New Northern Illinois head football coach Dave Doeren welcomed 105 players to his first NIU preseason camp Wednesday afternoon with the first of many sessions of team and position meetings scheduled for the first evening of the 18-day event.
The 2011 Huskies take the field for the first time at 3:15 p.m. today.
After a summer of planning, recruiting, watching film, traveling, meeting with donors and getting familiar with the Chicagoland region through “Doeren Discovers,” a series of six adventures chronicled on NIUHuskies.com, NIU’s new head man is anxious to do what he loves best – coaching.
“I’m really excited to get back on the field, to be able to work with players and to seeing the hard work pay off,” Doeren said. “That is my passion, that’s why I do what I do. I’m excited to see this senior group out here start their senior seasons and really put their stamp on this team. I’m sick of talking, and am ready to go.”
Northern Illinois returns 19 seniors, including 14 on offense, off the Huskie team that went 11-3 last year to record the most wins in school history. NIU went undefeated in regular season Mid-American Conference play (8-0) and set school records for scoring and total offense before closing out the season with a 40-17 victory over Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho.
Quarterback Chandler Harnish, the first Northern Illinois player to earn first team All-MAC honors at the position, returns along with his entire offensive line.
“I think the players have a sense of urgency to get back on the field and to compete,” Doeren said. “They enjoyed the bowl game, so their last taste of competition was good, but they’ve been lifting and running for quite a while now. It’s been a long, hot summer and they are anxious to get back to the reason they’ve been doing all that lifting and running, which is to play football.”
The Huskies’ 2011 roster also includes 28 newcomers. While nearly all of the newcomers have been on campus in summer school, Doeren and his staff have not had the opportunity to coach them on the field. That changes today.
Doeren’s goals for his first NIU preseason camp are simple. He looks forward to seeing improvement from every player on the team, as he and his coaching staff make key decisions heading into the year.
“Basically, my goal is for each kid on the team to improve during this camp,” he said. “Some will improve dramatically, and the more experienced guys will improve in smaller ways. I want to identify the best 11 players on both sides of the ball and the next best 11. We know who some of those guys are now based on past results, but there are still a lot of places where we don’t know. I want us to be healthy coming out of camp. Overall, I want us to come out of camp a better football team.”
Northern Illinois opens the season Saturday, Sept. 3, when Army makes its first visit to Huskie Stadium.