The first of two Wednesday practice sessions began promptly at 8:50 a.m. on the fields of UW-Parkside under sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s. A forecasted rain event was gobbled up by the lake, keeping the Kenosha weather perfect-as-usual for the 15 period workout. Today's observations and musings:
Three Wildcats (Vince Browne, Jordan Mabin and Al Netter) took "veteran days" for Wednesday morning, electing to take the session off and help coach up their position groups. For every 12 starts a player makes in his career, he earns one "veteran day" off practice. So for example, three-year offensive line starter Ben Burkett (39 starts) has three such off-days accumulated for this preseason. The trio will suit up for tonight's second practice.
Coach Fitz: "We were real physical this morning. We put the ball on the ground and got about 40 plays in. We'll focus on the kicking game more tonight." On the veterans' days: "The guy's legs are cooked and we're just grinding through camp right now. You're always going to give your veterans some time off, but the veteran's day puts the responsibility on them to communicate to their position coach when their legs need a break."
Brian Mulroe's Purple Nurples team won this year's offseason competition known as the Wildcat Games. Their prize is significantly different than in the past when winners were excused from the conditioning test (and usually forced to sit it out after Eric Peterman's team insisted on running it anyway after the inaugural Games). The Nurples received VIP cards that get them to the front of line in the dining hall and for treatment while also getting them cart rides from the middle of the Kenosha practice fields back up to the locker room after practice. Now THAT is a valuable prize. The Nurples were exceptionally generous with their time with the Special Olympics this year, accumulating most of their winning margin through that particular community service activity.
VIDEO: Redshirt Freshman Center Brandon Vitabile talks about his Camp Kenosha experience and some of his favorite pastimes
In player and plays of note from Wednesday morning...
* Dan Persa threw his vintage darts all day long, complete with the nose-down spiral that found its way to the numbers seemingly every time.
* During interior running drills, an unseen-from-my-angle D-lineman bruised his way into the pile so ferociously that he threw an offensive lineman backward into Mike Trumpy for the tackle. Moments later, Kevin Watt bulled his way around the end for a TFL.
* Evan Watkins was deadly on downfield throws during 7-on-7 drills. "He's having a bombs away practice" one special teams member commented from the sidelines.
* Also during 7-on-7 play, Trevor Siemian floated a pass down the sideline that Pierre Youngblood-Ary fought threw two defenders to run under and grab for a sweet connection.
* In TEAM full-go action, the physicality picked up even more. Mike Jensen made an ear-ringing block on the outside that sprung a teammate on a flat route, then more great blocking allowed Evan Watkins to find a seam and run un-touched 60 yards up the sideline (screaming a Ric Flair-esque "WOOOO" as he rumbled by my position beyond the chains).
* The defensive line blew up a screen play at one point while Kain Colter was taking reps, prompting the entire defensive sideline to chant "Kain's not Abel!"
* On an option play, linebacker Collin Ellis disrupted the pitch enough that Tyler Scott was able to leap in the backfield and intercept the ball. "Tyler is a freak. If something freakish is happening, it was probably him," said the specialists.
After some pool time this afternoon and likely a quick nap, the team will head to a local high school this evening for a turf-field practice that is completely closed to the public and the media. On Thursday, ESPN's DirecTV satellite bus will be at Northwestern's practice at UW-Parkside. NU is one of 19 schools the bus is visiting this preseason; the Wildcats will be featured on ESPNEWS and other ESPN platforms throughout the afternoon on Thursday.