Northwestern completed its spring practice with a spirited session on Lakeside Field that included individual drills and a short scrimmage. Most importantly, no one got hurt and the Wildcats got the work in that they needed.
The main guys did not play very much. Tyler Scott, Kain Colter and Venric Mark sat out most of, if not all, of the scrimmage portion of practice. There were few big plays, but a lot of solid plays throughout as both units got their work and their reps in.
In spring, positions are not solidified or won, particularly with Northwestern holding out so many players with injuries. However, habits and preparation are made at this stage. It seems like a lot of guys are gaining confidence and improving in a number of ways.
Northwestern displayed its depth at running back and along the defensive line. It was a neutral tug of war with both offense and defense able to make plays. It definitely was not a Wildcats team playing at mid-season efficiency. A lot of the work was done behind closed doors and away from the public’s eyes. So do not draw too many conclusions from what was shown to the public in today’s practice or last week’s open practice.
Several players though did shine and did press for playing time and showed that Saturday. There was Stephen Buckley, Malin Jones and Treyvon Green making solid plays at running back and in open field as receivers. There was Ifeadi Odenigbo speed rushing and putting pressure on the quarterback seemingly every play. There was the defense generally making quick tackles and preventing any big plays.
The work is now turned to the weight room again and prepping for practice to open up again in late summer.
Here are my stray thoughts and notes after watching Northwestern’s final spring practice on BTN2Go this afternoon. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments too!
–Is it me or does nothing sound more like Northwestern football than Dave Eanet?
–The broadcasters — Dave Eanet and Dan Persa — noted that Chi Chi Ariguzo is making the transition from Sam linebacker to middle linebacker this spring. With Damien Proby out for the spring, that makes some sense for this spring’s purposes. Ariguzo was known for just having a nose for the ball and constantly creating turnovers and taking advantage of turnover opportunities. Hopefully he learned a little more about the position and is able to step up and become a more consistent tackler in addition to all those turnovers he created last year.
eds. note: I just spoke with Kevin Trahan of InsideNU. He said Ariguzo is actually making the switch to Will linebacker where he will likely start. Collin Ellis and Drew Smith are competing for the spot opposite him at Sam. Ariguzo should be able to play both Sam and Will this season if needed however.
–Persa suggested on the broadcast that Ifeadi Odenigbo could play a third-down lineman role off the bench for Northwestern. Odenigbo looked noticeably bigger, but he is still kind of slim for a defensive end. He looks like he has the body of a linebacker still. Odenigbo hopefully can still make an impact. Persa compared the role Odenigbo might have to that Vince Browne had in 2010. Browne turned into a monster sacker off the end, so that would be a nice career trajectory for him.
–Trevor Siemian got a bunch of snaps early on in the scrimmage portion of practice. He missed a couple of passes early on and then found Cameron Dickerson on a beauty down the sideline. His next throw? It was short of Malin Jones and C.J. Bryant picked off the pass. That was not a good session. Siemian is a guy that is really dangerous when he gets in rhythm. He just did not find his rhythm in this stint at quarterback. Siemian is really patient in the pocket. As Persa pointed out, sometimes a little too patient. He needs to get rid of the ball quicker.
–It is definitely noticeable that Northwestern’s offensive line is not at full strength. The defensive line was getting pressure on the Wildcats quarterbacks and flushing them out of the pocket on numerous occasions.
–Northwestern’s running back depth is not something to be understated. Venric Mark did not participate in the scrimmage, but we know what he can do. Stephen Buckley has had a strong spring and showed off some of his smart running and decision making throughout practice. Malin Jones and Trevyon Green also had some nice runs up the middle and avoided taking any carries for a loss. Jones displayed some nice cuts and moves to get free and also did a good job taking the ball between the tackles. Will be nice if Northwestern can have a run threat with Mark on the bench.
–Shane Mertz defeated Kenton Playko in a dog-off in the annual dizzy bat race. If you are unfamiliar, as part of Northwestern’s offseason Wildcat Games, the team is split into teams led by one of the members from the leadership council for several competitions throughout the year. One of them is the spring practice finale — a dizzy bat relay race capped off by a one-dog hot dog-eating conference. Mertz initially thought he had won but the coaches could not decide between he and Playko. The two went into a one-dog overtime and Mertz came from behind to take the big win in that team-building competition.