I honestly am so excited about this. Anything that can be created into the "Hard Knocks" format is and always will be pure gold. Seriously, you could take a camera crew to a Las Vegas Airport Starbucks, film the staff for one crazy emotional morning shift, cut it up, add some inspirational music, throw in a manager that swears a ton, pepper in some believable drama (MY NAME IS JERRY, NOT JEREMY!) and my lovely girlfriend and I would watch the heck out of that. And I know we wouldn't be the only ones.
You're welcome Andy Cohen.
But in all seriousness, Northwestern has seemingly taken a page from the Notre Dame and Ohio State playbook by giving us a pretty riveting four part look-in to their summer thus far.
Bold move Wildside.
Family, Honesty and a Little Thing Called Defense
The theme for this first (hopeful) program lifting docu-hype video is simple: Opening up viewers to the new and improved Northwestern "Family" atmosphere (*cough* DUKEDUKEDUKE *cough*), how the program will now be living in a world of truth after 13 years of Bill Carmody and using team defense as the driving force to unite an entire group. While the soft spot in my heart loves little things like "Family is the way we run our program" and "Family is being there for each other through thick and thin" it was the last iteration of Collins' HR-produced coach speak that caught my ear: "It's being honest with each other."
Honestly, that's a pretty great idea.
Mere seconds after finishing that narration, we get a quick snippet of the Wildcat coach emphatically threatening to not play a single soul this season if they don't start playing defense (:16 mark). That's a whole lot of truth. Better start getting stingy Northwestern!
Yes, it's all coach speak in the middle of a practice but it's all for good reason. According to KenPom, Northwestern's Adjusted Defensive Efficiency - which is an estimate of the defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) a team would have against the average D-I offense - was second to last in the Big Ten and 165th in the country.
You want honesty? Chris Collins has your honesty in spades. He knows that Northwestern's defense last year was about as good as the last Fantastic Four movie.
It's no wonder this was such a strong focus for the majority of Episode 1.
And he's smart for preaching about it. Ask any coach and they will tell you that defense is mostly will based. You can have all of the talent in the world, but if that talent takes plays off on the defensive end, well what good is that in the grand scheme of things? Yes, the talent is starting to come to Northwestern. But creating a scrappy, hard nosed, Big Ten defensive minded team during the long summer months is the best way for Northwestern to move up and out of the Big Ten basement right away.
Kudos, Chris. Kudos.
It's all love
A few more things I loved from Episode 1:
- It's a small thing, but I love that Northwestern is breaking all team huddles with "Family". It's so Coach K-like, it's scary.
- I love the vision that Collins has set up within the program. It's something that I can see working very well around Chicago. Family, not skipping steps, being tough, becoming men, pushing defense, being with each other through thick and thin, accountability, and honesty. As a born and raised kid from the suburbs of Chicago, I'm eating that stuff up. And I can see it giving a recruit one of those strong, "know it when ya see it" type feelings in the pit of their stomach. It's the type of hyperbolic word play that gets players to run "through walls" for their teammates and gets guys like Collins that always gleaming "players-coach" label.
- Collins mentions that the ceiling at Northwestern is limitless. He's right. After all, they are Chicago's Big Ten team... they even have it listed on their shirts now.
- I love everything about "Pound the Rock". EVERYTHING!
- "What happens when the rock does break?" What a cliff hanger to end the episode. I almost stood up out of my new pleather chair and gave it a standing ovation. Being from Illinois, I'm going to say something I never thought I would... it's kinda, well, fun to have Northwestern finally "get it". It's all there for you to take and it's right in your back yard. POUND THE ROCK!
- Also as a side note, I'm stunned by this production.
- Oh, and if anyone knows how to get one of those "Pound the Rock" shirts to a fan...
Episode 2 coming next week.