Round here, focus is on the future

For senior quarterback C.J. Bachér and the Wildcats, it was a long December.

As a record eight Big Ten teams made trips to bowl games, Northwestern sat at home, wondering what could have been.

When asked if the month of December was a long one for the Cats, all Bachér could do was chuckle and mutter “Counting Crows,” under his breath.

“You never want to be sitting at home, so that provided a lot of motivation for us throughout the winter,” he said. “Here now in the spring, we’re focused on this year.”

Thoughts on last season’s disappointing 6-6 finish quickly dissipated with a single blow of coach Pat Fitzgerald’s whistle. Saturday’s practice marked the inaugural board drills of the spring season.

“Are you listening?” Fitzgerald barked. “That’s right, you!”

Some players pushed three steps back. Others took three steps forward. That long December gave NU a chance to focus on key changes involving key program faces.

NU underwent a media guide makeover this offseason, headed by the hiring of new offensive coordinator Mick McCall and defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz.

For the spring season, Fitzgerald’s worries rest in areas other than the new schemes his coordinators are implementing. He said the challenge over the 15 practices and spring game is to understand expectations on both sides of the ball.

“We really want a firm foundation of trust built between everybody involved, players and coaches,” he said.

Offense looks for open spaces

It was a play worthy of the SportsCenter top 10. Last October, Bacher threaded a pass between two Purdue defenders into the arms of then-senior wide receiver Kim Thompson. With a burst of speed, then-junior Eric Peterman swarmed to an open spot, taking the pitch from Thompson for a jaw-dropping hook-and-lateral touchdown.

That play was indicative of a new term that McCall has already brought to a strong, experienced offensive attack.

“He loves the term ‘run to green grass,'” Peterman said. “Last year we were running routes just to run routes. This year we’re going to look at where the defense is, running to the open space.

Peterman said tidbits of this nature from McCall coincide with the greater level of experience on the NU sidelines.

But in addition his new additions on the coaching staff, Fitzgerald has installed a greater level of trust in his seniors.

“The play is always the same as far as the freedom he gives anybody,” Bachér said. “But as far as being a leader, he’s given me more freedom.”

A walk to remember

Former NU coach Randy Walker left his mark on players, coaches, and fans alike. Now, the NU community will come together to honor one of the Cats’ greatest leaders.

The first annual “Walk for Randy,” will be held before the Spring Football Game on Saturday, April 26, at 9 a.m. Proceeds from the 5K walk, which will start and finish in front of Ryan Field, will go to the Randy Walker Memorial Scholarship fund.

Walker, who compiled a 37-46 record at NU from 1999-2005, died unexpectedly on June 29, 2006. He led the Cats to a share of the 2000 Big Ten title and was the first coach in NU history to take the team to three bowl games.

“It’ll be a great way to continue Coach’s legacy,” Fitzgerald said.

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