Notes: Execution in Evanston

Northwestern returned to the practice field following a weekend of rest and relaxation. Coach Pat Fitzgerald was pleased with how his Wildcats looked on the field. PurpleWildcats offers notes and observations from Evanston.

-- It was back to work for Northwestern, following its bye week. The Wildcats split time between the outdoor practice field and the indoor facility.

-- Coach Pat Fitzgerald was pleased with his team's effort. "Really good execution," he said. "Maybe our best execution of the year."

-- Fitzgerald told the media on Monday that Northwestern will prepare for either Michigan quarterback, Denard Robinson or Devin Gardner. NU freshman running back Stephen Buckley played the role of both quarterbacks in practice, but wore a No. 16 jersey to simulate Robinson.

-- Senior receiver Demetrius Fields was very active in practice today. He is in good rhythm with Northwestern's two quarterbacks.

-- Redshirt freshman quarterback Zach Oliver continues to show steady improvements with his game, name with deep-passing accuracy.

-- Neal Deiters is still slotted as first-team right guard, and has brought veteran stability to the offensive line. NU spent the first weeks of the season finding an identity up front. Deiters deserves credit for the unit's improvements.

-- Former linebacker Tim Riley is working into a greater role at the superback position. Of course, Riley hauled in a touchdown pass in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, but hasn't seen much action since.

-- Redshirt freshman linebacker Drew Smith continues to impress. It's likely he will see significant playing time next season. It's possible he could face action during the rest of this campaign.

-- A major reason for Northwestern' success on the defensive line comes from the unit's depth. Dean Lowry and Quentin Williams have served as key pieces rotating at defensive end, while Chance Carter and Will Hampton have worked in the middle.

-- Northwestern returns to action on Wednesday morning. PurpleWildcats will provide coverage from 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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