Football tour notebook: Fun takes from Northwestern fall practice

Football tour notebook: Fun takes from Northwestern fall practice

EVANSTON, Ill. — Northwestern went through a brisk two-hour practice on Wednesday on its lake-front Hutcheson Field. With the Chicago skyline as a backdrop, the Wildcats did a bit of everything. Even school president Morton Schapiro was on hand to watch.

[ MORE: Dienhart: 5 things I learned at Northwestern practice ]

Here are some fun takes from Wildcat practice.

Most impressive player: RB Justin Jackson. The guy, the owner of three 1,00-yard seasons, gets lost in the shuffle many times when pundits discuss the best running backs in the Big Ten. He is a productive workhorse who is looking primed for a big senior season and is poised to become NU’s all-time leading rusher.

Top specimen: DT Tyler Lancaster. He is listed at 6-4, 315 pounds, but he looks even bigger. The senior is going to be a load for offenses to deal with this fall. He wears No. 1, so you know he is special.

Loudest coach: Pat Fitzgerald. There can’t be a coach who loves his job more. Just watching him shout at the linebackers during drills was fun. If he could still pad-up, he no doubt would. Rarely do you see a school-coach fit as perfect as this.

Impressive newcomer: WR Jalen Brown. The Oregon transfer is a speedy option who could be the heir to departed Austin Carr as the Wildcats’ go-to receiver. Keep your eye on this junior. The 6-1, 198-pound Brown flashed some nice hands today.

On the rise: OT Rashawn Slater is a true freshman. But he probably is gonna start. NU hasn’t had a true freshman start on the o-line since 2009. His dad is Reggie, who was an NBA player. Keep an eye on the offensive front. It is one of the biggest questions on the team. Tommy Doles is the best up front and center Brad North is legit. But there are some moving parts as I type this.

Nagging question: Who will be the go-to WR? There are some nice options. Keep an eye on 6-4, 218-pound sophomore Bennett Skowronek. I like him a lot. No. 88.

Under the radar: LB Brett Walsh. I like the 6-1, 220-pound senior. He moves well for what could be a nice set of LBs. At 6-4, 245, Paddy Fisher is one the Big Ten’s bigger LBs. Nate Hall may be the best of the bunch. Keep an eye on true freshman Blake Gallagher. He will play.

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NOTES

This may be Pat Fitzgerald’s fastest team yet.

As many as 8-10 true freshmen could play this season for NU.

NU A.D. Jim Phillips was on hand. He is one of the best in the business. A rising star.

Pat Fitzgerald’s agent, Bryan Harlan, was on hand.

BTN’s Lisa Byington was at practice. The NU alum will call the Wildcats game vs. Bowling Green this season. She will be the first woman to do play-by-play for a BTN football game.

Scouts from the Chiefs, Jets, Bears, Colts and Broncos were on hand.

Work is going on for a new indoor facility adjacent to the lake front practice digs. NU also is building a spectacular football complex nearby. Both are expected to open in 2018. Total price tag: $260 mil. Speaking of facilities, is there any more beautiful than this?

Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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