Practice Notes: The Rust

The latest from Northwestern's Friday practice. On Malin Jones, the O-line and many more...

— The quarterbacks struggled on Friday. Kain Colter rushed some throws from the pocket and Trevor Siemian failed to showcase his trademark accuracy in the short passing game. It's early, yes, but the defense frankly demolished the throwing game in full-pad drills. Even with some overall respectable play from the O-line, that offense failed to mobilize.

— Malin Jones continues to impress. The redshirt freshman worked well in the short passing game and appeared comfortable running up the middle. He's an above-average look in the read option—and seems to be one of the most improved players since spring. Though Stephen Buckley is more of the "niche" tailback–with his slot receiver capabilities–Jones could probably step in today and be a serviceable backup.

— Godwin Igwebuike played well once again. Pat Fitzgerald played it off (of course), saying that the true freshmen made a couple of nice plays. Really, it was more than that. This Sunday, Fitzgerald said the coaching staff will hold a lengthy personnel meeting during which they choose how to allocate reps. Igwebuike should get some long looks, especially given his potential to excel on the special teams unit.

— Ian Park was one of the finest guys on the field. The favorite to land the starting job at right guard played the role of polished veteran. The first-team offensive line–which, yes, stayed the same for 100 percent of drills–held its own in the trenches. There were some lapses, but Fitzgerald might have no problem settling on those five starters. Fitz joked about all the "questions" surrounding this group, because he knows they'll fill in admirably.

— "Chance the Tackle," as PW's Steven Goldstein calls him, stood out in drills. He's an emotional sparkplug and looks like an ideal playmaker. He and Will Hampton are battling for another starting spot next to Sean McEvilly. With continued energy, consistency and strong performances, Chance Carter might be the guy to assuage some of our D-line worries.

— Traveon Henry, as if on cue, dominated at safety today. He picked off Kain Colter and made nice reads on the ball throughout practice. We know of Henry's trademark physicality. If he rounds out his game heading into the season, expect one of the strongest safety tandems in this conference. Jimmy Hall also had his best practice thus far.

— One prediction: The target distribution will be less balanced this season. So far, Christian Jones and Tony Jones–with two different styles–have been considerably better than anyone else in the unit. Rashad Lawrence struggled with drops again, and no one appears quite ready to step up. This specific mindset could lead to the advent of one featured receiver. It might work.

— Again, I love the linebackers. Everyone looks good. Today, it was Joseph Jones who made some noise and appears locked in competition for reps. Jones, Drew Smith, Collin Ellis and Tim Vernon form an excellent group of outside linebackers. And don't sleep on Jaylen Prater. He's backing up Damien Proby, who graduates this offseason. Randy Bates has done an exceptional job of coaching this group up, and I'm enjoying what I see.

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