Thursday, March 31, 2011
Notes from Northwestern practice
By Adam Rittenberg
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Greetings from Northwestern, where I'm spending the day with coach Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats. I caught the last half of Northwestern's full-pads practice Thursday morning -- the team's seventh workout of the spring.
Here are some notes and observations:
The defense definitely carried the day, although to be fair, the unit faced only reserve quarterbacks as Dan Persa is still rehabbing his torn Achilles. Safety Brian Peters recorded two interceptions, linebacker Tim Riley and safety Ibraheim Campbell both broke up passes and the line did a nice job stopping the run.
Rising sophomore Kain Colter, who provided a spark in the TicketCity Bowl, had the best day among the quarterbacks. He showed good accuracy on short passes but needs a bit more zip on his intermediate and deep throws. Colter's mobility fits in well with the offense, and if he can strengthen his passing game just a bit, he could win the backup job.
Quarterback Evan Watkins had a rough day. The rising junior overthrew several receivers, was picked off by Riley and nearly threw an interception to sophomore defensive end Anthony Battle. Watkins has a strong arm, but in this offense, you need to have a lot more accuracy than he showed today.
Jeravin Matthews has emerged as Northwestern's second starting cornerback opposite multiyear starter Jordan Mabin. Matthews, a strong special-teams player who has struggled to find a position, displays a lot of aggressiveness -- sometimes too much -- in coverage but boasts good speed and athleticism.
David Arnold is working opposite Peters at safety. Although Fitzgerald told me he's pleased with the play of several safeties, including Campbell, I'd pencil in Arnold as a starter right now.
Wide receiver is Northwestern's deepest position and it could be getting better for the 2011 season. Mike Jensen, a converted defensive back, looked impressive in practice and has caught Fitzgerald's eye along with Charles Brown, a senior who has battled through some injury issues.
Offensive coordinator Mick McCall got after the unit after a bad sequence, at one point yelling, "Do stuff right!"
Redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Siemian moves well in the pocket and has some touch on his passes, although consistency remains an issue. Peters picked off one of his passes.
Several key players were held out, including wide receiver Jeremy Ebert, who expects to return soon after tweaking his hamstring.