Saturday's Practice Notes

This was a neat weekend for this NU Football fan.<br><br> First there was the <b>Meet the Team</b> night on the Patio above the field, then a chance Saturday to sneak a peek at the 2004 Cats as they prepared for their first game.

Its tough to get a report out of Evanston if you don't have Internet Access...
But here are some of my notes from Saturday's practice.
First General Impressions:
1. The Cat's Offense appears a lot "crisper" than last year at this time. Jr QB Brett Basanez seems to be continuing the improvement shown in the Spring, and the receivers are helping by running cleaner routes. Baz was also looking off secondary targets, and hitting the open receiver.

In the backup QB race, #3 QB C.J. Bacher is definitely behind #2 Chris Malleo based on what I saw, but the difference is pretty slight, mostly its where the ball is thrown that sets them apart.

Of course, they were running the plays against various groups of reserve d-backs, so its hard to tell what will happen against a #1 set of d-backs. Suffice to say that NU won't have to just run the ball this year.

2. In my opinion, Sr RB Noah Herron has picked up where he left off at the end of last season, and will be a handful, especially behind that massive O-Line. Another improvement seems to be in the execution of the running plays. Again, this was practice with no hard hitting, but our guys seemed to be getting through the holes.

We'll miss #2 RB Terrell Jordan Thursday, but in practice Frosh Brandon Roberson certainly looked good as the temporary #2. Nathan Shanks also turned the corner a couple of times.

3. The Defense is still swarming with multiple sets. In practice it doesn't seem that the same 11 guys are out there in consecutive plays. The injury to DE Loren Howard is going to hurt however.
Thinned out again:
During the Spring, I was feeling better about the depth up front on the offense, but then OT Rick McDole apparently lost his desire to play football.

Then former TE then OT Joe Wohlsheid also left the team over the Summer. Add Greg Lutzen's illness forcing him off the front 5, and Vince Clarke's elbow injury during Kenosha, the 2 deep is again looking a little thin.

With Clarke out, Adam Crum is the #2 Center, but Austin Matthews also was snapping the ball during practice.

Someone who is not "thin" is OT Zach Strief. He was sitting down signing autographs along with OG Matt Ulrich. Matt is a big guy, but when Zach stood up. Yikes!
In the final analysis:
I didn't see much new during the practice. [but then I wouldn't say if I did.]

I can say that while NU shows a fullback on the 2-deep, its really an H-Back slot and both Tight Ends and Fullbacks run out of it. FB Erryn Cobb was out on tight end routes as much as TE Taylor Jones.

NU is still running that trap play, showing a lot of motion and coming out with 4, and at times 5 receivers. They also ran some 2 back sets, with a fullback, but only with the backup QBs. All and all, the basic plays seem to have stayed the same.

What is different was the sheer number of different guys catching the ball - and the variety of routes they were running. However, as we all believe, Asthon Aikens and Mark Philmore are probably going to be the threats, Philmore deep and Aikens over the middle.

Injuries to 2 deep players might be the biggest issue early in the season. With Howard, Jordan and LB John Pickens sitting out the first game, we may not see the full team until October. Had you told me in February that we'd see Thompsen and Clark starting at DE in the first game, I'd have looked at you funny.

But there's almost a sense of anticipation towards the game Thursday. Coach Randy Walker said after the practice that everyone is tired of beating up the same old guys. The veterans are ready for some new opponents.
Next will be the TCU Pregame Intel Report


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