Notes: NU putting pieces into place

Northwestern continued its preparations for Nebraska with a two-hour workout in Evanston on Tuesday morning. PurpleWildcats offers notes and observations from the Wildcats' morning practice.

-- Coach Pat Fitzgerald said he is working his Northwestern team hard as it approaches its bye. The Wildcats haven't even thought about their week off. "We haven't even talked about it or thought about it," said center Brandon Vitabile. "We've got a big game this week."

-- The Wildcats put in two hours on their outdoor turf field. "I don't think you could ask for a better day of weather in October," said Pat Fitzgerald.

-- The energy on the practice field was high, especially within each individual position drill. Each position coach is keeping his players focused on improving.

-- Northwestern's first-team defense will benefit from facing a similar offense in practice to what it'll see against Nebraska -- a run-first look with plenty of zone-read options. However, the scout team offense gave the first-string unit a good look of the Cornhuskers. True freshman running back Stephen Buckley played the role of Taylor Martinez, wearing a No. 3 jersey.

-- Fitzgerald has been very pleased with what Buckley has offered. "Buck's doing a really good job. He's going to be a really good player."

-- It was hard to get a sense of how Kain Colter will be utilized on Saturday, as he and quarterback Trevor Siemian worked with their usual split rotation of reps in practice. However, both quarterbacks showed their skillful arms in practice on Tuesday.

-- Running back Venric Mark has often be used in the passing game this season, running wheel routes and seams down the sidelines. With his incredible season at running back, it's easy to forget Mark is still a very skillful receiver with great knowledge of the passing game.

-- Cornerback Quinn Evans is likely to see more of a role at nickelback for Northwestern, but is still the backup behind Daniel Jones. Evans jumped a route and intercepted a Zack Oliver pass in practice.

-- Superback Dan Vitale continues to serve a greater role in Northwestern's offense, as he has during the past several weeks of practice.

-- Kyle Prater has yet to serve a major role in Northwestern's offense, but he is now healthy and gaining knowledge of the playbook. This may be the receiver's breakout game.

-- Freshman safety Traveon Henry continues to flourish in his role at safety, and has enjoyed increased reps as a result. It's very likely that Henry could assume the starting position later in the season.

-- The Wildcats return to practice on Wednesday. Stay with PurpleWildcats and FOX Sports for plenty of coverage as NU prepares for Nebraska.

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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