EVANSTON, Ill. -- Stopped by Northwestern's practice Wednesday afternoon to check on quarterback Dan Persa, his pimp walk/limp and how he looked 10 days before the season opener against Boston College.
What did I learn?
Although Persa and his coaches are seeing continued progress, the quarterback's status for the opener remains up in the air. Coach Pat Fitzgerald said that while Persa is "really close," he'll continue to consult with the team's orthopedic surgeon and Persa before making a determination on if or how much the quarterback plays against the Eagles. "He's doing more and more each day," Fitzgerald said. "That's encouraging. It's not the Achilles. It's just the strengthening and conditioning."
Persa said that while the team's athletic trainers are still limiting him in practice, the decision depends mainly on how he feels next week. "It's more on me than anything else," he said. "If I say I'm OK, I'm OK. But it'd be stupid of me to go out there if I wasn't ready, so I'm not going to make any decisions just yet."
The key issue appears to be Persa's mobility. He looked very sharp passing the football in the pocket Wednesday, but he didn't move around a great deal and looked slower when he did. This is a player who often did his best work last season on the move. Offensive coordinator Mike McCall told me a quarterback has to be a threat to run to operate in this system but added that Persa is "not going to be like he was before. We all know that, and he knows that, but he’s still got to be a threat."
Persa gave a slightly different take on the mobility question. "This offense can be tailored to any player," he said. "A drop-back passer, a running quarterback. It's not essential for me to be running all over the field to make this offense go." Does he have to reinvent himself? "Maybe a little bit," he said. "That's why I'm looking forward to the challenge of developing more as a pocket passer."
Backup quarterback Kain Colter took a good chunk of the reps Wednesday and looked improved as a passer. Persa got his work in as well, but Colter is getting at least half of the reps if not more. "A year ago, that was the first time [Persa] was the starter," McCall said. "I don’t know if he has to have all the reps to be the guy. He can take certain ones to keep sharp."
Persa is at Northwestern's facility from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., maximizing every minute so he can start next week. "It's hard for me to imagine anything else," he said. "But I'm going to keep talking to the doctors and go with their advice. The last thing I want to do is have a setback and start over."