot. But now, with Rees possibly gone, there's another spot that could be open.

The logical choice is senior Adam Crum, who played pretty well at guard last season after spending his first two years at center. Crum is projected to start at left guard, meaning someone green -- from the group of sophomores Desmond Taylor, Ramon Diaz, junior Alex Rucks, and redshirt freshmen Mike Boyle and Keegan Grant -- would have to fill in after Crum's shift.

The guess here: Taylor, who started one game last year at left tackle in place of an injured Dylan Thiry (and had to deal with Purdue's Anthony Spencer, a possible first-round pick this Saturday). He's built like a guard (6 foot 3, 285 pounds) and has the experience -- at least more than the other options. But again, that's just a guess. A lot can happen between now and Sept. 1, including a Rees return.

The point is, the offensive line already was NU's weakest unit. If this Rees suspension lasts, that cripples it even more. And because a solid offensive line is the key to an efficient offense, the otherwise formidable Cats might have trouble scoring points and staying on the field in 2007.

--Patrick Dorsey

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