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5 things we learned at Northwestern training camp

It may seem as though there are still more questions than answers as we approach the final week before the season, but training camp did shine some light on a few uncertainties surrounding the Northwestern football team:

The competition on the offensive line is good for the group. There were eight guys competing for three spots on the line. While it’s not set in stone yet, Northwestern fans can rest easy that no matter who makes the final cut, this line is talented. It may be inexperienced but each player has taken the competition in stride and used it as motivation to improve his own play. The staple position, center, is set with a reliable veteran in Brandon Vitabile and left tackle is locked down by veteran Jack Konopka. The other three spots will be filled by unproven talent, but from the looks in camp, they won’t be unproven for long. This line could end up being a surprise strength this season. - Callie Counsellor

Linebacking corps should not see any slip in production. With most of the focus in fall camp regarding the linebackers surrounding the competition between Collin Ellis and Drew Smith for the starting SAM linebacker position, the overall depth and talent of the linebacking group has been understated. Regardless of the outcome of the competition, having four capable linebackers in the defensive rotation is a major plus for the Wildcats. Expect middle linebacker Damien Proby to again lead the team in tackles as the anchor of the defense and Chi Chi Ariguzo to finish close behind him. Also, a combination of Ellis and Smith could more than make up for the loss of the now-graduated David Nwabuisi. - Josh Rosenblat

Kain Colter’s arm strength is improved. Since suffering a shoulder injury in high school, Colter has faced never-ending questions about his arm strength and accuracy. It has certainly hindered his throwing ability in the past and will probably continue to do so; however, he showed marked improvement in camp this year. He’ll never be throwing Favre-like bombs every game but there is a possibility for more deep throws when he’s on the field. He’ll have to improve his accuracy as well, and maintain his short throw efficiency to keep the defenders off-balance, but Colter is poised for his best passing year in his final season. - Callie Counsellor

Godwin Igwebuike is good but won’t play this year. The incoming freshman has more potential than probably any other newcomer this year. He’s made some standout plays in practice, including a touchdown-saving batted ball in the endzone during the Wildcats’ scrimmage in Kenosha. Coach Pat Fitzgerald has also praised his mental preparation, which the coach values just as highly if not more than physical play. Despite all of these positive attributes, there is a very slim chance that he’ll see any playing time this season. NU runs pretty deep at the safety position, with returning starter Ibraheim Campbell locking down one spot and sophomore Traveon Henry emerging as the frontrunner for the second spot. Even if either of those two miss any time, Jimmy Hall and Davion Fleming have performed well enough to lock down the back-up spots. Fitzgerald has been vocal about his support of redshirt years, and it would make sense in Igwebuike’s case because of the talent ahead of him. - Callie Counsellor

They hype is real, but Northwestern won’t have any of it. Coming off a 10-win season, the ‘Cats’ first double-digit win total since 1995, and a 34-20 bashing of Mississippi State in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, Northwestern enters the season ranked 22nd nationally in virtually every poll. Players such as Venric Mark, Kain Colter, Jeff Budzien, Brandon Vitabile and Ibraheim Campbell have all been listed on preseason award watch lists. But the coaches and players have all taken the hype with a grain of salt acknowledging the common mantra that football is played on the field. Their main goal is team-oriented, as the team ends each practice in a huddle as they say “Big Ten Champs!” - Josh Rosenblat