During last season’s camp, first-year Northern Illinois University defensive line coach Brett Diersen had the challenge of replacing three starters on the defensive line.
This year, that challenge was made a little more difficult as he will have to replace four starters.
Diersen will be looking to replace is defensive tackle Ken Bishop, who was selected in the seventh round by the Dallas Cowboys, defensive ends Joe Windsor and George Rainey as well as defensive tackle Anthony Wells were lost to graduation.
However, one thing Diersen has going for him heading into this camp is that he’s had an entire season and an offseason to not only evaluate his current crop of linemen on the field and get to know them off.
“You get to know the kid, not on the field, but in the meeting room, in your office, one-on-one,” Diersen said of his first year at NIU. “Now I know how to coach them. I can start a sentence in the meeting room and they can finish it for me. To me, that’s huge. Their communication is there. The second year is a lot easier than the first.
Another aspect that makes this year’s task easier is familiarity.
“The biggest thing is the guys know my terminology,” he said. “They know what you believe in. They know the system, the concepts. They’re all eager, from the freshmen coming in to the seniors. They’re eager to prove themselves.
“It’s a lot easier because we have the same beliefs and the same mindsets. I think it’s been very enjoyable. They’re very coachable, I’ll say that and they’re willing to work and get better every day.”
While Diersen is looking to replace four guys up front, the cupboard isn’t completely bare. Defensive end Jason Meehan and his team-high 6.5 sacks from 2013 is back for the Huskies as is defensive end Perez Ford, who was second on the team in tackles for loss last year with eight. He was also third on the team in sacks with four.
Defensive tackle Donovan Gordon, who started six games last year, is back for his senior season as well. There are 11 new faces in the defensive line meeting room this year and each guy wants a chance to play and Diersen is giving them that chance.
“Everybody right now wants a chance and we’re giving them a chance,” Diersen said. “It’s Fall camp and we have to see where they’re at. The good thing is, there are things they need to work on and if you give good effort we can fix a lot of things. I think they’re giving great effort.”
While it is too early in camp to identify any of the freshmen that may have a chance to play this season, Diersen is impressed with their talent and work ethic. For the young guys, it’s just getting the terminology down.
“With the young guys, it’s trying to get them on the same terminology as me,” he said. “While it’s my second year here, it’s my first year with them. Talent-wise, they’ve all got really good talent. I think they’re work ethic is good. As a group, I really enjoy coaching the young guys and the old guys too.”