Notes: Wildcats Step Outside

Northwestern spent this warm, sunny Tuesday on the outdoor field for a two-hour practice. The music was cranking, simulating crowd noise, and the intensity was high. Go inside the Wildcats' workout in this PurpleWildcats.com practice report.

•On a beautiful spring morning, the Wildcats took the field for a two-hour practice. "It was 65 and sunny, I don't know if it gets better than this," joked Pat Fitzgerald after practice.

•This was Northwestern's first practice after its Saturday scrimmage. After evaluating film, the coaches were able to make corrections during practice. Fitzgerald was happy that his team had intensity, even after a two-day layoff. "I thought we had good intensity from a standpoint of having (two days) off."

•That intensity spilled over during a scuffle between receiver Mike Jensen and safety Hunter Bates. After being seperated, Fitzgerald made the two walk a lap around the practice field while holding hands. A little bit different than running stadium stairs. "We hold hands, we sing 'Kumbaya,' and we roast marshmellows, they get a little closer and share some things," Fitzgerald said with a laugh.

•A big emphasis of Tuesday's practice was getting the team prepared for the loud, hostile environments it will face this season; specifically, the season-opener inside Syracuse's Carrier Dome. "We didn't play well the last time we were (at Syracuse)," said Fitzgerald. "We're working on some of those things. Obviously, the (piped-in music) noise was deafening today."

•Fitzgerald is excited about the emergence of some of the Wildcats' younger players. He quoted Randy Walker, saying: "If they're puppies and they can bite, they've got a chance. We've got some puppies who can bite."

•A couple "puppies" to watch for on the defensive line are Will Hampton, Sean McEvilly, Chance Carter and Deonte Gibson. Each of those four rising names will mix in, and could start, on the line this season.

•The quarterback battle continues to impress. Barring some changes, it would be a surprise if Kain Colter isn't the full-time starter, but Trevor Siemian and Zack Oliver are pushing for playing time, too. Both have been very impressive; Oliver especially, as he has added some velocity to his throws.

•Northwestern received some good news on the injury front. Redshirt freshman running back Jordan Perkins is back to full-contact action. Also, Mike Trumpy was out on the practice field today, wearing shoulder pads and a helmet. After practice, Trumpy worked on his footwork with the trainers. Fitzgerald emphasized that Trumpy won't be joining the team this spring, but it's surely a good sign to see him in uniform.

•One play in particular wowed me today. Kain Colter rolled out to his right, looking to avoid the pressure. Shot out of a cannon, Deonte Gibson was right on Colter's tail. However, Colter used his breakaway speed to evade the pressure, then turned his momentum forward, beating defenders to the endzone for a 20-yard touchdown. Gibson would have caught most quarterbacks, but not Colter.

•Fitzgerald pointed out offensive tackle Shane Mertz as a name to watch for. However, he'll have a difficult time battling for a starting spot at tackle. Fits called the redshirt freshman "The U.S.S. Mertz."

•The Wildcats return to practice on Thursday morning. The team will participate in a Saturday scrimmage, which is closed to the media and public.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college football, college basketball and college baseball for Fox Sports & Scout.com since 2009. He served as a writer for Big Red Report, covering Nebraska athletics, and is now the Publisher of PurpleWildcats.com, covering the Northwestern Wildcats.
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