— In other freshman news, Jayme Taylor looked like the second best superback. The Woodlands (Tex.) product should earn increased reps backing up Dan Vitale. I was impressed by his consistent pass-catching ability, decent size and solid blocking technique. He'll make an impact in the coming seasons.
— I loved what I saw from Malin Jones today. The redshirt freshman can do bits of everything for this offense. When Venric Mark and Mike Trumpy leave following the season, Jones is the prime candidate to take some of those carries. He's improved his receiving skills as well. And speaking of backfield receivers, expect to see Stephen Buckley earning targets in a variety of sets.
— The first team offensive line absolutely gelled today. NU's alignment remained the same, and continued chemistry would make it difficult for Fitzgerald to change the rotation. Paul Jorgensen was the standout today because of some strong efforts at right tackle. Jack Konopka has adjusted nicely to playing opposite him.
— In real-time action, senior Will Hampton took over first team defensive tackle reps—playing next to Sean McEvilly. The two played well together, and Chance Carter had his best practice to apply some pressure. So far, the defensive tackle spot looks just fine.
— Christian Jones is my Offensive MVP of the first three practices. He can't miss, flashes some deep threat ability and looks especially motivated. Also in that unit, Cameron Dickerson had a winning leadership moment when he gave freshman corner Marcus McShepard some pointers. Again, I'm convinced Mike Jensen will earn more reps as a possession guy.
— From my angle, the Ellis-Smith linebacker competition looks fun. Fitzgerald must love the strong showings from both players, which could lead to consistent shuffling between the two. Ellis hauled in a nice interception down the middle of the field and Smith demonstrated impressive burst. Both are clearly viable options.
— Daniel Jones was dynamite once again. The presumed starting corner made several pass breakups against some of NU's top wideouts. I don't think there will be any question whether Jones can start and succeed in the opener against Cal. He's a visibly improved player heading into 2013, and that bodes well for a team with championship aspirations.
— Players I want see more from: Traveon Henry and Rashad Lawrence. One of the team's most exciting young stars, Henry has yet to stand out. Lawrence–arguably the most valuable player in spring–can't separate himself in the crowded wide receiver depth chart. Though it's early, Christian Jones and Tony Jones appear to be the primary options at wideout.
— Matt Frazier looks like the sixth wheel on that offensive line as we stand. Frazier takes extensive second-team reps both at right guard and center. He's been worthy of some attention, and aside from some blips near the end of drills, the line pleasantly surprised me. Geoff Mogus could be a stud.
— Kain Colter struggled with his throwing consistency and the read option looked much weaker than usual. Still, that happens in the early stages of practice. With Malin Jones having an expanded role and Buckley in the slot, this team may be adding even more weapons.
Stay tuned to PurpleWildcats.com for coverage of Northwestern practice.