For the first time since preseason camp started at Northern Illinois last Thursday, the Huskie football team did not practice Tuesday.
Media day began with lunch at the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center on the NIU campus, where Doeren, Associate Vice-President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher and head women’s volleyball coach Ray Gooden all addressed the crowd.
After hearing from Compher and the coaches, the action moved to Huskie Stadium, where the Huskies’ annual football photo day was in full swing. As the newcomers were photographed in both coat and tie and jersey, all returning players also completed two individual photo stations.
In addition, approximately 20 different players were interviewed – from well-known names Chandler Harnish, Sean Progar and Pat Schiller, to punter Ryan Neir, and one-time local prep standouts and current Huskies Michael Santacaterina and Bobby Winkel.
Following the individual photos, the Huskie seniors and NIU coaching staff group photos were taken. Position groups posed with their coaches before the players were organized by class for the team photo. The team photo was taken in the East stands and the entire day was completed 30 minutes earlier than expected.
Below are some excerpts from Coach Doeren’s talk with the media during Tuesday’s NIU Football DeKalb Media Day.
On his feelings about preseason camp:
“It’s an exciting time. Just like you guys as professionals have the days you look forward to, fall camp is one of mine. I told our team this is the favorite time of the year for me because there’s zero distractions. It’s football 24-7 and I get to be with those guys and see the leadership and the chemistry.
“As I stand in front of you, I’m not gonna lie to you…I can’t wait to get out of this room and back with our guys and that’s really what this part of the season is all about. I chose this profession for one reason, I love coaching, I love being around our players, I love helping developing them as players, as men, as students and that’s what we’re doing right now. Every minute that I’m not with them is a minute that I feel like I’m losing time.”
On what he’s seen through the first five practices:
“We’re five practices in and I have to hand it to our players. Our guys are unbelievable when it comes to dealing with adversity. One of our mottoes is it doesn’t matter what happens, we’ll do things the hard way; we’ll fight through adversity. We enjoy staring it in the face. Yesterday, with two lightning delays and going on and off the field, we had a great practice. We had tremendous tempo and energy and it was one of the most competitive 90 minutes I’ve seen as a coach. I really have enjoyed the first five days.”
On the tailback competition:
“NIU has a tremendous tradition at tailback. Jas Hopkins has started where he left off in the spring. He’s a very competitive guy. I’m proud of the way he’s working. Jamal Womble, Leighton Settle and Akeem Daniels all have had good camps. Jamal had his best day yesterday and Leighton’s best day was the day before. There’s some great competition and we will share the rock in the backfield. There will be times when we have two or three running backs in the game.”
On Chandler Harnish:
“He doesn’t get rattled. I’m really impressed, more so than anything, with how he handles a bad day. When he doesn’t have things go his way in practice, he can bounce back. You never see him drop his head, you never see him complain. He’s a consummate team guy from that standpoint. I haven’t had a day on campus yet where I’ve had to counsel him…he bought in from the day I walked in the office and that part I really appreciate.”
On the defensive line:
“On the defensive line, Sean Progar is someone you all are familiar with. He is playing extremely well with Kyle Jenkins backing him up. On the other side, there is a good competition going on between Joe Windsor and Alan Baxter. At defensive tackle, there are a lot of guys rotating inside for us right now and that will be how it goes through the first 3-4 weeks of the season. [There are] a lot of things happening at our defensive tackle position. The best defensive lines I’ve coached have been the ones that have depth and that you can continue to roll those guys through the game and keep ’em fresh so they have the same ability to disrupt for four quarters. That’s our goal. We’ll play 10 guys on game day on the defensive line if we’re capable.
On the middle linebacker position:
“At middle linebacker, we moved Pat Schiller from outside back to inside where he used to play. He’s really at home. He’s having a really nice camp. He adds some things to our defense leadership wise. We lost a returning starter, but replaced him with a guy that has started at that position for the whole season.”
On the competition at kicker:
“Maybe the most heated competition on our team is at kicker. (Matthew) Sims and (Josh) Gallington are competing for our kicking position, and (Ryan) Fillingim and (Tyler) Wedel are in the mix for our kickoff position. That will go on for a while. There are a lot of good things happening day in and day out. It’s fun to watch those guys compete.
“It’s way too early to pick one. Josh [Gallington] is at a disadvantage in that he’s got a new holder and new snapper and this is Mat’s second year with them. Once Josh gets used to the trust factor of the snap, the hold, the time, we hope that the competition gets even stiffer. It may go right to game day. We’ve got to make some decisions and I can’t make them until we’ve got more kicks on the field.”
On the depth chart overall:
“We’re only five practices in and there are 24 more left before we play a game, so what I just said, a lot of that could change. Our guys will continue to compete and we’ll put them in position to do so.”
On the team’s development with the no-huddle offense:
“Right now, they’re kind of mad when I slow ‘em down. Each situation in practice is different, but they’ve bought In to the fact that they can tire people out. That’s the whole deal is the conditioning aspect. Part of being a good defense is having an offense that protects you. It’s a matter of the flow of the game and what the score is.”
On his focus as a head coach now:
“I’m watching the position battles we have. I’m focused in on the positions where I’m not sure who is going to start yet. Most of my focus has been on the competition, making sure that our guys are getting better from a learning standpoint. I try to walk around and talk to players in between plays and help them. I’m trying to be involved with everybody.
“I’m not gonna back out on fundamentals and on toughness. I look at how to make it hard on the other side of the ball. Defensively, I can help those guys on schemes, and offensively, here’s how you can make it harder on the offense.”
On the residual effect of losing the MAC Championship game in 2010:
“If I even bring up the game, everyone in the room gets angry. Every competitor is the same, they want to win. These guys went through the regular season 8-0, and went out there [in the championship game] and lost on a botched almost interception, and every single one of them wants to redeem it. That’s part of the passion they carried into the bowl game was the anger from that one. The best way to get a bad taste out of your mouth is to go win.”
On how the Huskies have dealt with coaching transition:
“Our players want to be good here. They want to win a lot of games and they want to compete. They had a sour taste from their experience in the championship game last year, so as long as what you’re telling them is something they know can help them win, they’re going to be open to it.”
On the week-to-week nature of football:
“The bottom line is at the end of the day, we’ve got to go out year in and year out and prove ourselves. That’s what this business is. We’re judged every Saturday. That’s part of the thing I love about it. It’s what have you done for me lately and I get that, our players do too. We’re really excited to go out this year and show what kind of product we can present and show to our fans.”
On the Huskies’ mindset entering the 2011 season:
“These guys want to prove that they are the best. This is a team that has one of the winningest records – if not the winningest – in the conference over the last 10 years, but they haven’t hoisted a championship yet and they want to do that. They don’t want to be the winningest class that hasn’t done that. I think that’s something that Chandler [Harnish] in his mind has unfinished business. It will by no means define our season, but I know it’s a goal.
“We all make mistakes, we can’t make ‘em twice. Our team is pretty senior-driven. This is a team that loves to play football. It doesn’t mean we’re gonna win every game, but when it comes to loving the game, they do.”
For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.