Northwestern preparing a gang of three at tailback
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media August 8, 2012 9:30PM
Mike Trumpy has a chance to become the man in Northwestern's running game after a knee injury ended his 2011 season, but he's more likely to be splitting the load. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: September 10, 2012 1:48PM
If Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald had his choice, he’d put the Wildcats’ running game in the hands of a premier tailback capable of consistently rushing for more than 100 yards a game.
But that doesn’t mean Fitzgerald sees that as the only path to success or is looking for any of his tailbacks to emerge as that guy when training camp concludes. In fact, he noted, Treyvon Green, Venric Mark and Mike Trumpy all could get significant carries this season.
Whoever gets the ball, though, will be tasked with relieving quarterback Kain Colter, who carried the ball 118 times last season.
‘‘We had to run the quarterback too much,’’ Fitzgerald said. ‘‘Kain had way too many yards at the quarterback position for my liking. You’d like to see the lion’s share of those yards to our tailbacks, and we feel like we have pretty good depth there and we feel like we have great competition.’’
Despite the probability the Wildcats will use a rotation, Fitzgerald is closely watching Trumpy. Last season, he proved he could be the featured back in Northwestern’s offense and was on pace to rush for more than 1,000 yards, but his sophomore season abruptly ended when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the fourth game at Illinois.
Trumpy is as anxious as any player to practice in full pads, which he feels will give him a barometer, and will look to initiate contact immediately.
‘‘You can’t be intimidated by that kind of stuff,” he said. ‘‘Injuries like this usually happen from not running hard or [not] doing stuff like that.’’
For Colter, picking his spots and learning to protect himself is an ongoing process.
‘‘Any teacher will tell you, any parent will tell you, ‘Don’t touch the stove, it’s hot. But until they touch the stove, they really don’t get it,’ ” Fitzgerald said. ‘‘He learned some valuable lessons about how to slide and get down. So there’s that balance. He’s a very dynamic athlete, and we want him to use his skill set and use it to his advantage.’’
Colter still leans toward the latter, using the instincts and athleticism to try to make plays.
‘‘I’m not scared to take risks — I’m probably not going to slide,’’ Colter said. ‘‘I know Fitz probably really doesn’t like that, but that’s just the kind of player I am. I also have to be smart and stay healthy because that helps my team out.’’