Oh, he's back. I'll say it again: Treyvon Green might have made himself the running back to beat for the 2014 starting spot. After his strong and productive true freshman year, Green suffered a scary training camp injury last offseason. He then saw his workload diminished with the emergence of Venric Mark—a tough blow to any player's confidence. Now, he's running with the same consistency and energy that defined his freshman year. The workload might not arrive immediately, but Northwestern would be remiss to under-utilize another talented backfield option.
I'm hardly blown away by the receiving corps this season. They have the requisite talent, but need some on-field brilliance to match the hype. Jones looks the part of a top receiver with his impressive blend of skills. Most importantly, he showed off his potential and rapport with both quarterbacks. Other than that, I was impressed with some standout efforts from Pierre Youngblood-Ary and Mike Jensen—two guys truly fighting for targets.
It's getting repetitive, and deservedly so. Randy Bates presides over a deep and talented group at linebacker. The starting unit–regardless of who wins the Ellis-Smith competition–can strike fear in any offense with their playmaking ability. In recent practices, that backup unit (Timmy Vernon, Jaylen Prater, Joseph Jones) proved its worth as solid insurance for the top guys.
We already know that Nick VanHoose can serve as an above-average starting corner. As for Jones, an excellent training camp would have helped to set aside any corners. The redshirt junior did just that, snagging interceptions and batting passes aside. He's part of the revitalized secondary, which could quickly turn into a strength for this team. When that happens, watch out.
Everyone continues to ask about the USC transfer heading into second-to-last year of eligibility. Hate to say it: Don't expect much more. I admire Prater for his intensity and work ethic, but this depth chart appears crowded—with him on the outside looking in. It's entirely possible that in his senior year, Prater cracks the starting rotation and succeeds. He'll just be in a reduced role, for now.
NU has more than a week until Cal rolls around. Fitzgerald and his coaching staff will need to push the offense into another gear. At times, the defense truly dominated in drills. It takes on several parts. The O-line (usually solid) made some errors. The wide receivers left something to be desired. The quarterbacks often launched errant passes, with Kain Colter still searching for increased accuracy. The Wildcats should be fine, but it will take the entire lead-up for them to gain rhythm.
It's still the lingering question mark. Regardless of who fills the two spots (likely Sean McEvilly and Chance Carter), the defensive tackle spot offers room for concern. They need to replace Brian Arnfelt and keep up with the crew alongside them at defensive end. This appears to be an uphill battle, though Fitzgerald and his staff can turn around the negatives in mere moments.