Practice Notes: Receivers named Mike

Who stood out at Northwestern practice? PurpleWildcats.com brings you the latest in this subscriber-exclusive update.

— Perhaps the most powerful takeaway from Tuesday drills: Matt Alviti can really play. The highly touted 2013 prospect will redshirt this season before posing serious competition for the starting job. Though it's easy to hyperbolize one good outing, Alviti has advanced his arm strength and looked comfortable in every single throwing situation. He's not afraid to make an early impression.

— Mike Trumpy is better than ever. The second-string running back caught several short passes and worked from various sets. With Venric Mark's injury concerns and the need to spell him on occasion, it helps to see Trumpy at full strength and excelling on the practice field. Treyvon Green, on the other hand, continues to plummet down that depth chart.

— Trevor Siemian was in midseason form on Tuesday. He went through his progressions with ease and completed some deep passes. At one point, the quarterbacks were aiming at 30-yard sideline targets. As a group, they nailed more than half. It was an overall encouraging performance from the entire unit, which has not suffered from any kinks early in summer.

— Another storyline involved unheralded receivers with the name "Mike." Pat Fitzgerald raved about Mike Jensen throughout the spring, and the senior blocked incredibly well. The senior also had the best catch of the afternoon, and is making the best case to earn targets in this crowded depth chart. I'm lobbying for speedster redshirt freshman Mike McHugh to return kickoffs. That guy can run.

— After a well documented redshirt season, Jaylen Prater looks prepared to crack the two-deep in 2013. He's the only player aside from Damien Proby to earn reps at middle linebacker. I predict that Prater–one of the most underrated guys out there–will see significant action this year.

— Yesterday, Deonte Gibson spoke to PurpleWildcats about his intense competition with Dean Lowry for a starting defensive end spot. He fared well on Tuesday, evading the offensive line for a "sack." Senior Will Hampton saw the majority of first-team reps at defensive tackle. Hampton, C.J. Robbins and Chance Carter are fighting to earn one of those tackle spots. Sean McEvilly looked solid in his return to practice today, and Fitzgerald said that the positional depth is encouraging.

— Daniel Jones said that the secondary is especially motivated to jump another level this season. Jones believes that Dwight White and C.J. Bryant are prepared for individual improvement, which looks to be the case. After an imperfect but overall impressive spring, White could be one of the biggest surprises in 2013.

— Locked in competition with Collin Ellis for the third linebacker spot, Drew Smith might have provided the most reason for optimism. He demonstrated excellent awareness in pass coverage—something this unit could use moving forward. Fitzgerald said that both candidates could split time if neither one pulls away during summer drills.

— The O-line sets looked the same on Tuesday, with Mogus and Park taking nearly all of the first-team guard reps. We'll see more from the line on Thursday, but they generally looked to be in sync throughout these first couple of days. With Adam Cushing at the helm, I'm hardly surprised.

— Tony Jones was the best wideout on Tuesday. He didn't miss anything in an offense that plans to maximize his skillset this year. He and Christian Jones were the two most impressive pass-catchers, and both have improved since last season. Outside of that top four–which also includes Cameron Dickerson and Rashad Lawrence–it's difficult to judge who can earn targets in the run-oriented offense.

Stay tuned to PurpleWildcats.com for the latest as Northwestern returns to the practice field.


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