Spring Practice Primer: Northwestern Wildcats

By Tom Fornelli | College Football Writer

College football never ends and during the next few weeks teams we will be getting ready for the 2013 season in their spring practice sessions. Today, we take a look at the Northwestern Wildcats and what they'll be working on this spring.

Northwestern's Mr. Everything, Kain Colter, returns in 2013. (USATSI)

Spring practice begins: Feb. 27

Spring game: April 13

2012 record: 10-3

Returning starters: 15 (eight offense, seven defense)

Northwestern was able to win its first bowl game since the 1948 Rose Bowl last season and it was a few close losses away from playing for a Big Ten title. This year Pat Fitzgerald's team will look to take that next step and try to return to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 18 years.

The Least You Should Know About Northwestern This Spring

-- Will a wide receiver emerge? While the Big Ten is well aware of quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark, the one thing keeping this Northwestern offense from becoming an elite unit in the conference is the lack of a playmaker at wide receiver. The Wildcats are hoping that Kyle Prater can fill that role. Prater was the top-rated wide receiver out of high school in 2010 and originally went to USC before transferring to Northwestern. If Prater can live up to his high school expectations this Northwestern offense that averaged 31.7 points per game in 2012 becomes even tougher to stop.

-- Your offense is only as good as your offensive line, and the Wildcats have players to replace this spring. Three starters from last year's unit, including left tackle Patrick Ward, are gone. Right tackle Jack Konopka might move to left tackle this spring, but it is going to be very important to see how last season's backups step into new roles in 2013.

-- One major position battle to watch this spring will be the starting cornerback position. While Nick VanHoose will start at corner, who joins him on the other side of the field is up for debate this spring. It's an important position to fill as problems in the secondary last season had a direct relationship with Northwestern's three losses. This team will not win the Big Ten without improvement in the secondary.

-- Linebacker is another spot that Northwestern needs to find another starter. Both Chi Chi Ariguzo -- such a fun name to say -- and Damien Proby return but David Nwabuisi is gone. The Wildcats had one of the better run defenses in the Big Ten last season thanks to their linebackers, so finding a replacement for Nwabuisi's 96 tackles is important to make sure the run defense remains as stout.

 
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