Commentary: Answers from Kenosha and Other Preseason Wrap-Up
by Jonathan Hodges
it's hard to think, but next Saturday the 'Cats will be on the playing
field to kick off the 2007 season and many of us will be in attendance
or watching (well, only if you have DirecTV). Before my first
pregame analysis (to be posted 2 days prior to gameday typically) I
will wrap-up my preseason analysis, first by going over answers from
Fitz gave us an answer through the media within the last week: Demos
will be on kickoffs and punts, while Villareal will handle field goals
and extra points. Given Demos' seemingly unbelievable leg this
actually makes a good deal of sense and I almost 100% agree with Fitz's
decision. Booming and accurate punts and kickoffs will give the
NU defense an edge that it has not had in recent years as NU had to
lean on pooch kicks and directional punting, leading to relatively poor
field position for the 'Cats defense. Now with Demos (who has
been seen nailing 70 yard punts in practice, according to reports) this
should be an advantage for Northwestern - plus with kickoffs moved back
to the 30 this year being able to pick up touchbacks will be a boon for
special teams and the defense. The one minor issue I disagree
with (although we will see if it happens during the regular season as
it is not outside the realm of possibility) is Demos kicking long (45+
yard) field goals if the occasion arises. He obviously has the
leg and this would extend the range of our offense in terms of scoring
ability. We will see if Fitz utilizes Demos as such once the
2. OL 2-Deep: About
the only question that was answered was that the starting 5 will
basically remain as-is: Thiry, Crum, Rees, Belding, and Mattes.
According to media sources, Rees will indeed be suspended for Game 1
due to his off the field problems over the off-season and Crum will
fill in. This should not have a large impact as the NU OL will
have a huge size advantage over Northeastern even without Rees.
We will probably have to wait until this coming Monday when the Game 1
2-deep is revealed to see who's actually on there. Also, Diaz
apparently had an injury during camp, although it will apparently be
healed by the start of the season. The fact is that the 2-deep
will still be in question until things are proven on the playing field.
3. LB 2-Deep:
A wait-and-see question - when the 2-deep for Game 1 is revealed we
should have an idea, although some of the backups and even starters may
be interchangeable as the season progresses. Fitz has stated that
the strength of this year's defense is at DL and that they would play
with what they have - meaning a 4-3 defense for this year, although
apparently the plan is still in place to move to a 3-4 in years to
4. Offensive Strategy:
Probably another wait-and-see question; the offense probably will not
be truly revealed until the first time on the field, although the
"superback" was utilized in blocking and receiving out of the backfield
and off the line during camp - and many of the "superbacks" on the
roster have proven to be rather good receivers. We will see how
this is utilized as part of the offense and if emphasis is taken off of
the 4 or 5 wide spread offense NU fans have grown accustomed to.
5. Comfort Level of Coaches:
Something we won't know for sure until this team starts logging real
playing time, but thus far from all indications (statements by coaches
and players as well as the execution of practices) things have calmed
down a lot from last year and things are settling into place.
There is still a lot of coachspeak coming from Fitz, but during the
preseason it is hard to gage how things are going anyways. Only
time will tell how successful this year's squad is and how well the
coaches have settled into their still relatively new positions.
Besides the season-ending injury to Brewer, reports have stated Smith
is also having problems with the shoulder that he had surgery on in the
off season. Apparently he is day-to-day, although reports have
him missing playing time. This would be a big impact to NU as
Smith has speed and can hit: he has proven himself as an on-the-field
leader of the NU defense and his loss would be a negative impact to the
secondary. McPherson and Phillips provide viable options, but
Smith was the gel of the defensive backfield and the guy who could run
down an opponent in the open field. Hopefully he will return to
good health and get back on the field as he will be needed.
The countdown is on to the first game of the year... Go 'Cats!!!
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