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Notes from Northwestern practice: August 14

Our first look at the team without Venric Mark and Christian Jones.

Stephen Lam

- There was a drone at practice today! It was only used briefly, but still, fun!

- Not a lot of the receivers were practicing today. Pierre Youngblood-Ary, Tony Jones and Miles Shuler were all sitting out (nothing to worry about). That's two probable starters and a rotation player, so we didn't get an hints on the depth chart. Of the receivers who did practice, Cameron Dickerson had a nice catch, turning and catching the ball in stride. He has great hands and has proven his ability to go up and get the ball on the sideline. I might be higher on him than most, but he's going to surprise some people this year.

- Kyle Prater also had a really nice catch at the pylon on a perfectly defended pass.

- Solomon Vault and Justin Jackson are both technically running backs, but both were out running routes from the slot and looked really agile. Vault, specifically, is expected to see some time in the slot this year.

- Fitz said the four freshmen he expects to play are Vault, Jackson, Washington and Garrett Dickerson. That last one is surprising, given that NU has plenty of depth at superback with Dan Vitale and Jayme Taylor. We'll see how much they use him, though he was NU's top recruit (depending on who you ask) this year.

- Fitz said that the four potential punt returners are Nick VanHoose, Mike McHugh, Tony Jones and Ibraheim Campbell. Jones struggled as a punt returner last year, and it's surprising to see Solomon Vault and Miles Shuler aren't getting a look right now. That might change, but it's a hard one to understand.

- Solomon Vault said he, Matt Harris, Justin Jackson and Tim Hanrahan are working at kick returner.

- Vault said that NU is going to do a lot more outside running without the zone read/option, and that's why he and Jackson are going to play. Vault had expected to be just a slot receiver and redshirt when he got to school

- Clayton Thorson was playing scout team corner today. Please note: That does not mean he is going to play corner at all. Just thought it was funny, and it shows how athletic he is.

- Xavier Washington won the freshman watermelon eating contest. He is also still very much in contention to be the No. 4 defensive end.

- Fitz said Mark could have stayed on the team, but it's unclear whether there would have been additional conditions to meet, or whether he would have received what he felt were enough games (or enough playing time) with the team this year. But to speculate that there was an additional suspension would be inaccurate with what we know at this point. The school can't release more information.