Northwestern Practice Notes 4/5

Some notes from Northwestern's Saturday spring drills.

Northwestern practiced on Lakeside Field this Saturday morning. In a realistic setting—with some contact drills—several players were excellent. That begins with Warren Long. He had a two-play sequence where he broke off a long gain up the middle, and then blocked a rushing defensive end to buy Matt Alviti time in the pocket. Throughout the day, he gained extra yardage after contact.

Kyle Queiro had one of the best practices from any member of the secondary this spring season. He swatted at least two endzone passes today. On one, Trevor Siemian threw a near-perfect ball to Tony Jones. Still, Queiro—with his size—made up ground at the last second and tipped it away. He played alongside Traveon Henry on several drills, and appears to be gaining the confidence of the coaching staff. He also laid out Miles Shuler down the middle. Matthew Harris also had a "pick six" early in drills.

— Matt Alviti made some mistakes in March. Those feel like ages ago. He showed confidence in the pocket, stood in there under pressure, and delivered consistently accurate throws. Aside from one toss that went behind the intended receiver, Alviti was excellent. He's grown a lot even since the beginning of spring. This was not Trevor's most notable practice, but the staff worked him out with a number of receivers to reflect next season—when he's the undisputed number one. I've almost run out of praise for Zack Oliver. He's doing just about everything well. He's still navigating the option, but threw an outstanding pass to Kyle Prater, who caught the ball with one hand.

— Redshirt freshman Jayme Taylor has maximized his reps ever since he arrived at Northwestern. Taylor looks primed to be the star superback when Dan Vitale eventually graduates. In tight coverage, Alviti threw a nice ball that only Taylor can catch. In an athletic play, he went down and snagged the ball in the endzone. He's a big guy with a lot of skills, and that showed Saturday.

Xavier Menifield had a solid number of reps Saturday morning. Though he might not earn a role immediately, Menifield will contribute at some point during his career. The coaching staff looks to be gaining trust in him. Long was the big story on Saturday, but overall, the running backs are finding success even without Venric Mark and Stephen Buckley.

— Another highlight of practice was a solid keeper from Trevor Siemian. He drew the entire defensive line toward Warren Long, and then pulled out at the last second and scampered for a short touchdown. That should be an important element of the offense next season. He's keeping defenses honest, as he did at the end of last season. Even in spring, the offense looks catered to his skillset, and the guys behind Siemian are doing a great job pushing him.

Cameron Dickerson might be getting the most targets of any receiver. Now the almost undisputed No. 3 wideout, he's a mid- to long-range option for Siemian and the quarterbacks. He made a couple more catches Saturday, including one on an out near the sideline. Tony Jones was quiet today. Christian Jones made consecutive short grabs from Siemian near the end of drills. Miles Shuler had one drop, but redeemed himself with a pair of grabs.

— It's hard to judge the defensive line, especially with so many guys sidelined. Still, Dean Lowry made a noticeable impact. He went unabated to the quarterback for a rare practice sack. He's anchoring the defensive line with some vocal leadership and nice intensity. The O-line and D-line were fairly even, with some extremes. The first team and second team O-line opened holes for the running backs throughout practice. At times, the pass protection wasn't great and allowed pressure on the QB—especially Alviti. More important in a limited number of reps is a solid effort. It looked as though guys were really fighting for spots.


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