Wednesday Practice Report

The Wildcats donned shoulder pads for the first time of fall camp. With the extra protection, the intensity picked up a notch. Get the details from Northwestern's third preseason practice with this PurpleWildcats.com practice report.

• The weather in Evanston was perfect. The wind provided a nice breeze and gave a nice, comfortable practice temperature. The Wildcats practiced for a little more than two-and-a-half hours.

• The Wildcats wore shells during today's practice. While tackling is not encouraged, it sometimes becomes unavoidable. Pat Fitzgerald was constantly yelling, "stay up" at his players. Avoiding injuries is a priority at this point.

• Much of the non-Persa-related focus has been around the moving of senior center Ben Burkett to right guard. That swap carried into day three of practice. Neal Deiters has served as the backup to Burkett at guard.

• There has been another noteworthy switch. Offensive lineman recruit Jack Konopka has moved to superback and is wearing the number 83. Last week, superbacks coach Bob Heffner called Konopka and told him of the switch. Konopka weighs in at 285 but played tight end in high school. He joked that he is the biggest superback on the team.

• Konopka also said he is more than confident in his ability to catch the football, which is obviously nicely complimented by his natural blocking abilities.

• Pat Fitzgerald described Konopka as "one of the most intriguing freshman."

Brian Peters (@Brian_Peters10) tweeted last night, "If you can't tackle your dreams today, you can tackle @T_rumpy29 (Mike Trumpy) tomorrow. Pads tomorrow." He followed up on that tweet with a big shot on the running back.

• During individual position drills, Dan Persa spent time with a staff member working on his three-step drops and focusing on his footwork. All appeared well for the quarterback, who went through the drill without any troubles.

• The battle to become the Wildcats' kicker carried into its third day. Jeff Budzien and Steve Flaherty kicked it out again. Even while their teammates harassed them from the sidelines, Budzien and Flaherty each went perfect on their field goals.

• Freshman wide receiver Christian Jones had an encounter with cornerback Michael Bolden during a one-on-one matchup. Bolden gave Jones a shove then said, "Welcome to college football." Jones responded with a few jabs on the next play. Bolden yelled, "Coach, your freshman is upset."

• Punter Brandon Williams was very impressive today. He received cheers from teammates and coaches when all of his punts reached nice hangtimes.

• Williams ran into some troubles later, courtesy of Tyris Jones. The running back blocked two punts during drills. After the second punt, he jumped in the air and yelled, "Let's go!"

• On the other end of those punts, Venric Mark is likely to be the returner. Other candidates include Xavier Youngblood-Ary, Charles Brown, Tony Jones, and Jordan Mabin.

Kain Colter has been very impressive throughout all of camp. His footwork is exceptional and he has added some extra zip to his strong and accurate throws.

• In full team drills, freshman Andrew Smith picked off fellow freshman Zack Oliver and ran it to the endzone. His teammates shouted along as he ran down the sidelines.

Evan Watkins had his highs and lows during practice. He threw an interception to Ricky Weina, then threw an errant pass on the next play. On the following play, he threw a perfect strike over the middle to Demetrius Fields.

• Through three practices, I've been most impressed with Adonis Smith. The sophomore has returned to practice in great shape. He is noticeably stronger and faster and is now a threat to run inside the tackles as well as on the outside. Smith and Mike Trumpy will form an excellent one-two punch this season.

• Tomorrow is Northwestern media day! PurpleWildcats.com will be there with full coverage


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