THE BIG PIC­TURE

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHICAGO SPORTS - Teddy Green­stein

Satur­day’s reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale re­sults from the top teams in the Big Ten and the CFP rank­ings: Wisconsin won the Big Ten West and will play Ohio State for the Big Ten ti­tle next week.

No. 1 Ohio State 56 No. 13 Michi­gan 27 No. 12 Wisconsin 38 No. 8 Min­nesota 17 No. 2 LSU 50 Texas A&M 7 No. 3 Clem­son 38 South Carolina 3

No. 4 Georgia 52 Georgia Tech 7 No. 15 Auburn 48 No. 5 Alabama 45 No. 6 Utah 45 Colorado 15

When North­west­ern coach Pat Fitzgerald railed on his quar­ter­backs af­ter Ai­dan Smith’s poor per­for­mance against Mas­sachusetts two weeks ago, the quotes also sounded like an in­dict­ment of of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mick McCall. Af­ter all, McCall has tu­tored the NU quar­ter­backs since 2008.

“It’s pretty ob­vi­ous that some of our guys did not do the things they needed to do to pre­pare for the sea­son,” Fitzgerald said. “Those are all great kids. But they were not pre­pared for what it takes to be the start­ing quar­ter­back, and it shows.”

Fitzgerald also said this: “That is the num­ber one room that I will get fixed. Pe­riod. End of dis­cus­sion.”

How will he get it fixed?

Start by bring­ing in a new co­or­di­na­tor and quar­ter­backs coach. Pe­riod. End of dis­cus­sion.

McCall is a kind soul who helped North­west­ern en­joy three 10-win sea­sons. But start­ing in 2013, these are the na­tional scor­ing rank­ings of his of­fenses: 83, 101, 114, 87, 56, 100, 128 (be­fore Satur­day’s 29-10 win at Illi­nois).

So if he gets sacked, here’s a list of nine names Fitzgerald should con­sider:

1. Matt Canada

He in­her­ited a bru­tal sit­u­a­tion last year at Mary­land and fell a two-point con­ver­sion against Ohio State shy of lead­ing the Ter­rap­ins to a bowl game. In­stead of strip­ping “in­terim” from Canada’s ti­tle, Mary­land hired Mike Lock­sley and is suf­fer­ing the con­se­quences.

Sports Il­lus­trated pro­filed Canada in Au­gust, ask­ing why this in­no­va­tor whose sys­tem em­pha­sizes pre-snap shifts and op­tion foot­ball could be out of work. Canada is an In­di­ana alum­nus who flour­ished at North­ern Illi­nois be­fore help­ing Wisconsin win the 2012 Big Ten ti­tle game (70-31 over Ne­braska) and im­prov­ing the for­tunes of N.C. State (2013-15) and Pitts­burgh (2016). He left for LSU and a $1.5 mil­lion salary but didn’t mesh with coach Ed Org­eron.

Canada’s wife, Erin, is a Prov­i­dence High School alumna who played soft­ball at DePaul. Canada is said to be seek­ing a sta­ble new home when he returns to coach­ing.

2. Tom Rees

The Notre Dame quar­ter­backs coach has helped Ian Book be­come an ef­fi­cient sig­nal-caller with 48 touch­down passes and 13 in­ter­cep­tions head­ing into Satur­day’s game at Stan­ford. Rees, a Lake For­est grad­u­ate, also played at Notre Dame, throw­ing for 3,257 yards and 27 touch­downs in 2013.

He worked at North­west­ern as a grad­u­ate as­sis­tant in 2015, coax­ing Clay­ton Thor­son through his first sea­son as a starter. (Thor­son fin­ished 14th in the Big Ten in pass­ing ef­fi­ciency, but the Wild­cats went 10-3.)

Rees spent 2016 with the Charg­ers be­fore join­ing Brian Kelly’s staff. The ob­vi­ous knock on Rees, 27, is his lack of play-call­ing ex­pe­ri­ence; Chip Long han­dles that for the Ir­ish.

3. Kevin Johns

From 2008 to 2017, there was only one change on the NU coach­ing staff. It came when Johns, the re­ceivers coach, left for a higher salary and more op­por­tu­nity at In­di­ana. He co­or­di­nated Kevin Wilson’s of­fenses in his fi­nal three sea­sons in Bloom­ing­ton — the Hoosiers ranked 10th, first and eighth in the Big Ten in scor­ing — and then landed at West­ern Michi­gan in 2017. He worked un­der Kliff Kings­bury in 2018 at Texas Tech, which av­er­aged 37.3 points.

Mem­phis coach Mike Norvell scooped up Johns, and the Tigers have had a fan­tas­tic sea­son — 11-1 with the na­tion’s No. 8 scor­ing of­fense. But it’s un­clear whether the for­mer Day­ton quar­ter­back calls the plays, given Norvell’s of­fen­sive back­ground. 4. Mike Kafka

The for­mer stand­out quar­ter­back for North­west­ern isn’t higher on the list be­cause he’s overqual­i­fied. In­sid­ers say the Chiefs quar­ter­backs coach is so highly re­garded for his work with Pa­trick Ma­homes, he’s more likely to be­come an NFL coach be­fore he takes a job as a col­lege co­or­di­na­tor.

5. Chad Mor­ris

He flamed out quickly and spec­tac­u­larly as head coach at Arkansas, but his sup­port­ers say he got stuck try­ing to run up-tempo with Bret Bielema-re­cruited hogs. Who­ever hires Mor­ris as a recla­ma­tion prod­uct is in line for a po­ten­tial bonus: Son Chan­dler is an un­com­mit­ted four-star quar­ter­back.

6. War­ren Rug­giero

The op­po­site of Rees, he isn’t well­known in the Mid­west but has a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence, hav­ing co­or­di­nated of­fenses for 30 years at seven schools. He’s in his sixth sea­son at Wake For­est, which is scor­ing 33 points a game in a pass-heavy sys­tem. And he’s do­ing it at an aca­dem­i­cally minded school, like North­west­ern.

7. Kalen DeBoer

In­di­ana’s first-year co­or­di­na­tor is cred­ited with trans­form­ing the Hoosiers of­fense and help­ing two quar­ter­backs — Pey­ton Ram­sey and Michael Penix Jr. — ex­cel. DeBoer is a South Dakota na­tive who guided Sioux Falls of the NAIA to a 67-3 record. He also has worked at South­ern Illi­nois, Eastern Michi­gan and Fresno State.

8-9. Will Hall and Rhett Lash­lee

We’re pair­ing these two be­cause they’re suc­cess­ful co­or­di­na­tors whom some view as more likely to stay in the South than work in the Big Ten. Hall is co­or­di­nat­ing a Tu­lane at­tack ring­ing up 34.5 points per game, and Lash­lee, who played quar­ter­back at Arkansas, is killing it at SMU (43.5 ppg).

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