Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Northwestern held its annual preseason scrimmage in Kenosha, Wis., on Saturday, going through nine series at Tremper High School.
Several key contributors were held out as a precaution, including defensive end Corey Wootton and defensive tackle Corbin Bryant, who are coming off of ACL injuries. The entire starting secondary -- safeties Brad Phillips and Brendan Smith and cornerbacks Sherrick McManis and Jordan Mabin -- also sat out.
Still, there were some noteworthy items:
Starting quarterback Mike Kafka has looked impressive this preseason, but he didn't ease any concerns about his passing ability Saturday. His lone offensive series ended with an interception that linebacker Ben Johnson returned 62 yards for a touchdown. Kafka went 3-for-6 for 34 yards. It was only one series, but you would expect a little better, especially with six defensive starters sitting out.
Backup quarterback Dan Persa fared much better, completing 8 of 11 passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns. Persa led scoring drives of 74 and 59 yards and tossed a 38-yard touchdown to Kevin Frymire. Northwestern's coaches fully intend to play Persa at some point this season, so his play is encouraging.
Seven players received three or more carries, and the team's most experienced back, junior Stephen Simmons, was used sparingly. Sophomore Jacob Schmidt led the way with 45 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. True freshman Arby Fields, who should play a lot this fall, had 27 rush yards on seven carries.
Defensive standouts included starting middle linebacker Nate Williams (3 tackles, blocked field goal), end Brian Arnfelt (three tackles, one for loss) and freshman linebacker Roderick Goodlow, who forced a fumble.
True freshman quarterback Evan Watkins also led a scoring drive, completing 3 of 4 pass attempts and adding a 23-yard scramble. Northwestern likely will redshirt Watkins barring injuries to Kafka and Persa, but he could be the team's quarterback of the future.