Football Notebook: First two-deep depth chart of the season released


Pat Fitzgerald speaks at a podium. Northwestern released its depth chart on Monday.

Peter Warren, Reporter


Northwestern released its first depth chart of the season Monday, with a starter named at every position except one: quarterback.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald had stated throughout the summer no announcement on starting quarterback will be made before the first game, with either senior TJ Green or sophomore Hunter Johnson lining up under center.

“I feel really great about the group,” Fitzgerald said. “They’ve done everything in their power to improve and get better. I think we have multiple guys that we can win with and a championship with.”

Starting offensive line features Gerak, Urban, Vogel

With three starters graduated from last year’s team, the offensive line is the position group with the most turnover. Only senior center and team captain Jared Thomas and junior Rashawn Slater return from last year’s line. Slater made the move from right tackle to left tackle during spring workouts. Thomas called his transition to the other side of the line “smooth.”

Starting alongside them will be junior Nik Urban at left guard, sophomore Sam Gerak at right guard and junior Gunnar Vogel at right tackle. Urban has started three games in his career and Vogel has started one. Gerak will also serve as the backup center.

“We’ve had a lot of guys that are gonna play for us this year that have a lot of game experience coming into this year,” Thomas said. “I think we’ve done a good job of (building chemistry) so now we have to apply what we’ve done so far to game day.”

Mangieri named starting superback

Sophomore Charlie Mangieri was named the starting superback. Mangieri did not make any catches in his true freshman season in 2018.

Mangieri is the nephew of former players Eddie and Danny Sutter. Fitzgerald said Mangieri’s body has developed after a year of progress in the weight room and can do it all as a superback.

“He’s really good at the point of attack,” Fitzgerald said. “A guy that we can move around and do different things. He’s got really easy hands and runs great routes.”

Senior Trent Goens, who moved from defensive line to superback this offseason, is listed as the backup.

Last season’s backup superback Trey Pugh — who was the expected starter heading into the year — was not listed on the two-deep, and Fitzgerald said he is “progressing every day.”

Kubiuk returns from injuries to earn punter’s job

A quarterback for his first three years on campus, graduate Daniel Kubiuk converted to a punter after the 2016 season. After dealing with injuries over the last two seasons, he is back for a sixth season and will be the starting punter for the opener.

Kubiuk won the job over graduate transfer Andrew David, junior Drew Luckenbaugh, sophomore Cody Groneweld and redshirt freshman Jake Genyk. Fitzgerald highlighted the Illinois native’s work and said he has made the biggest jump out of anyone on the team.

“I’m fired up for Kubs. He’s been here a long time and he’s had to battle through some injuries,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s had a great camp.”

Fitzgerald calls Andrew Luck’s retirement decision “really inspiring”

When Andrew Luck announced his shocking retirement from the NFL on Saturday night, Fitzgerald was watching the decision with his three sons.

“One of them said, ‘That takes a lot of courage to do what he just did dad,’” Fitzgerald said. “And I said, ‘Yeah it sure does.’”

There is a long connection between Fitzgerald and Luck. Luck visited NU and received an offer from the program. Fitzgerald thought the Cats were in the mix for his signature before Luck committed to Stanford.

Fitzgerald also previously worked with former NCAA administrator and West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, Andrew’s father, and sent Oliver Luck a text after the decision was announced.

“To see the way he handled the postgame press conference, I think talks to about who he is as a person, who he is as a man, and ultimately who he is as a competitor and as a player,” Fitzgerald said.

Luck had a great career and an “amazing” legacy, Fitzgerald emphasized, and added he hoped the courage Luck showed this weekend will inspire football players for years.

“Our game is something that we play, it’s not who we are,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s something I talk to our players about all the time. The game is unbelievably giving. It gives you so many opportunities. It teaches you so many life lessons. And it also can just take your heart from you.”

Lessons to learn from Florida vs. Miami

The highest-profile game of Week 0 in college football was a Sunshine State battle between Florida and Miami, which the Gators won 24-20.

However, the game was ugly. The two teams combined to go 4-for-24 on third downs, had five combined fumbles and feature poor decision making. Florida had four turnovers. Miami allowed 10 sacks and had 14 penalties.

“It was an entertaining game,” junior linebacker Paddy Fisher said, “but it was bad ball, all across the board.”

But the game provided lessons for the Cats. Fisher said one thing he noticed in the game was a bunch of missed tackles. NU has not tackled since the 2018 Holiday Bowl, and Fisher said tackling will be a major point of emphasis this week.

Fitzgerald said he pulled up a lot of stats from the game for Monday’s team meeting to go over with the team. He said one of the challenges of college football is getting teams ready after short offseasons.

“You got to prepare your team, you got to harden it, you got to put them in position to be prepared for the opener to the best of your ability, (with) this other thing called keep them healthy,” Fitzgerald said.

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