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June 24, 2013

Fuessel looking for answers

As Tommy Fuessel spent his first full day on Northwestern's campus on Monday, he did so with quite a bit of knowledge about what awaits him in the coming months.

Fuessel knows his summer class schedule, his future roommate and the older player who will serve as a mentor during football season.

What is still uncertain, however, is the position at which Fuessel will line up when the Wildcats lace up their pads and get ready for the 2013 season.

"They're going to try me at different positions," Fuessel said. "They're leaning more toward offense."

For the former quarterback from Frankfort (Ill.) Lincoln-Way East, this is certainly welcome news. Though he will no longer line up behind center, he said the opportunity to stay on the offensive side of the ball allows him to start with a wider knowledge base than if he were to move across the line of scrimmage.

"I have more offensive speed than defensive speed because I know more about offense," Fuessel said. "It's just more comfortable for me."

Yet while Fuessel hopes the Wildcat coaching staff will allow him to reel in passes from Kain Colter, Trevor Siemian and, eventually, perhaps Zack Oliver or Matt Alviti, there is no guarantee that Fuessel ends up at the receiver position.

Northwestern currently has an abundance of returning receivers, including starters Christian Jones, Tony Jones and Rashad Lawrence. With these players still around and the likely emergence of players like Kyle Prater, Cameron Dickerson and Pierre Youngblood-Ary, it may be difficult for Fuessel to find the field.

So while Fuessel will start his career in Evanston aiming to gain first downs rather than prevent them, there is certainly no guarantee this decision is one that will last. In fact, Fuessel said he has heard relatively little from the coaching staff regarding its thoughts.

"They haven't really talked to me about the decision-making process," Fuessel said. "I'll play whatever position where I have the best chance of getting on the field."

Fuessel was close to not seeing the field in Evanston at all. He originally committed to Northern Illinois in June 2012, before he changed his mind a few months later. Just days after he decommitted from NIU, he became the 19th member of Northwestern's Class of 2013. Now, he finds himself waiting for coaches to make a decision.

As Fuessel waits for the final verdict, he said he is preparing as if he will be a receiver. For this 6-foot-3, 187-pounder, a large part of this process will happen in the weight room.

The offensive schemes at the quarterback and receiver positions may be similar, but there is no doubting the increased level of physical play that accompanies the wide receiver position. Sure, a quarterback must deal with a brutal hit from a defensive end on occasion, but he doesn't have to block on run plays or take hits across the middle on crossing patterns.

"The biggest thing I've got to get used to is more contact as a receiver," Fuessel said. "I've definitely been working on getting bigger and stronger."

Fuessel will need to bulk up fast, as he hopes to compete for playing time right away. The coaches will decide who redshirts during summer camp, so Fuessel has limited time to prove his case.

"The top goal is for me to start," Fuessel said, "but I'm not sure if that's a long shot. [I need to] get comfortable with the offense."

Senior receiver Mike Jensen will serve as Fuessel's mentor through the adjustment process, which could be a sign that Fuessel will stick around on the offensive side of the ball.

Off the field, Fuessel's life is much more certain. He'll take classes in philosophy and public speaking and get to know future roommate Eric Joraskie, a defensive end from Mt. Carmel, Pa.

"I've texted him a little bit, but I'll get to really know him during the summer," Fuessel said.

Hopefully for Fuessel, he'll also learn which position he will play.

Even for a guy that played quarterback in high school, it's hard to get a read on the situation.


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