Coming off a season going 10-3 and winning their first bowl game in 64 years, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald and the rest of the Wildcats are ready to begin the 2013 season.
With high expectations for NU's football program, Fitzgerald and the 18 returning starters are looking to continue to build on their success.
"We've got a program that is a consistent winner," Fitzgerald said. "For our returning veterans they just need to continue the progress they've made in their careers and have a lot fun. This is probably as deep of a skilled group as we've had, so i look forward to watching that play out, see who we end up having as our weapons and then how do we create formations and plays to really play to the guys strengths as we move forward."
The Wildcats will spend just a week on their own practice field and sleeping in their own beds before heading to Kenosha, Wis., a tradition that began 20 years ago by coach Gary Barnett.
"Number one we want to get everything in mentally, we want to through a lot at them and really stress them mentally," Fitzgerald said about the week leading up to leaving for Camp Kenosha. "This is so we can basically have our entire foundation for our offensive, defensive and kicking game in by the time we leave Saturday. Then, we want to continue to push our guys to continue the conditioning they came into camp with."
As far as living in Kenosha, it gives the Wildcats the opportunity to be "football only."
"There is a lot of sacrifice and that is part of being a teammate and part of being a part of a team," Fitzgerald said. "That is the whole premise of Camp Kenosha, to get together and have a football focused environment where all we focus and think about is how we better ourselves and how we can really become a tight knit organization."
Aside from the 18 starters returning after a season that ended with a Gator bowl win over Mississippi State, there will be some heavy competition to fill the roster spots held by 2012's departing seniors.
"It's a new team, it's a new beginning as far as having this whole team together." Fitzgerald said. "Spring ball is a little different with post-season surgeries that we had, the freshman class not being here and the senior class departing. [Training camp] gives me and our whole program a great glimpse into where we are at. Position-wise we've got to identify three starters on the offensive line, we have a great depth there and competition and looking forward to seeing the battle in the secondary and identifying the third linebackers position."
The Wildcats open up their 2013 season against California in Berkley just shy of a month from now on Aug. 31.
"I think [the players] are excited. You watch the way they focus in meetings, the retention was really good especially thru walkthroughs that we did today to prepare," Fitzgerald said. "The guys are excited and are looking forward to it."