What Have We Learned?

Two weeks of preseason camp are in the books for the Northwestern Wildcats. The team has put in a week of work in Evanston and another week at Camp Kenosha. Some questions have been answered while others remain unsolved. PW gives a look at what we have learned through two weeks of camp.

Persa is okay

Through the first days of camp, all eyes were on senior quarterback Dan Persa, who was practicing for the first time since his achillies injury suffered nine months ago. Persa's footwork appears to be fine and he is throwing the football with speed and accuracy—just as he always has.

Northwestern saw the value of their star quarterback last season when he was on the sidelines and not on the field. Persa is the key to the Wildcats' success this season. Two weeks into camp, all indications show Persa should be just fine this season.

No security for Trumpy

Who would've though Jacob Schmidt would work his way to the starting spot? Through two weeks of camp, Schmidt is the first-team running back while returning starter Mike Trumpy is taking a backseat. Many people have wondered if this will last.

Trumpy admitted to PurpleWildcats.com that he was not as focused in camp. That has cost him. Now, he is fighting for the starting job that he used to occupy. Pat Fitzgerald says he is looking for consistency at running back and Trumpy will have to become consistent for the chance to start. If Trumpy doesn't change things, look for Schmidt to take the starting job for good.

Vitabile front and center

Entering camp, questions surrounded the vacancy at right guard. On day one of camp, the coaches quickly found a solution in senior Ben Burkett, who has started 39-consecutive games at center. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Brandon Vitabile has taken the role of starting center for the Wildcats.

Pat Fitzgerald pointed out a few benefits of this move. The key advantage for Vitabile is having 39 games of experience lined up next to him on the line. This move may be a surprise, but it makes sense.

Questions at linebacker still unanswered

One of the more intriguing position battles is occurring at linebacker. Through two weeks of camp, all three starting jobs remain wide open. >

David Nwabuisi is battling with Damien Proby for the starting spot at middle linebacker. Nwabuisi may have the edge but Proby has put together a solid camp and is putting up a fight to start.

At "Will" linebacker, it's a battle between two seniors: Bryce McNaul and Ben Johnson. McNaul has been more impressive thus far. He has an incredible knack to get to the ball carrier. He is back to full health and it is showing on the field. McNaul is in the best condition of his career.

On the other side at "Sam" linebacker, redshirt freshman Collin Ellis may have the edge of Chi Chi Ariguzo. Ellis has seen the majority of the reps at first-team "Sam" linebacker and is likely to become the starter.

For now, all of these positions remain wide open. Pat Fitzgerald has not declared any of these players the starter. The battle will continue on for the next 11 days leading up to gameday.

Kain will play

Northwestern coaches have made it very clear, they are going to get Kain Colter on the field. The only question that remains is where will he be?

Early in camp, Colter has looked faster than ever. His footwork in the pocket is impeccable, but he is even better on the move. Colter is the second-string quarterback behind Dan Persa, but will likely find a role in the offense. The only question surrounds what kind of role that will be.

Mafuli cuts some size

Senior defensive tackle Niko Mafuli looks like a new man on the defensive line. Mafuli now weighs just over 300 pounds—down from 338 pounds he weighed at one point. Mafuli may be in line to take over as the starting defensive tackle next to Jack DiNardo.

Hooten is the early camp MVP

The Wildcats have looked faster and stronger during the first two weeks of camp and that is a credit to new strength and conditioning coach Jay Hooten, who handled the team's offseason workout regimen.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of Hooten's work is Adonis Smith, who has tacked on nearly 30 pounds of muscle. If the team appears faster and stronger this season, you can give credit to the work of Jay Hooten.


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