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April 2 Spring Practice Notes: Defense dominates, Carr impresses

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Henry Bushnell

With blustery and snowy conditions outside, Northwestern moved its spring practice indoors. Regardless, there was good energy and pace to the practice, which included seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 scrimmages as well as various position-specific drills. Here are our observations:

Offense

  • Clayton Thorson didn't have a ton of success today in the scrimmages, though it certainly wasn't all his fault. His line struggled a bit against the first-team defense and his wide receivers failed to get much separation. Most of his throws were checkdowns. However, Thorson did break contain a couple times for big gains, including one long run that carried him through the doors a la Bo Jackson.
  • Behind Thorson, Lloyd Yates and T.J. Green split reps and looked okay. Matt Alviti, as previously announced, is out for the spring.
  • Justin Jackson participated in all of the running back drills, but did not see a ton of touches during the team's scrimmage. With Warren Long out, this meant that the backups — Auston Anderson, John Moten and Chad Hanaoka — got a lot of playing time during the practice.
  • Jackson looks really good in pass protection. That might have been his one weakness in past years, but he stood up Anthony Walker more than once.

  • Moten has a legitimate shot to be what we hoped Auston Anderson would be last year. He looks very shifty.

  • Anderson still struggles in pass protection and got beat in one-on-ones with the linebackers. His speed and shiftiness was on display on a screen pass, though.

  • The two best wide receivers on the day were Austin Carr and Andrew Scanlan. Carr had the highlight of the day, reeling in a deep pass with a one-handed diving catch as well as making a few other catches on one-on-ones. Scanlan was the most active pass catcher in the scrimmage, and he had a couple nice plays in one-on-ones, including beating Keith Watkins II deep.

  • Jelani Roberts hung onto a catch up the seam after a big hit.

  • Both Flynn Nagel and Jayme Taylor practiced fully but wore red non-contact vests over their jerseys during the scrimmages.

  • The first team offense was Thorson, Jackson, Carr, Scanlan/ Marcus McShepard , Solomon Vault/Nagel, Blake Hance, Connor Mahoney, Brad North, Shane Mertz, Tommy Doles. Injuries played a big role, though, especially up front. Both Ian Park and Eric Olson are out for the spring.

Defense

  • Xavier Washington had a good practice, specially in 11-on-11s, blowing past Shane Mertz for a would-be sack on one play, tackling a running back for a short gain on the next and then getting another would-be sack.
  • The first-team defense dominated the first-team offense. Hartage, Alonzo Mayo and Trae Williams looked solid and the cornerback rotation of Harris, Watkins II, Hartage and Williams/Mayo should be very good. Couple that with Godwin Igwebuike and Kyle Queiro, and that is an elite secondary.
  • Fred Wyatt looked impressive and has added noticeable weight since he arrived on campus, which he absolutely needed to do.
  • Nathan Fox has the biggest hit of the day, destroying a backup ballcarrier in the backfield after beating the offensive line.
  • Joseph Jones looks to be in line to take the third linebacker spot with Nate Hall and Anthony Walker. He got reps with the first team defense with those two (instead of Jaylen Prater, whose season was cut short last year due to injury).
  • The first team defense was Ifeadi Odenigbo, Tyler Lancaster, C.J. Robbins, Washington, Jones, Anthony Walker, Nate Hall, Harris, Watkins II, Igwebuike and Queiro.

Odds and ends

  • Early in practice, Joe Bergin had a shoe untied, and Fitzgerald called him out on it: "What would you do without me?"
  • Anthony Walker asked Fitzgerald if this linebacking corps was the best one since 1995. Fitzgerald's response: "Absolutely not."
  • Both Garrett Dickerson and Jake Murray didn't practice. Dickerson was in a sling but the injury is considered very minor. Murray was not present.

Northwestern spring practice reaction

Posted by Inside NU on Saturday, April 2, 2016