Spartan Nation 2010 Spring Football Scouting Report: Northwestern Wildcats

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Coach Fitzgerald has earned the respect of Mark Dantonio and the rest of the nation.  Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

Coach Fitzgerald has earned the respect of Mark Dantonio and the rest of the nation. Photo courtesy of Mark Boomgaard.

2009 Actual Season Record:Â 8-5 (8-4 regular season)

Spartan Nation Predicted 2009 Regular Season Record: 7-5 

Predicted 2010 record:Â 9-3 (5-3)

Projected Big Ten 2010 Standing: 5th         

Head Coach:Â Pat Fitzgerald

What went right in 2009? The offense was as usual very potent and explosive. In 2009 they did an excellent job moving the ball and at times the rushing game struggled as they went to the air at the cost of it.

The defense was not great, but it certainly wasn’t horrendous either. They held on to the football and with an average defense and a great offense they won more games than we predicted and made it to a New Year’s Day bowl.

What went wrong in 2009? Not a lot went wrong for NW, but it would be more than fair to point out at times they were simply manhandled, by bigger and faster programs. That isn’t an insult; it is the reality of what they deal with in Evanston.

Analysis: I expect the Wildcats to be even better. Even I confess that they may be one year away from this predicted record, but Fitzgerald has proven that he is the single best young coach in the nation and that he can develop talent. 

There was a very large faction of Notre Dame people connected to the program that wanted him badly in South Bend. Fitzgerald ended his candidacy before it ever happened by saying no.

Prior to last year he was rewarded with a nice contract extension and raise and produced the season that they got. He is a Wildcat, wants to be there and as long as the University continues to take care of him he should be there a long time.

As far as spring they have three issues they have to address. They will be getting a new QB in Dan Persa who according to people in the program looked great last year in practice. He will have the usual learning curve of a first time starter, but he is great on his feet and is gifted with great instincts.

They will need to replace two starting DL, but that isn’t as big of a hole as you would think. Fitzgerald plays a lot of men along the front and the gentleman that win the starters moniker, will have had significant reps.

The last area of concern is that they will be looking for three DBs to win starting spots. One advantage the Wildcats have with DBs is that they constantly get reps against one of the best passing offenses so they mature quickly and get up to speed fast.

How is this program trending? Incredibly. The word of the day in Evanston is one usually spoke in Happy Valley or Columbus and that is depth. They had not a good, but an exceptional recruiting class for 2010 regardless of what the pundits say and with the talents Coach Fitz has proven in developing them, I don’t’ doubt him.

They came into the state of Michigan and took two recruits from under MSU and UM’s nose. They brought in multiple all state and young men that were captains on their respective teams.

Again, the Wildcats may be one year away from my prediction, but the rest of the Big Ten has learned not to underestimate the Wildcats.

Next up for our spring microscope is the Minnesota Golden Gophers.