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Wedige-Scott.jpgThe Northern Illinois Huskies returned to the field with a pair of practices over the weekend, the eighth and ninth sessions of 2011 spring drills. After all meetings and practices were cancelled from Wednesday morning through Friday afternoon, with several players using that time to travel to OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford to visit recovering teammate Devon Butler, NIU players were anxious to return the field and it showed.
In the third "non-contact" day of spring on Saturday, the Huskies spent a little over two hours on the field.  Spirited individual drills included the linebackers taking on the tailbacks as well as the offensive line-defensive line one-on-one battles.  Music blared as a seven-on-seven session focused on the passing game and several periods were also spent on special teams.  With a Sunday scrimmage looming, the offense and defense worked separately against a "scout team" line-up toward the end of the workout.
On Sunday, on a sunny and unseasonably warm (80 degrees) day at Huskie Stadium, it was clear both offense and defense were ready to HIT!   The team hit the field around 10:15 a.m. and after approximately 45 minutes of special teams and individual drills, NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren called the team up and began the scrimmage.
With six defensive linemen still sidelined, and a host of young players going up against the Huskies' veteran offensive line, it was no surprise that the NIU offense appeared to have the better day.  Highlights included an early connection between Chandler Harnish and Martel Moore for 40-plus yards, several first down pick-ups by DeMarcus Grady on wide receiver screens and a long Nate Palmer catch and score.  Running backs Akeem Daniels, Jas Hopkins and Leighton Settle also found open lanes for good pick-ups.
Defensively, cornerback Rashaan Melvin stood out with a diving interception, a pair of tough tackles and another pass break-up on a deep route.
"I thought they came out with the right attitude for practice today," Doeren said following the workout.  "The offense played well early and the defense finished up well in the red zone.  The offense has made a ton of strides.  You can tell they are not thinking as much.  I thought Nate Palmer had an excellent day and it looked like the offensive line played well."

Following the workout, and a post-practice address from NIU President Dr. John Peters, the Huskie team and staff were treated to a lunch of bar-b-que chicken, macaroni and cheese, corn, greens and rolls as the team had a chance to enjoy each other's company in a relaxed setting after a turbulent week.

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