Spring practice has now finished up for Northwestern and over the past couple of months we've been able to learn about how each position group is shaping up for the fall. Following the "spring game" we will be posting group reviews detailing "The Good," "The Bad" and "The Biggest Question" facing each group. We move ahead with the quarterbacks.
All three contenders emerged from spring practice healthy, and that’s the biggest positive. All showed some positives in their play at both practices. Clayton Thorson showed a strong arm, and he looks smooth moving in the pocket. Zack Oliver led the offense to its only touchdown drive in the final open practice. Matt Alviti showed his quickness with long runs in both practices. We still have Thorson penciled in as the starter -- he also showed his natural athleticism and ability to throw on the run -- but there obviously is still a lot that can change. But with throws like the one he had near the sideline between the cornerbacks and the safeties to wide receiver Corey Acker during the April 11 scrimmage, Thorson has shown some good things.
There aren’t a whole lot of bad things that stand out from this group, except for the fact that the team (and fans) will have to wait until August to know who will start under center. Not one guy has separated himself yet, although Thorson probably looked like the best of the three candidates through two practices. There certainly is not enough separation to name a starter (or at least the coaches don’t think there is). Overall, no quarterback looks like a sure thing, and each has a considerable amount of work to do between now and the season opener.
THE BIG QUESTION
Who separates himself come August?
Could there really be any other question? It’s a legitimate possibility that we don’t know who will start until September 5th when the Stanford Cardinal roll into Evanston. Thorson is the most talented of the bunch, but he will have to prove to Pat Fitzgerald that he deserves his first career start -- which would also be his first game experience in general -- in Northwestern’s first game. Oliver needs to prove that his game against Illinois isn’t indicative of what he can truly do on the field, and that his experience in the system gives him the edge over his competitors. Finally, Alviti needs to show he can run the offense from the pocket, and that he has the arm strength to deliver the ball on time and on target.