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Northwestern 'spring game' notes, quotes and observations

Not much changed between last Saturday and this Saturday, but there are some interesting notes.

Photo: Henry Bushnell

Another year of spring practice has come and gone in Evanston. Northwestern officially took the field Saturday for the final time until the training camp commences in August, and just like that spring ball is over.

Last Saturday, we got our first unimpeded look at the 2015 Wildcats, and came away with a long list of observations. Naturally, not much was different this Saturday. But nonetheless here are the takeaways, along with some quotes, from a beautiful day at Lakeside Field:

- Fitzgerald: "We've gone out now the last couple Saturdays, and a bunch of times this week, and stepped back as coaches and just let the guys go play."

- Clayton Thorson was again first in line for first team reps Saturday, but according to Fitzgerald, the quarterbacks take turns at the front of the rotation. It would make sense then that Thorson was first up last Saturday and again this Saturday, given the fact that the Wildcats had practice on Tuesday and Thursday. It may very well have just been his turn again.

- Quarterbacks: Thorson really looks the part, but Saturday, there wasn't much noticeable separation between the redshirt freshman and his two competitors, Matt Alviti and Zach Oliver. All three looked solid but unspectacular.

- Quarterbacks: All three were also equally impressive in their ability to say hundreds of words to the media while not conveying any relevant information whatsoever.

- Definite Starters: Fitzgerald was asked whether anybody had a starting job locked up, and he mentioned the following players: Dean Lowry, Deonte Gibson, Matt Harris, Traveon Henry, Nick VanHoose, Anthony Walker ("probably, at this point"), Geoff Mogus (more on him later). And interestingly, when his mind came to the offensive backfield, Fitzgerald said, "running back-wise, we'll see." Don't read too much into that though.

- First Team Offensive Line: Fitzgerald still hasn't figured out his starting offensive line, but the current first team frontrunners look to be Geoff Mogus at left tackle, Adam DePietro at left guard, Brad North at center and Eric Olson at right tackle. At right guard...

- Fitzgerald singled out Shane Mertz as a guy who has impressed in the spring. Mertz, a 6-foot-8 giant, was formerly a tackle, but has moved inside this spring. He is presumably filling in for an injured Matt Frazier, and Frazier could very well reclaim his starting spot upon his recovery, but Mertz has been seeing all the first team reps there.

- Geoff Mogus said it was offensive line coach Adam Cushing's decision to experiment with him to tackle. The decision was made early in the spring once Mogus returned from injury. "We're just trying to get the best five guys out there," Mogus said. Fitzgerald said Mogus would start, but neither Fitzgerald nor Cushing nor Mogus knows whether he'll start at guard or tackle.

- Mogus on the transition to tackle: "It's going pretty well. There's things I've got to work on. It's a lot different than guard. You've got to hold that edge, you've really got to get back. So I'm trying to work on my pass sets a little bit, and trying to take it day by day... Playing guard, you've got to hold the depth of the pocket, you're not setting that far back; at tackle, you've got to hold the edge, so it's a whole new transition."

- C.J. Robbins was back at practice Saturday, and was, as expected, on the first team defensive line alongside Gibson, Lowry and Max Chapman. As a result, we saw less of Gibson and Lowry playing inside.

- Anthony Walker: Walker, who Fitzgerald unsurprisingly named as a likely starter, was back on the field in a limited capacity, and has been taking it easy recently. He didn't practice last Saturday.

- Cameron Dickerson was back at practice, giving a slight boost to an ailing group of receivers.

- Recruiting: Spring games, even if they aren't really games, are always big recruiting weekends in college football, and Northwestern's 'showcase' on Saturday was no exception. The Wildcats picked up a commitment from Brian Bullock, a three-star cornerback from Texas. And according to Chris Emma of Wildcat Digest, a number of other prospects were on campus, including five-star class-of-2017 quarterback Hunter Johnson.