Rashad Lawrence, wide receiver
Halfway through practice, Rashad Lawrence has easily been one of the most impressive players on either side of the ball. Lawrence – who thrived as a short-route option in 2012 – showcased some versatility in practice. He made sprawling one-handed catches, looked to add the deep ball to his repertoire, and ran clean routes. If the passing game takes off this season, unlike the last, Lawrence might find himself with 600 or 700 receiving yards. Also of note: Christian Jones and Cameron Dickerson have impressed as well. This receiving corps does not lack talent.
Adam Cushing, offensive line coach
Cushing earned the reputation of strong recruiter almost immediately. Last season, he made a major step towards becoming an excellent coach. After losing two key starters in Ben Burkett and Al Netter, the offensive line coach helped to develop untested players. Jack Konopka – formerly a superback – held his own and grew into a solid starter. Now, needing to replace three guys, his offensive line is already making strides. Pat Fitzgerald praised their work early in spring ball. Again, in 2013, that transition might not be as difficult as expected. So far, so good.
Jimmy Hall, safety/linebacker
Hall rediscovered his game in Jacksonville. In the Gator Bowl victory, he stood out at linebacker. This spring practice – especially when Traveon Henry sat out last Thursday – he continues to make an impact. He has excellent size for a defensive back, and Fitzgerald said that Hall is currently competing for the starting safety position alongside Ibraheim Campbell. It's well deserved, too. Hall figures to make an impact somewhere, whether at linebacker or safety. He's another promising piece of this 2013 defense.
Dwight White, cornerback
Don't lose sight of the biggest issue Northwestern faces this spring. They need to establish better corner play opposite Nick VanHoose. VanHoose was the sort of savior at times last season. No one expected him to be that good. Daniel Jones was okay, but fell victim to the worst play by NU all of last season. Though he lacks size, White has undeniable talent. The former under-recruited player worked from the safety position in high school. His film shows a player with a nose for the ball, and he's a sturdy tackler. After solid outings early in spring, I expect that by the end of the season or even earlier, he'll earn the starting job at cornerback.
Treyvon Green, running back
Once the projected starter, Green faces a long climb back to relevance. Though Fitzgerald said that Green is in better football shape, promising young backs may have passed him on the depth chart. This team is loaded at running back, beginning with Venric Mark and Mike Trumpy. Malin Jones and Stephen Buckley – two running backs with different styles – fight for playing time. Buckley looks like a strong receiver out of the backfield. Jones, an explosive back in high school, has been equally strong in spring practice. That might leave Green out of the equation, though that remains to be seen.
Kyle Prater, wide receiver
Injured for spring activities, Prater is forced to deal with yet another obstacles. The former USC transfer can only watch as young receivers earn critical reps in practice. Dickerson fares well on the outside. Three established receivers – C. Jones, T. Jones and Lawrence – form the core of this group. It appears as though Prater is in line for a similar role as last season – which was limited. It simply doesn't look like Prater can ever quite reach his lofty potential.