The NIU Huskies began full contact Wednesday afternoon at Huskie Stadium, marking the fifth day of practice this summer.
Though the day marked the first practice with pads, the schedule resembled that of the Huskies previous days of practice, outside of a few full contact drills.
“We threw a couple more situations at them today, forcing them to think and be in tackling situations,” said head coach Rod Carey. “I really liked the energy today and obviously there’s a lot of things to clean up, it ‘s day five, but we’ll get those things sharp.”
The Huskies started with their normal individual groups through the first eight sessions, before moving into contact. While the lineman worked on their one-on-one pass rush, a standard drill with or without pads, the linebackers and running backs worked on blitz pickup and pass rushing.
One period later during inside run, running backs Joel Bouagnon (Aurora, Ill./Aurora Christian), Akeem Daniels (Kissimmee, Fla./Osceola) and Draco Smith (Hammond, Ind./Mt. Carmel) each dazzled at respective times. With Daniels and Smith exploding through the line untouched to the secondary, Bouagnon grinded out tough yards at the second level against the linebackers to gain extra yards after contact.
Following team periods, Coach Carey whistled the squad together in the north end zone and called one name from offense and defense. Carey forced the players to lie on their backs with the crown of their helmets touching at the two yard line. At the whistle, both players would attempt to get to their feet as fast as they could with the offensive man trying to score.
While skill players made for fast and exciting plays, it was the big men in the drill that provided the energy, including a matchup with offensive lineman Ron Brown (Detroit, Mich./Mumford) – all 6-3, 333 pounds of him – and 6-foot, 270-pounder Mario Jones (Chicago, Ill./Hubbard).
Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion prevailed as Brown rushed to his feet and bowled into the end zone with applause from the offensive players as he lost his helmet and spiked the ball to the ground.
The Huskies finished practice with a live team drill, pitting the offense against the defense at the offenses one yard line. The sole purpose of the drill was for the offense to reach a first down. The NIU offense took the first series with ease, as the offensive line carved running lanes for the backs to leak through.
The defense responded in the second series as cornerback Anthony Brooks (Detroit, Mich./Warren Mott) intercepted a pass in front of the West Stadium sideline to end the drive.
In the third and final series, the two sides were neck and neck as the defense forced a fourth and one situation at the 10-yard line. Daniels took the final hand off and dropped his head between the left guard and center, barreling to daylight and the 12-yard line to get the first down and end the day with an offensive victory in the final drill.
“I think there were good plays on both sides of the ball today. Obviously as a head coach you’re never going to be happy all the time because it’s give and take,” Carey said. “That’s what you like to see, you don’t want one side of the ball dominating the other out there.”