Notes: Northwestern kicks off spring drills

While it felt like anything but spring in Evanston on Wednesday, the Northwestern Wildcats opened up their spring drills inside the warm Nicolet Football Center. The team put in two hours on the indoor facility. PurpleWildcats offers a detailed look at Northwestern's workout.

-- Spring has sprung, or so the Northwestern football schedule says. While the snow fell from the Evanston sky on Wednesday morning, the Wildcats opened up their spring drills. NU had its first of 15 spring practices inside the Nicolet Football Center.

-- The Wildcats donned helmets, practice jerseys, and grey shorts, but no pads yet. The goal for now is to stay fresh on the field and return to football activities.

-- Northwestern is without the following in spring practice: OL Matt Frazier, DL Deonte Gibson, DL Will Hampton, OL Paul Jorgensen, OL Jack Konopka, RB Michael Panico, OL Alex Pietrzak, WR Kyle Prater, LB Damien Proby, WR Andrew Scanlan, SB Jack Schwaba, DB Nick VanHoose and DB Jarrell Williams. Said Coach Pat Fitzgerald: "All of our guys will come back and be somewhere close to full-go by the end of spring practice. Will they practice? No. Byt they'll be pretty darn close to being cleared completely medically. So when we go into our next phase, which is preparation for our summer, those guys will be full-go."

-- On the workout shirts of the Wildcats was the number 5:03. It represents how Northwestern was 5 minutes and 3 seconds from being a Big Ten champion last season. In addition, the Wildcats have operated reps in offseason drills for the time of 5:03. Said quarterback Trevor Siemian: "It's just a big motivating factor for us. It's a way for our guys to rally, in the weight room and on the field. I think it's working out pretty well for us."

-- Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian split reps at quarterback, while Zack Oliver stepped in as the backup. Fitzgerald said the two will continue to rotate at the position, just as they did last year.

-- When asked about who will take the season's first snap, Siemian said: "We're both competing. Right now, I couldn't tell you who's going to take the first snap."

-- Venric Mark is the man at running back again, but there was a heavy dose of Stephen Buckley at practice. He could work his way into the regular rotation at the position.

-- The offensive line has taken new shape, with the departing of three seniors. From left tackle to right tackle, Northwestern's first-team line is: Shane Mertz, LT; Geoff Mogus, LG; Brandon Vitabile, C; Ian Park, RG; Eric Olson, RT. Fitz did say that if Jack Konopka were healthy, he'd likely take the left side. Mertz did work in at right tackle, too.

-- Ifeadi Odenigbo is back in his familiar No. 7 jersey, after Hunter Bates donned it last season. More importantly, Odenigbo has noticeably added size to his frame. The defensive end could be an impact player.

-- With middle linebacker Damien Proby sidelined to injury and David Nwabuisi moving on, only Chi Chi Ariguzo remains from the Wildcats' talented trio from last season. Working in Proby's role was Timmy Vernon, and Drew Smith appears poised to win over the ‘Will' linebacker role.

-- Working behind Drew Smith at the weakside role was redshirt freshman Joseph Jones, who was moved over to the position. He has also bulked up into a linebacker's frame, but is a major threat in pass coverage.

-- After being moved to linebacker during Northwestern's bowl prep, Jimmy Hall was working in at safety, but also saw brief time in the nickelback role. It remains to be seen whether he'll become a full-time linebacker, as it appeared a few months back.

-- Northwestern's secondary featured the familiar face of Ibraheim Campbell, who was joined by Traveon Henry alongside. At the cornerback positions were C.J. Bryant and Daniel Jones. Working behind the two were Dwight White and—a surprise—Jordan Perkins, who has moved over from running back.

-- Said Ibraheim Campbell, of the three new faces in the secondary: "They've been playing great, all offseason and all [last] year. That's why they're there, so I expect a lot out of them."

-- Northwestern returns to the practice field on Thursday morning. PurpleWildcats will offer continued coverage throughout the spring.

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. He resides on Chicago's north side.
Facebook | Twitter| E-Mail |

Purple Wildcats Top Stories