Practice Notes: Making Adjustments

The latest on Northwestern practice, Kain Colter's status, a new-look four-man rush and surprise standouts in this PurpleWildcats.com Premium Update.

Jack Konopka looked dominant at left tackle. You can't discuss this offense anymore without mentioning Konopka, who moved to LT and earned immediate success. He was stellar in one-on-one drills, staring down Dean Lowry, Tyler Scott and Deonte Gibson. With some more improvement, Konopka might even grow into the team's best offensive lineman.

Stephen Buckley worked fairly well on kick returns, despite his fumble against Cal on Saturday. He was very involved in screen pass looks from Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian throughout drills. Buckley continues to be a major part of this offense, even more so than talented fellow redshirt freshman Malin Jones.

— Of course, Kain Colter participated in non-contact drills. Fitzgerald acknowledged this, saying that Kain was "great" from what he saw. He told PW's Jamie Lovegrove: "I'm playing to play." There's a strong chance that Colter starts against Syracuse, judging from his mobility and smoothness on Lakeside Field.

— Deonte Gibson was the best defensive lineman, an honor that seems to change every day. He often reached the quarterback, showing energy and hustle in one-on-one drills. Gibson continues to be another asset in this loaded group of defensive ends. (Also: I'm guessing C.J. Robbins will see an expanded role at DT.)

Traveon Henry made two impressive interceptions early on in practice—one a pick-six. With a depleted secondary, due to Daniel Jones being sidelined for the season, Henry will play a major role in stopping Syracuse quarterback Drew Allen this weekend. He'll need to.

— Another interesting point, observed by Steven Goldstein: Northwestern experimented with a new-look four-man defensive front on Wednesday. Tyler Scott and Will Hampton played at tackle, while Ifeadi Odenigbo and Dean Lowry/Deonte Gibson manning the end position. This could be extremely interesting moving forward.

— Dwight White struggled at Wednesday's practice, making this one potential area of worry heading into game week. Cameron Dickerson, Andrew Scanlan and even Jayme Taylor burned the redshirt freshman cornerback. We'll need to see more from White on Saturday.

Chi Chi Ariguzo had an excellent practice, looking like the standout from a solid group of linebackers. Ariguzo caught one tipped pass for an interception and flashed the playmaking ability that defined his 2012 campaign. He and Collin Ellis still look the part of an outstanding outside linebacker tandem.

— As for receivers: Rashad Lawrence made two consecutive grabs on crossing routes, Kyle Prater grabbed nice some plays on the sidelines, Dan Vitale snagged a wheel route touchdown and Christian Jones continued to excel.

— Regarding situations, NU practiced third-and-three almost compulsively. They're looking to implement an outstanding screen pass game–featuring guys like Buckley–and that could work given their quarterbacks' skillsets.

— I should mention Andrew Scanlan and his lofty potential. The redshirt freshman barely drops passes and looks the part of a potential deep threat receiver moving forward. Other freshmen like Warren Long and Tommy Fuessel excelled on the offensive scout team.

— Again, Trevor Siemian seemed capable of leading any offense. Despite Colter's imminent return, expect Siemian to have an impressive 2013 campaign. Young gun Matt Alviti also demonstrated precision on comeback routes, and his progression continues to be especially quick.


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