It's the most pressing question for Northwestern. After losing three starters to graduation, the offensive line continues to rotate bodies and attempt to gel.
The O-line started to pick it up toward the end of the spring session, paving holes in run blocking in the April 13 offense/defense scrimmage. They allowed nothing more than coverage sacks at the open practice a week before. Still, depth charts are far from set, and both Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian were constantly flushed out of the pocket at the beginning of the spring.
Center Brandon Vitabile has been excellent and will be the de facto leader of this younger unit. But the jury's out on tackles Jack Konopka and Paul Jorgensen. Defensive ends Tyler Scott and Ifeadi Odenigbo were held down all throughout practice, and the Wildcats will need time up front if they hope to reprise their dynamic offense from 2012.
Is there a vertical threat in the receiving corps?
It's contingent on the previous question. Without time in the pocket, Northwestern won't develop a pro-style element to the passing game. But if the Cats can open things up with the run, there might be a few downfield options on this team.
Cameron Dickerson and Rashad Lawrence looked sharp throughout spring, with Dickerson attacking the endzone on streaks and posts in 7-on-7 practice sessions. Pat Fitzgerald tagged Mike Jensen as the team's preliminary offensive MVP, and Christian Jones has seen ample targets as well.
But nobody's emerged as a clear-cut vertical threat, and it might not happen for a while until we see just how much Colter and Siemian have improved.
Who will hold down the nickel back spot?
Your guess is as good as mine.
Nick VanHoose mans the No. 1 corner spot, and Daniel Jones has stayed busy as a vocal leader throughout the spring. But Northwestern's third and fourth cornerback options (et cetera) are still up in the air. Because the team faces some strong passing attacks in 2013, it's an important issue that needs to be resolved.
C.J. Bryant saw a lot of reps in practice, but incoming freshman Keith Watkins will be vying for the job as well. Dwight White and Jarrell Williams lined up in practices too, yet nobody stood out or performed well enough to warrant more attention. We'll have to see what training camp brings, but beyond VanHoose–and perhaps Jones–the corner position looks a bit shaky.