Practice Notes: QB Struggles

Updates on Siemian, Alviti and the defense from Northwestern's Tuesday session.

The quarterback and wide receiver play was poor on Tuesday morning at Northwestern practice. That’s putting it nicely. Some have wisely observed that bad practices can be the product of implementing new and difficult things. It seemed to be the opposite today. The defense, at one point, started chanting: “Check Down Trevor,” which actually felt mean. Siemian — the unquestioned starting quarterback — took few risks and lobbed balls to open running backs in 7-on-7 drills. He looked uncomfortable without Christian Jones and Tony Jones playing. Siemian threw one pick to Ibraheim Campbell after underthrowing a receiver. He completed a low percentage of his passes and failed to show any chemistry with anyone outside Miles Shuler and Cameron Dickerson. Of course, it’s important to use another perspective. First, he’s probably worn down. Second, he’s figuring out how his new-look receiving corps operates. Third, his receivers weren’t helping him by failing to get open. Their youth showed. It’s hard to judge much from one practice — especially in these circumstances — but you could almost objectively say today didn’t go well.

I missed Kenosha, but from everything I’ve seen and heard, Zack Oliver has had a disappointing fall camp. After an outstanding spring, where he looked better than ever, Oliver threw picks at another high rate Tuesday. He’s waiting too long to find his receiver and made several overthrows. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes, I believe. Oliver lacked the same comfort in airing it out — something he’ll need to rediscover this season in the practice setting. On the other hand, Matt Alviti, while still learning, played pretty well again. He’s making clear improvement with fewer mistakes than last season. While the attention shifted to the younger Clayton Thorson, Alviti quietly made adjustments and showed them on Tuesday. As a recruit, Alviti’s most admirable traits were his confidence and fearlessness. He tossed a Hail Mary to Austin Carr and rifled balls down the middle. From my standpoint, the 2015 starting quarterback situation got a lot more interesting.

OTHER: On the flipside, the NU defense had another great session. Every criticism of the offense means the defense did something right — and they committed to shutting down QBs. I really liked the play of Dwight White, who should be a useful asset for the team moving forward. He’s also more confident and stays with receivers almost every play. Campbell was outstanding as well, making one nice interception and leading a safety unit that could be the best feature of the 2014 NU football team. Some receivers played well when they had opportunities. Pierre Youngblood-Ary continued his outstanding fall camp, which earned attention from just about everyone. Kyle Prater showed his physicality down the middle and made a pair of nice plays. Then Cameron Dickerson was the only vertical threat, catching a nice ball on the perimeter. Finally, Eric Olson did not play, and Jack Konopka stepped in to take his tackle spot for the day.

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