The Northern Illinois University Huskies held their most extensive scrimmage of the 2014 preseason Thursday afternoon at Huskie Stadium in the 16th preseason practice of the year.
With his team two weeks away from the season opening game versus Presbyterian, NIU Head Coach Rod Carey said he is happy with what his team has accomplished so far and the work they have put in so far this preseason.
“I’m happy with where we are at (as a team),” Carey said. “We’re right in the middle of (preseason). This was practice 16 of 29 (before the opener) and they’re still coming out with good energy. The next four-five days will tell a lot. We want to continue to get better every day.”
The first and second team offense and defense got in about 140 snaps during the workout with quarterbacks Matt McIntosh (Evansville, Ind./Reitz HS), Drew Hare (O’Fallon, Mo./Fort Zumwalt West HS) and Anthony Maddie (Plainfield, Ill./Aurora Christian HS) all working with both units.
“We got a ton of work in today,” Carey said. “I was happy with the energy they brought and how they got after it. All three quarterbacks came out and did some good things and I saw things they need to work on out of all three. I’ll know a lot more after I have a chance to see the tape.”
While the offense appeared to move the ball on the ground throughout the scrimmage as young running backs Keith Harris (Chicago, Ill./Leo HS), Joel Bouagnon (Aurora, Ill./Aurora Christian HS), Draco Smith (Hammond, Ind./Mt. Carmel HS) and Alex Morrow (Streamwood, Ill./Streamwood HS) took all the carries with the first and second units. Harris had the day’s longest run as he went 70-plus yards for a score on a drive in which the Huskies started the minus one yard line.
Having seen plenty from Akeem Daniels on a daily basis, the senior watched from the sidelines.
“Keith Harris can run the ball,” Carey said. “It was good to see him back out there, healthy. He’s missed some time getting his hamstring right, we’ve had to sit him. (Akeem) gets all the work he needs. We felt today was an opportunity to get some of those younger guys in there and that worked out.”
While the Huskies’ seasoned offensive line enjoyed a productive day, Carey was complimentary of the defense as well. With younger players manning multiple positions on all three levels of the defense, the defense forced field goal tries and punts throughout the practice.
“Defensively, I was happy with the way they bent but didn’t break,” he said. “I’m not sure how many touchdowns there were but I saw a lot of field goal tries.”
Following the scrimmage, Carey introduced the team to Christopher Canaday and his parents Mark and Amy, who were special guests of the Huskies at practice. The Canadays are one of three groups who will benefit from the auction of the special Corn Fest jerseys that the Huskies will wear in the 2014 season opener versus Presbyterian.
Carey called Christopher, who was born with pulmonary atresia and has had 34 surgeries during his young life, “one of the toughest people I’ve ever met.” The Canadays handled the post-practice team “breakdown” and then took a photo with the team.