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Cal Football: Post Spring Q+A with Northwestern

Our look at our 2013 football opponents continues today with our first matchup, Northwestern. Mountain Tiger from the SB Nation Northwestern site Sippin On Purple was kind enough to answer all we asked, so here you go!

Jonathan Daniel

1. What were the core questions that you had hoped would be answered by Spring Practice? Were conclusions reached?

Mountain Tiger: Offensive line was the unit with the most questions in the spring, and those questions remain mostly unanswered. Center Brandon Vitabile (Phil Steele's first-team Big Ten pick at that position) has one spot locked down, and Jack Konopka will start at one tackle. It isn't entirely clear which side that will be, though, and spring practice didn't settle the other three spots. None of the players contending for a starting spot has any starting experience on the line, so even once the position battles are settled we won't know much about the winners until the opener.

2. Any major style changes coming our way in the fall? New offense or defense installed?

Mountain Tiger: No scheme changes expected. Northwestern hasn't changed much on this front in a long time.

3. What players emerged on offense? On defense?

Mountain Tiger: True sophomore superback (which means tight end on normal teams) Dan Vitale had a couple of big games down the stretch last year, and Pat Fitzgerald has been saying nice things about him since the spring.

Northwestern Superback Dan Vitale Postgame Press Conference Nov. 17 2012 (via TheMidwaymadness)

4. What are your biggest worries coming out of spring ball for the fall?

Mountain Tiger: Offensive line is my biggest concern.

5. Project your season. Contender? Pretender? Middle of the pack?

Mountain Tiger: Northwestern's division doesn't have a clear favorite; Michigan has the most talent but also has the most to replace, Nebraska has a terrific offense returning and almost no defense, and Michigan State returns most of a team that was much better than its record. Northwestern definitely should be in the mix with those teams, but a tough draw in cross-division games (Ohio State at home and Wisconsin on the road) means NU doesn't have much room for error.

6. Any frosh you can't wait to get on campus?

Mountain Tiger: The most exciting player in the incoming class is quarterback Matt Alviti, who I hope has a nice year adjusting to college life on the scout team.

7. Who will you miss the most from last season? Who will be stepping up to fulfill those shoes?

Mountain Tiger: Patrick Ward was a dominant run blocker at left tackle last year, and somebody will need to take his place in producing movement in the run game.

8. Any particular Pac12 match-up/rivalry you are looking forward to this Fall?

Mountain Tiger: Since I have a MA from Cal, I'm hoping the Bears can bring the Axe home. I'm not too optimistic :(.

9. What are the specific injury concerns coming out of this spring?

Mountain Tiger: Not to be a broken record, but offensive line is the answer again. Several players missed time this spring, so hopefully they get healthy before the season.

2012 Northwestern Football Highlights (via iamsexybit)

10. Based on what you've seen, who is ready to take a major leap this fall?

Mountain Tiger: Dan Vitale again. He had 16 catches for 192 yards in the last three games of 2012, and he just finished his first full offseason in a college strength program.

11. Who do you want to punch in the face?

Mountain Tiger: Colin Kaepernick. But I hear ostriches are dangerous.

12. With a converted WR running for 1300+ yards, a dual threat QB in Colter, and a traditional passer in Siemian, Northwestern's offense had a lot going on last season. How would you describe the offense to an outsider?

Mountain Tiger: Aside from the two quarterback thing, Northwestern is a fairly ordinary spread offense. When Kain Colter is in, expect mostly zone read and quick passing. Trevor Siemian throws more, but he still runs well enough to make the zone read a serious threat.

13. Last year wasn't Coach Fitzgerald's first breakout season. Do you expect Northwestern to continue last season's stellar play or regress to the mean?

Mountain Tiger: Most of last year's key players return, so I expect 2012's team to be better than last season's. In addition, recruiting has been on an upward trajectory for a few years. The future in Evanston looks bright.

14. How happy are you that the conference dropped the "Leaders" and "Legends" division names?

Mountain Tiger: Like a kid on Christmas

15. My cousin went to Northwestern in the mid90s. I bet you didn't know that!

Mountain Tiger: I didn't know that!

Thanks to Mountain Tiger and Sippin on Purple for taking the time to get us these great responses!