MARQUETTE - Since senior running back John Privitelli arrived on campus at Northern Michigan University from Santa Ana Junior College in 2010, he's often seen a familiar sight lined up across the line of scrimmage from him - the scout team.
It wasn't anything unique to NMU, however. In fact, Privitelli had seen it throughout his days of playing football.
This spring, with Chris Ostrowsky at the helm of the Wildcats as first-year head coach, things changed.
Northern Michigan University sophomore wide receiver Christian Marble-King catches a pass during a spring practice on Monday at the Superior Dome. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"A big thing that Coach O has changed is the ones are going against the ones this year," Privitelli said early in the spring season. "You're going against another starting defense.
"It's something I haven't seen in all of my football career. It's always been first-team offense vs. scout or second team.
"I've never been against the first-team defense in practice and that alone puts you in a game tempo."
That practice has continued all spring and will be on full display during the spring game at 3 p.m. Saturday when the offense squares off against the defense inside the Superior Dome. Ostrowsky plans to have the Wildcats' No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense work against each other right up to kickoff on Aug. 30 at Findlay.
For Ostrowsky, the difference between the top units and scout teams - or third units - is speed.
"There is no substitute for speed," Ostrowsky said. "When you can simulate speed and as much game-like situations as possible, then you create an environment where you breed success. I want to show the speed of the game to the quarterbacks, to the linebackers, to the DBs in the hopes the games are a whole lot easier.
"We've gone ones versus ones all spring. We haven't gone ones versus twos yet, not a rep."
Ostrowsky said during the regular season, as the Wildcats break down opponents, the team will pit the No. 1 units agains the No. 2 units.
In special situations, when a unique offense or defense presents itself, then he could see putting together a scout team that could study and better simulate the challenge ahead.
"If we're playing a triple-option team, we don't have a lot of triple-option talent, that's when we use a scout team," Ostrowsky said. "From week to week will change predicated on who we are playing."
Ostrowsky will pit the No. 1 units and No. 2 units against each other during Saturday's game, which is free to the public. The game will feature a special scoring system and four 15-minute quarters with a running clock.
Kids are invited to warm up with the Wildcats prior to the game starting at 2 p.m. and invited back on the field following the game for T-shirts and autographs.
Other in-game promotions will take place for fans during the game, plus an on-field performance by the NMU Marching Band.
Honorary coaches will participate in the pregame coin toss, on-field coaching and in-game play calling. The 2011 seniors will also be honored before the game.
On Friday, NMU will hold a lift-a-thon, followed by a fan party at Vango's on North Third Street in Marquette.
Ostrowsky is holding out a number of players besides those who are ineligible, such as Eddie Knoblock and Rockne Belmonte due to the NCAA 10-semester rule.
Other injured players who will not participate include sophomore offensive lineman Chad Anderson of Sault Ste. Marie, junior offensive lineman Jace Daniels of Escanaba, junior offensive lineman Chad Pepper of Grand Rapids, junior linebacker Josh Droese of Kingsford and junior wide receiver Lee Figures of Kentwood as the Wildcats hope to enter August as healthy as possible.
"We just want to create an environment where it's highly competitive," Ostrowsky said. "We want to play with great energy and great passion. When we talk about our program, those are the words we are going to use - great energy, great passion. As long as we take that to the day, it will be a successful day."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.