The Northern Illinois University football team donned shoulder pads and helmets Monday afternoon for its third practice of the 2014 preseason at Huskie Stadium.
“Overall they came out and had good energy,” said NIU head coach Rod Carey. “Then, like the first day of pads, they aren’t used to pads so it got to them a little bit. They pushed through at the end, so I was pretty happy with them.”
The Huskies practiced for just almost two hours under hot and humid conditions. Just past the midpoint of practice, Carey, sensing a dip in intensity, stopped practice, pulled the team together for a little one-on-one competition to bring some “juice” back to the practice. He pulled an offensive and defensive player to face off in a one-on-one drill.
Just before the break during the first team session, quarterback Drew Hare (O’Fallon, Mo./Fort Zumwalt West) connected with Da’Ron Brown (Chicago, Ill./Morgan Park) for a 70-yard touchdown play. Brown is just one of a list of playmakers coming back on the offensive side of the ball.
While defensive coordinator Jay Niemann has half a defense to replace, Huskie offensive coordinator Bob Cole has a relatively simple job from a numbers standpoint. He just has to replace two starters, granted one of those starters was a Heisman Trophy finalist.
“I don’t think it’s going to change a whole lot of what we do,” Cole said of the offense in 2014. “You’ll probably see less quarterback runs, but philosophically we’re not going to be a whole lot different. We’re still going to do what we do. We have to see how it plays out and who wins the job.”
There is no replacing Jordan Lynch, but that was said about Chandler Harnish three years ago when he graduated. At some point, a quarterback will set himself above the rest and Carey will name a starter. Until then, it has been a lot of fun to watch the quarterbacks “show off their wares” so to speak at practice. Whoever the quarterback is, he will have one simple job, get the ball in the hands of the playmakers. Too bad there’s only one football.
Whoever the quarterback is, he will have the benefit of being protected by the strongest group on the offensive side of the ball, the offensive line. Four starters return to a line that has played together since the 2012 Iowa game at Solider Field.
Anchoring the line is left tackle Tyler Loos (Sterling, Ill./Sterling) with Ryan Brown (Elburn, Ill./St. Charles North) on the other end. Not only will that line be able to keep the Huskie QB off the ground, they’ll be able to clear a path for the stable of NIU running backs.
“There’s some big boys up there,” Cole said of the offensive line. ” I think we have 10 300-pounders. That’s nice to stand behind.”
Tailback Cameron Stingily (Romeoville, Ill./Romeoville) returns following a career-year in 2013 in which he rushed for 1,119 yards. Akeem Daniels (Kissimmee, Fla./Osceola) also returns to the field after missing all of last season with a foot injury. Joel Bougnon (Aurora, Ill./Aurora Christian) received a lot of playing time as a true freshman last season and should be a major contributor this season.
Should Cole and the Huskies take to the air, there are plenty of options to choose from. Seven receivers from last year’s squad return squad with Brown and Tommylee Lewis (Riviera Beach, Fla./W.T. Dwyer) leading the way. At 6-4 redshirt junior Juwan Brescacin (Mississuaga, Ontario, Canada/Culver Academy) and redshirt sophomore at Clayton Glasper (Peoria, Ill./Richwoods) are excellent targets for any quarterback.
Tight ends Luke Eakes (St. Marys, Kan./St. Marys), Desroy Maxwell (Evanston, Ill./Amundsen) and Tim Semisch (Omaha, Neb./Millard North) are big targets in traffic or in the open field, while fullbacks Rob Sterling (Lansing, Ill./T.F. South) and Ricky Connors (Powder Springs, Ga./Harrison) provide a nice safety valve in the flat.
For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.