Notes: NU embraces challenge to improve

The weather in the air on Tuesday made it feel like football season in Evanston. The Wildcats spent their two-hour workout on the outdoor practice field with long-sleeved Under Armour gear to shield from the cold. PurpleWildcats.com was along the sidelines and offers notes, quotes, and observations from practice.

• Fall is in the air at Northwestern. That was evident from the chilly breeze of Lake Michigan. It was a cold one in Evanston as the Wildcats put in two hours of work on the outdoor practice field. The emphasis for NU remains the same: improve.

Pat Fitzgerald is pleased with the way his Northwestern team has responded to the challenge of improving. He said: "That's a hallmark of a team that's embracing this journey."

• As indicated on Monday, Venric Mark was back to practice for Northwestern. The junior running back is listed as the starter for Saturday's contest with South Dakota.

• NU coaches got a good look at some of their younger running backs during scout-vs.-first-team-defense drills. Redshirt freshman Jordan Perkins showed good vision and has bounce in his step; tremendous natural instincts and athleticism.

• Sophomore running back Treyvon Green received his usual amount of reps with the first-team offense. Green doesn't offer head-turning speed or power, but has great agility to change directions. He is a great downhill runner.

• Freshman safety Traveon Henry worked in with the first-team defense at safety, as suggested by Fitzgerald. Henry burned his redshirt during the game against Boston College. The freshman has great closing speed to track down the ballcarrier. As seen on Saturday, Henry can hit with some serious force.

Chuck Porcelli saw the majority of reps at first-string right guard. However, as is the norm, Neil Deiters and Matt Frazier also worked in that the position, too. It is expected that Porcelli will return to action on Saturday after missing the matchup with Boston College.

Kain Colter had one of his best passing performances in practice on Tuesday. His best throw came on a deep pass over the middle to Tony Jones. However, Jones dropped the pass. Still, it was perfectly lofted over the defender and into Jones's basket.

• Not to be outdone, several plays later, Trevor Siemian threw a similar pass down the middle to Demetrius Fields, who hauled it in and ran toward the endzone. Don't call this a quarterback controversy.

• The best pass of the day, however, came from redshirt freshman Zack Oliver, who lofted a tight spiral toward the sidelines which was caught by classmate Pierre Youngblood-Ary. Credit Traveon Henry, though, for catching the receiver by surprise and forcing a fumble. Rookie mistake by Youngblood-Ary who must tuck the ball away safely.

• Northwestern returns to the practice field on Wednesday morning for another workout from chilly Evanston.

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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