Big Ten: Aaron Nagel

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Pat Fitzgerald wants you to believe he's an old guy.

  Tom Fluegge/US Presswire
  Pat Fitzgerald said that being consistent is the next big step his program needs to take.

"I'm going gray at 34," the Northwestern head coach often says.

The pressure of overseeing a Big Ten program might be taking a toll on Fitzgerald's follicles, but he's about as Gen-X as they come. While the Big Ten's oldest coach jokes about "Tweedle-dee" -- his term for Twitter -- the league's youngest head man has embraced technology, including the popular social networking Web sites.

Fitzgerald is active on both Twitter and Facebook, and finds both tools useful in communicating with recruits and fans. He finds Twitter a less-effective method to reach recruits, but it's a good way to keep fans informed. Facebook has been much more valuable in recruiting.

"E-mail is already a dinosaur," Fitzgerald said Wednesday. "That's the snail of technology. [Facebook is] where the young men are communicating, so you're able to communicate with them there. Our coaches are computer savvy and know how to do it."

In keeping with the communication theme, Fitzgerald took some time Wednesday to talk with me about the upcoming season and his expectations for Northwestern.

What are your top goals for training camp?

Pat Fitzgerald: First off, to solidify and identify our starters going into the opener. We do have this competitive depth, we do have the experience coming back. But as we get closer to game week, we'll start to finalize our approach. We're installing at a feverish pace. We're throwing a lot at the guys. They're handling it very well through the first two days, so identify the starters and then clean up our execution as you go into Year 2 with [coordinators Mick McCall and Mike Hankwitz], clean up the concepts.

Were you not able to do as much of that last year since there were so many new things?

PF: There was so much teaching going on with Mike and Mick and myself, teaching and coaching, the expectations we want on this play or we want on that concept. It was never-ending. We never felt like we had our heads above water through camp last year. But our players did a great job in being diligent and studying the playbook. That's why we improved each week.

Does it feel any differently because of who you are and what you played here that this program is becoming more known for defense?

PF: I don't know. We're not trying to emphasize one [part]. We're trying to win. It's a little cyclical. We want to be the best in everything that we do, and a year ago, we were very successful as a team. We improved in all three phases as the season went along. We went 3-1 in November, the road wins. We went down to Duke and there was a hurricane. A bunch of guys were getting IVs during that game. We found a way to get that done. The wins at Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, in as bad a weather as you're ever going to play in, those are some big wins.

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Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Most of the major transfer news in the Big Ten has centered on players leaving the league, particularly at the quarterback position. Three prominent signal-callers transferred from Big Ten schools -- Michigan's Steven Threet, Penn State's Pat Devlin and Iowa's Jake Christensen -- and Wisconsin announced Monday that reserve quarterback James Stallons was granted his release.

But there are several key additions to Big Ten teams who will become eligible this fall. Here's a look at five transfers from other FBS programs who could make a major impact in 2009.

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  Michigan transfer Justin Boren could step in and be the Buckeyes' top offensive lineman.

Michigan State quarterback Keith Nichol (Oklahoma) -- It's hard to blame Nichol for transferring from Oklahoma, particularly with that Bradford guy ahead of him on the depth chart. He returns to his home state and will compete for the starting job alongside sophomore Kirk Cousins. A dual-threat quarterback who has drawn comparisons to former Spartans star Drew Stanton, Nichol brings a unique skill set to an offense that needs a spark without Javon Ringer.

Ohio State offensive lineman Justin Boren (Michigan) -- There's already talk that Boren will be Ohio State's top offensive lineman when he steps on the practice field this spring. He started all 13 games for Michigan as a sophomore in 2007 and looks like a lock for a starting guard spot with the Buckeyes. Boren will be a lightning rod for the rest of his career because he transferred from Michigan to Ohio State, but his ability merits attention as well.

Illinois wide receiver Jarred Fayson (Florida) -- Quarterback Juice Williams mentioned Fayson as an emerging team leader during the offseason, and the Florida transfer will enter the receiver rotation this fall. Illinois boasts a lot of talent at wide receiver, so Fayson will need to distinguish himself in spring ball. But the heralded high school recruit contributed as a receiver, runner and return man for Florida in 2006 and should find his way on the field.

Minnesota offensive lineman Matt Carufel (Notre Dame) -- Minnesota's offense is getting a makeover under coordinator Jedd Fisch and line coach Tim Davis, and Carufel should play a role this fall as the Gophers emphasize the power run again. Carufel started the first three games of 2007 at Notre Dame before deciding to transfer. The Gophers' struggles on the line should create plenty of competition during the spring and summer, and Carufel will be in the mix for a starting job.

Northwestern linebacker Aaron Nagel (Notre Dame) -- A traffic jam at linebacker last spring caused Nagel to leave Notre Dame for Northwestern, where he joins his brother Brett, a redshirt freshman fullback/tight end. The Wildcats lose two starting linebackers (Malcolm Arrington and Prince Kwateng), so Nagel will have the opportunity to earn significant playing time, which he wasn't getting with the Irish.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg 

You've waited for it and on Tuesday, you'll get it. Our series of Blue Ribbon previews will spotlight the Big Ten, and the blog will have plenty for you to digest, including team rankings, interviews, games to watch and the debut of Big Ten Hot Seat. So check in early and often. For now, here are a few tidbits I found this afternoon.

  • This was first reported back in May but it's now official: Linebacker Aaron Nagel has transferred from Notre Dame to Northwestern. Nagel, originally recruited by the Wildcats, will join his younger brother, Brett, a incoming freshman superback (think fullback-tight end hybrid) in Evanston this fall. Nagel's chances of seeing the field in South Bend didn't look promising, and he should challenge for playing time in 2009. Northwestern has had some good luck with Notre Dame transfers, most notably quarterback Zak Kustok, who led the team to a share of the league title in 2000.
  • Jim Tressel still prays for former player Maurice Clarett and doesn't get too down after losses, the Ohio State coach details in his new book, "The Winners Manual: For the Game of Life." Wonder if he'll feel the same way should the Buckeyes suffer another title-game whipping.
  • The preseason magazines can be wrong, as the Columbus Dispatch notes. Could that spell trouble for Ohio State, this year's slam-dunk pick in the Big Ten?
  • Cedric Everson, one of two Iowa football players facing sexual assault charges, pleaded not guilty Monday.



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