Notes: Leave no stone unturned

With the first college football Saturday just days away, Northwestern is ensuring it leaves no stone unturned. During Tuesday's practice, the Wildcats fine-tuned their technique while mentally preparing for the hostile environment.

• It's game week, and there's no room for error. Pat Fitzgerald hopes to leave 'no stone unturned' as his Wildcats prepare for the season-opener against Syracuse. The attitude was evident during Tuesday's practice. Fitzgerald was preaching to his players, "Do it the Wildcat way!" Receivers coach Dennis Springer encouraged, "Be the best!"

Northwestern opened its practice on the outdoor turf field, which is now decorated with some new signs along the outer fence. One reads a quote from the late, great John Wooden, saying, "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?" A fair theme as the Wildcats fine-tune their preparations for the first game.

• Practice later shifted to the Trienens Hall indoor facility, which was lacking air conditioning and had plenty of noise being pumped in. NU players should be plenty ready for similar conditions inside the Carrier Dome on Saturday.

• The attitude was very business-like as each individual position grouped worked on drills during practice. The objective was to ensure technique is consistent and strong.

• 7-on-7 drills opened with a strong start as quarterback Kain Colter delivered a bullet over the middle to senior receiver Demetrius Fields, who hauled in the pass with one outstretched arm.

• Receiver Tony Jones appears in full form and ready for the season, slotted as the Wildcats' top X-receiver. Jones is in full health and his game appears back to the level of his freshman season. He has been very overlooked thus far, but could be an impact player on the offense.

• Redshirt freshman superback Mark Szott is slotted as the backup behind Dan Vitale, but Szott is likely to see plenty of reps. He has noticably added some size to his frame. Szott is a threat when he gets into space and is able to turn up the speed after a catch.

• On a deep pass thrown down the sidelines, redshirt freshman receiver Pierre Youngblood-Ary showed great awareness, looking toward the ball with his head turning left, right, then left, before hauling in a pass against Demetrius Dugar.

• It's worth noting that true freshman Ian Park is working in at center with the Wildcats, and has spent time with the second-team unit at the position. Park started the transition during the beginning of camp, where he spent time after each practice working on his snaps. Hayden Baker is currently listed as Northwestern's second-string center, behind starter Brandon Vitabile.

• You can only say so much about Kain Colter before it gets old, but it's hard not to. Now a true quarterback, it's amazing watching Colter's vision when on the move. It's evident he's able to slow down the action, with his eyes on how to move toward the next level of the defense.

• The play of the day came from Evan Watkins. On a crossing route, Watkins reached back for a pass thrown behind him, tipped it to his other hand, then hauled in the football. His teammates exploded along the sidelines.

• There was plenty of noise from each sideline, too, during practice, as the members of the offense and defense ridicule each other after each play. The Wildcats are sick of hitting each other. As Fitzgerald said, on Saturday, Syracuse will punch. "We have to punch back," he said.

• Northwestern returns to the practice field on Wednesday morning for another game-week workout.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats and Chicago Cubs. He currently resides on Chicago's north side.
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