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Northwestern Spring Practice Wrap-up Notes

We've stayed away from spring practice notes for the most part, just because a lot of what you see in the spring is misleading, and most position battles will be solved in the fall. However, we'll go over a few tidbits from Saturday's practice – the last one of the spring — and other things of note from the spring. In the coming weeks, we'll have much more in-depth spring wrap-up coverage.

- It's tough to take much from the running backs' performances today, since they weren't going against NU's best defense. However, freshmen Stephen Buckley and Malin Jones both showed off their skill sets and why the future is bright for the Wildcats at running back. Buckley showed his speed and ability to get to the edge, particularly on the option, but he should also see some time at slot receiver for NU. Jones is a bigger back, but he still is incredibly elusive for his size, and on Saturday he showed off the combination of size and footwork that made him such a highly-regarded recruit. This year will still be the Venric Mark show at running back, but expect to see some of Buckley and Jones this year, Buckley possibly a little more because of his ability to shift to the slot.

- Last year's wide receiver corps was supposed to be one of the best in the Big Ten, and it ended up disappointing. This year, however, Pat Fitzgerald has raved about the improvement he's seen from the receivers. He specifically pointed out Christian Jones and Mike Jensen, but also said Rashad Lawrence — the likely No. 1 receiver next year — has taken on the leadership role left vacant by Demetrius Fields. Cameron Dickerson has also shown the potential to take a big step up, and when you add in Tony Jones, that's a very solid group that's poised for a bounce back year.

- Defensive tackle is an area of concern for NU, with the graduation of Brian Arnfelt. There isn't much depth there — at least not experienced depth. Outside of Sean McEvilly, Chance Carter and Will Hampton, there's no experience. However, the linemen and the coaches have talked up CJ Robbins, who could also see some time at defensive end, and Greg Kuhar is a freshman who should see some time, as well. The picture there likely won't take shape until the fall. The same goes for defensive end, where Deonte Gibson, who has been out for the spring, will battle Dean Lowry for the spot opposite Tyler Scott. The Wildcats essentially have three starting-caliber players at defensive end.

- Fitz held a number of sure-starters out of the scrimmage segment of Saturday's practice to avoid injuries, but it was odd to see cornerback Daniel Jones join them. Jones is presumably in a position battle for the starting spot opposite Nick VanHoose, along with CJ Bryant and Dwight White. Considering Jones' starting experience, he had a bit of a leg up from the beginning, but don't expect that battle to be settled until well into fall camp.

- We'll have more on the linebackers tomorrow, but that will be an interesting unit to watch in fall camp, despite being one of the strongest units on the team. Chi Chi Ariguzo has switched from SAM to WILL linebacker to replace David Nwabuisi, with Collin Ellis and Drew Smith in a battle to take over the starting spot at SAM. However, there hasn't been much of a battle this spring, since Ellis has shifted into the MIKE linebacker role to take the place of Damien Proby, who will start there in the fall but has been out this spring. Ellis backed up at WILL last year, and Smith fits the mold for SAM a bit better because he's quicker and more athletic, while Ellis has the bigger build for WILL. However, they're all versatile and can play different positions — Ellis, in particular, has show that — so it will be interesting to see how that battle works itself out. Right now, it looks like Smith has the leg up to play SAM, but things can certainly change this summer and fall.

- How will things shape up at safety? Ibraheim Campbell is a lock to start and Traveon Henry is well on his way to starting, but Jimmy Hall should also see a lot of playing time. Hall's role will be interesting to watch. He'll see most of his time at safety, but will also see time at nickelback and outside linebacker situationally.

- We'll update it as we see fit, but now that spring practice has wrapped up, here's our projected depth chart. We didn't take too many leaps; rather, we place an OR in spots where there are position battles. Once we get to Camp Kenosha in the fall, we'll be able to give a less fluid projection of the battles on the offensive line, on the defensive line and at linebacker.