Football: Graduate transfers Jalen Brown, Trey Klock settle into Northwestern camp

Ben Pope, Summer Editor

The newest additions to Northwestern’s roster — Jalen Brown, a graduate transfer wide receiver from Oregon, and Trey Klock, a graduate transfer offensive lineman from Georgia Tech — had a challenging first week of training camp adjusting to the Wildcats’ offensive schemes.

Adjusting to the lakeside view of Hutcheson Field, the team’s practice facility, was a little easier.

Klock called the setting “incredible” and “unbelievable.” Brown tossed out “awesome” and “beautiful.” The adjectives couldn’t stop flowing.

While the two enjoy Lake Michigan, however, NU will also need both players to bring depth, skill and fresh viewpoints to two of the team’s least experienced positional groups.

“To see both (Jalen) and Trey graduate in three years and have two years of eligibility (left) is absolutely spectacular, and I’m very proud of both those guys,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said Wednesday. “Hopefully, the guys have been welcoming to him and open to them, and then (they need to) just go learn the offense and have fun.”

Brown brings star pedigree to receiving corps

Brown joins a cast of receivers that features just one senior, Macan Wilson. Brown instantly became the only member of the group with more than one season of seeing the field at the college level under his belt, having hauled in seven catches for 89 yards for Oregon during the 2015 season before following it up with a 19-catch, 381-yard 2016 campaign.

Coming out of high school in 2014, Brown was considered a top recruit — a consensus four-star ranked the 12th best receiver in the country by Rivals — and chose Oregon over a long list of storied programs, including Florida State, Ohio State and Oklahoma. He never fully lived up to expectations with the Ducks, but did carve out a larger role in the closing stages of last season, with three 60-plus yard outings in his final five games.

Coming from Oregon’s unique, fast-paced offensive system, Brown said he was able to share insights from his past school with his new teammates, and that they did the same with him to get him up to speed on the Cats’ playbook.

“We all just come from different teachings and we all just share little bits, whether it’s techniques or releases or how to read the coverage, back and forth,” Brown said Friday. “(NU’s offense is) fast, up-tempo, trying to keep it rolling, and I think that’s a big similarity that I’m used to.”

Wilson echoed Brown’s thoughts about the exchange of information and said the Arizona native had made a strong first impression on the receivers.

“It’s been a seamless transition for Jalen into our room,” Wilson said. “He’s a great guy, so it made it easy (for him) to become close to us pretty quickly, and I think he’s going to bring a lot of good things to our offense.”

Klock adjusts to new offensive line tactics

Klock, too, comes to Evanston with significant prior experience.

As an offensive guard and tackle at Georgia Tech, he appeared in all 12 games, starting three, during the 2015 season, then in 10 of 13 games during an injury-hampered 2016 season. When looking for a grad transfer destination, he said he was connected to Fitzgerald through long-snapper Trevor Stroebel, a 2016 Georgia Tech transfer, and committed in February.

He said he isn’t yet sure what position he’ll play on the Cats’ line, which remains the subject of much scrutiny, but said he talked with his future teammates frequently while finishing classes at Georgia Tech earlier this summer and believes in the much-maligned group that he’s joining.

“It’s a real brotherhood on that offensive line. I’ve only been here for a week but I can already tell the bond that they have,” Klock said. “Every day, we’re moving around, getting a different amount of reps, so it’s going to be a battle throughout the whole season.”

Klock said the transition from Georgia Tech’s physical, run-focused offense to NU’s more varied, speed-based offense has been a big adjustment.

With the Yellow Jackets, he said, his default stance had nearly 90 percent of his body weight — of which, at 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds, he has a lot — forward, but he has very little of his weight shifted forward in the stances that NU employs. In addition to that change, Klock said he spent the majority of the first week of camp working on pass blocking, a foreign task at Georgia Tech, and that he had been “struggling” with it.

“I’m still trying to find my role, and I will be the entire season,” Klock said. “Obviously, I want to be out, I want to be getting as many reps as I possibly can, but I’m just going to keep working.”

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