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Freshmen steal the show at Northwestern practice

Northwestern's improved recruiting is showing up on the practice field.

Tasos Katopodis

Every year, Pat Fitzgerald cautions us to not read anything into any one practice, and generally, he's right. A player making a good catch doesn't mean that player has a better chance to play or start, and that's particularly true of freshmen, who have a lot to catch up on.

Northwestern tends to redshirt most of its freshmen, so the young guns weren't the focus heading into the opening of training camp on Monday. But even though they likely won't have much of an impact this year, it wasn't hard to get excited about the future. Even Fitzgerald, who usually says something about the young players having to earn their stripes, was bullish on the young players when asked about the young talent at receiver.

"We're going to really take a hard look at Solomon (Vault, a freshman this year) and see where things are at," he said. "We're really stoked about the group we've got committed right now (2014)."

Yes, that question was about the receivers, but it really could have applied to any of the young players out on the field on Monday.

Four-star quarterback Clayton Thorson showed off some impressive mobility and weaved a "no, no, no, no, YES" throw between defenders for a sideline completion. Four-star running back Justin Jackson had an incredible run in which he hit the hole hard, made a couple moves and broke free from the defense. Three-star linebacker Cameron Queiro was in on nearly every play and even got some work in with the third team. Vault showed off his speed and could be in line to play.

Northwestern has been improving its recruiting over the past four years — that's always been evident from the star ratings. But now it's starting to show up on the field. As star NU safety Ibraheim Campbell said, there's a "new level of athlete" on the field for the Wildcats now.

This doesn't mean that a lot of freshmen are going to be seeing the field for NU, nor does it mean that all of the star recruits will pan out. But the new age of talent is here in Evanston, and the future is looking pretty bright.