It was an odd sight: backup quarterback Evan Watkins playing superback during Northwestern's first bowl practice Saturday instead of taking snaps behind center.
And according to coach Pat Fitzgerald, you'd better get used to seeing the 6-6 sophomore over there for the time being.
"We're trying to get him on the field," Fitzgerald said. "Evan wants to have a role, and he's really honest with himself and he sees where he's at in his career with his skill set and his body and what he can do on the field.
"He came to us and said, 'Hey, can I try to play another position?' and said superback. He's been out there for six practices and he looks really good, actually."
Watkins had dropped from second to fourth on the depth chart at quarterback after Dan Persa returned from his ruptured Achilles Oct. 1 at Illinois. Ahead of Watkins were Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian and Watkins could see the writing on the wall -- he had to do something.
The Glenbard North product had been participating in practices at quarterback, and during games he was that tall guy on the sidelines holding up placards so Persa or Colter could call plays.
Now, Watkins is giving hits instead of getting them.
"It was on my mind a lot and it was something I wanted to do to help the team out next year and in the future," Watkins said. "I've never played side end before, but I played a little receiver in high school. I'm having a blast out here and I'm enjoying it a lot."
Watkins said it was difficult at first to play at superback because he wasn't used to hitting or the fundamentals of that position.
But the idea of being a quarterback is still on his mind.
"I've been a quarterback my whole life," Watkins said. "So it was difficult, but it gets to the point where you realize the reality and if that's what it takes [to help the team and play], then that's what I want to do."
Fitzgerald also addressed Jordan Mabin's replacement at cornerback for the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas on Dec. 31 at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Mabin suffered a season ending "upper extremity" injury during the Wildcats' 31-17 loss to Michigan State on Nov. 26. Mabin had surgery on the injury, first reported to be his right shoulder, earlier this month. Fitzgerald said he has a couple of weeks to name a replacement.
"It's frustrating for [Mabin] and you feel for him," Fitzgerald said. "He's working through the rehab process and hopefully will run on pro timing day or an [NFL] combine if he gets invited."
Initially, redshirt freshman Daniel Jones took over for Mabin against the Spartans. But blown coverage on two touchdowns and a long pass play was indicative of Jones' inexperience, and he knows that part of his game has to improve.
"During the game I felt horrible, because I gave up two or three plays that really hurt us," Jones said. "But I feel like I still competed and played hard when I was out there. Those three plays will always stick with you and ruin whatever else you did in the game."