Practice Notes: Big Tuesday

Notes on Colter, the O-line, wideouts, Stephen Buckley, Jayme Taylor and many more Northwestern players from Tuesday's practice session.

Kain Colter returned to action on Tuesday, appearing healthy and comfortable on his injured ankle. Pat Fitzgerald still listed Colter as "day-to-day," but expect the Northwestern quarterback to play this weekend against Iowa. In other injury news: Venric Mark did not play, aggravating worries that his ankle injury is more severe than initially anticipated.

Matt Frazier filled in at right guard for Ian Park—who did not practice. The offensive line was once again inconsistent, with occasional miscues against an excellent defensive line effort. In fact, even backup D-tackle Greg Kuhar showed some decent push up front. After its surprising September, the O-line needs to recover following three dismal performances.

Trevor Siemian's confidence continued its free fall on Tuesday. He had some underthrows, uncharacteristic misses in the mid-range passing game and looked visibly frustrated at times. Of course, it's just practice—not the best projection of Saturday success. Still, with Colter looking sharp, Siemian needs to improve heading into this basic "must-win" situation.

Tyler Scott quietly leads the Big Ten with five sacks, with the senior attempting to carry a fading Wildcats team. Really, the defense hasn't been the problem throughout this lousy stretch. With Scott and Ifeadi Odenigbo playing some of their best, most active football, the defense applied significant pressure to quarterbacks. And that 4-defensive end cheetah package? Love.

— I'm not burying this because I believe it: Jayme Taylor might be the most talented player of NU's 2013 recruiting class. At the very least, he's up there with Matt Alviti, Matt Harris and Godwin Igwebuike. Taylor had another stellar practice, with one touchdown grab and another impressive catch in traffic. He'll be an impact player from the superback position in future seasons.

Christian Jones also played well on Tuesday, as this group of wide receivers looks to recover from consecutive mediocre weeks. Their frequent drops clearly disrupted Siemian, but now, they're showing greater intensity on the practice field. Jones ran an impressive vertical route on Tuesday, catching a perfectly thrown pass from Colter in what NU hopes to be an accurate preview of Saturday's game.

— The "ongoing battle" between Matt Harris and Dwight White intensified on Tuesday. Basically, all I'll say is this: Harris looks better almost every time. We're stuck in Jerry Brown "loyalty" mode, with the defensive backs coach hesitant to trust a talented freshman in Harris. The secondary, though, looked fairly sharp—giving up fewer big plays than usual.

— I'd expect an even greater workload for redshirt freshman back Stephen Buckley, who had one dominant drive before quieting down in the Minnesota loss. After an excellent training camp–and even better spring–Buckley appears worthy of the hype. Now, offensive coordinator Mick McCall will try to emphasize him as a receiving threat out of the backfield.

— Backup quarterbacks Zack Oliver and Matt Alviti are providing excellent and challenging looks for the first-team defense. Not all teams are blessed with multiple solid backups: It's not easy to contain Alviti's versatility or Oliver's cannon. Combined with solid scout team receivers–including Tommy Fuessel and several others–they can find some success against a talented Wildcats defense.


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