March 26, 2012
DEKALB, Ill. — Northern Illinois University head football coach Dave Doeren met with the media to discuss the NIU football team’s upcoming spring practice which starts Wednesday March 28th at Huskie Stadium.
NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren
“I’m excited to be talking about football again. We start practice on Wednesday. For me, what I love to do is I love to coach the game, I love to teach the game and be around the players while they compete and so I’m really happy to be moving from my office-type time to the field.
“Our players have had a great offseason, been really focused. It’s been fun to watch. It’s always interesting when your seniors leave and you move the guys down a row in the team meeting room and all of the sudden they are sitting there as seniors. To watch them take on that position of leadership, it hits them that it’s almost over and every day from that point on in their one year span is the last day like it. It’s been fun to watch Martell [Moore] and Perez [Ashford], and now as a senior, to see them in a more mature light, same thing with [Alan] Baxter, [Sean] Progar, [Rashaan] Melvin and [Tyrone] Clark. I’m anxious to watch them on the field in that role.
“We have also added three new staff members. It’s been fun to see their chemistry grow offensively with Frisman [Jackson] and our wide receiving corps. Bob Cole, moving into the quarterback room, I think he’s a lot more comfortable. It’s been fun to watch Jordan [Lynch], Matt [McIntosh] and Devin [Rose] with him. Mike Uremovich, I’m really excited what has brought to the table, not only from the special teams stand point, but the detail he has with our running backs. When you go from being in charge of a team of 105 guys like Mike was, and calling plays, he was the offensive coordinator at his last school, to having only to deal with five players. The detail he can put on five guys, compared to 105 and a booster club and everything else, it’s been very beneficial for Akeem [Daniels], Jamal Womble and Leighton Settle.
“Obviously, coach Dunbar and his years of experience, the years he’s been able to add, not only for me as a head coach having a guy on my staff that’s been a head coach, but to be able to bounce ideas off a guy who has called plays for as long as coach Dunbar has.
“This team is really a flip of last year’s team. We sat here last year talking about how experienced our offense was going to be, how we had no idea who our specialists were and how we had a lot of new starters on defense. You could really just flip the page here and say the opposite. We know exactly who our kicker, snapper, holder and punter are. Our defense returns more than 11 players that started last year. Throughout the rotations and injuries, figuring out who was who early in the season, we settled on a bunch of guys that played their best football the last three weeks of the year and they are all back, except for [Jordan] Delegal, [Pat] Schiller and [Ron] Newcomb. So I’m excited to know what we are on defense.
“Offensively, the question mark will really be the chemistry of our offensive line. I’m not questioning anything about the talent we have there, it’s just when you play O-line it’s really like playing D-line. There are so many moving parts between those two position groups. There’s a chemistry that those five guys have to have together. We’ve got 10 able bodies this spring. We will add seven more in the fall with the recruiting and the signing class. The 10 guys you will see on the practice field will all be competing.
“Obviously, Logan Pegram’s the one returning starter that played the most. Now to settle in on the chemistry those five guys have because they double team a lot, combination block, they’ll communicate, and they’ll change protections. There’s a lot of things those five guys have to be in unison on. This spring will be a big deal for them. I am excited though because of the offseason we had. Tyler Pitt and Matt Krempel have had really good offseasons. Tyler Loos comes back from the knee injury he had in the fall. You won’t see him in the spring. We will be pretty careful with him because we need him in August, obviously. He’s doing extremely well with his rehab. And so I’m excited to see those guys compete.
“Three kids we signed a year ago all red-shirted. Aidan Conlan has had a tremendous offseason. Not just competitively, but mentally. Andrew Ness is a player that all of our coaches are excited to watch and Matt Killian. Our two deep on the O-line will be in flux probably for 15 days. To say wherever it starts, it won’t be where it ends more than likely. There will be competition between Ryan Brown and Tyler Pitt, Matt Krempel and Wes Ott at the tackle position, Pegram and Conlan on one side, [Matt] Battaglia and [Matt] Killian on the other side at guard, and [Andrew] Ness and [Michael] Gegner at center.
“Jordan Lynch is our quarterback. He’s our starting quarterback. We are very excited, not just to watch him play, but to watch him lead. He comes from Mt. Carmel. I know you guys have wrote about him as a substitute player for a couple years. Just watching him and seeing the way he competes as a player, I’m just really excited to watch him grow. He may have been one of the most improved players on our team in our Bowl practices. He took those 20 practices we had to heart and now he gets to build on those.
“There’s a couple of guys that you won’t see practice. [Jason] Schepler, still working on his knee, trying to get him right for August. [Jared] Volk had an unfortunate injury this offseason. He and Schepler will be working out together every day, getting ready. They will both be ready in the fall. A.J. Sebastiano, one of our receivers, had a mild back injury that will keep him out of practice.
“We have had some things off the field that you guys have covered. I’m not going to comment in question form on them. I can’t say anything regarding the court case with Jamal [Bass], because it is a judicial case. I will tell you his incident, Progar and [Anthony] Johnson’s, all the things that happened, those guys are on our team. As a head coach, I promised parents when I take their children that I’m not there to abandon them in times of need. I’m here to help them. I’m going to work with them, I’m going to discipline them, I’m going to guide them.
The University has certain guidelines in place for certain instances that do come up that are out of my control and the realm of football. The University will take control over some of those situations, but you will see Jamal at practice. You will see Sean and A.J. [Anthony Johnson] at practice. I truly do believe in that form of rehabilitation of not turning your back on a player in need. That’s where we are. Each of those are individual situations, and obviously, Jamal’s is the one in the forefront right now.
“This football team has the nation’s longest winning streak. It has 15 straight wins at home, two-time MAC West Champs, obviously conference champs and back-to-back bowl wins. There’s a lot to be excited about here for our program and that’s really where I want to focus of the questioning today. This football team has 80-something players that have busted their butt all winter and can finally go out and play. Looking forward to watching them doing that and seeing some of the competition take place.”
On Devon Butler progress
“Devon has been cleared. He will be in the group at middle linebacker. He and Victor Jacques will compete. I’m very excited to watch him. He had his final doctors meeting last week to say whether or not he was cleared for contact, and they gave him the clean bill of health. He went through all of the off-season conditioning and he’s in as good of shape as he’s been in since the incident. I know he’s excited to just start playing the game again. A year ago he was fighting for his life and it’s good just to see him smile and walking around with a backpack on makes you feel good.”
On the look of the offense with a new offensive coordinator
“Well, the difference will be more based on personnel changes than it will coaching changes. There’s a few things that I want to do different, that you may or may not notice play selection wise just based off of last season. I felt like early in the year we had the advantage of nobody really knowing our offense because we were new. And as the season went on more and more people defended us well. So, there are certain things that I wanted us to change as we got further in the year. We did change some of them going into the bowl game, but I don’t know if you’ll notice a difference or not.
“We will still be a spread team that can go fast tempo and still run down hill, with zone and power. I think be able to get on the outside a little easier with the growth of our tight ends. Last year, we struggled without Shep but now our tight ends have gotten better. Tim Semisch and Luke Eakes help our run game out being bigger and a year older. We’ll be able to get to the perimeter with some bounce stuff. I think coach Dunbar and myself both agree on the importance of being able to run down hill and throw play action off of those things and be able to use Jordan Lynch because of how good a runner he is. Not just the way we used Chandler, but to get him on the run a little more maybe in the pro game.”
On the offensive line
“I told those guys [the coaching staff] I want them to be a little slower with the installment this spring because I don’t want the guys to not be able to play because they are thinking so much. It’s important we find out what they can and can’t do. The best way to do that is to limit their menu of plays they have to know. So we are going to be pretty vanilla with how much we do. It may not look like it with all the formations, but the number of plays that we actually run, there won’t be many. Whatever we do offensively starts with the comment, ‘can we block it?’ So we have to do enough things early to find out what we can and can’t do, and then build off of that.”
On the running back situation
“It is. I think Akeem Daniels, Leighton Settle and Jamal Womble are your top three, obviously. Those are the three that returned with the most experience. You’ll see we moved Cameron Stingly over to running back, which was the position he played in high school. I know he’s excited to be back over there. It gives us another big back and then we still have James Spencer who did some things at the end of the year on special teams for us and Giorgio Bowers transferred here and has been in school now for over a year. There will be six able bodies there working, and hopefully one will take it. If not we will be running back by committee like we were last year.”
On expectations for Jordan Lynch
“I told all our guys, to me, there are two things that make you successful. You get better and you stay healthy. Those are the things you want to be able to say at the end of the spring no matter who you are. I think for Jordan it’s probably if he can play and not think as a quarterback. That’s a big deal. There’s a lot of outthinking that is involved at his position, but the more you just play the game your physical abilities will shine. When you think a lot it slows down your ability to do things, your God given ability. And as a quarterback your ability to be able to bounce back from a bad play and a bad day now that he’s the starter, when you’re a back off it’s a little easier.”
On Tommylee Lewis’ role in the offense expanding
“I’d like to see that happen. It’s up to him to be more of an every down player. Obviously, the jet sweeps and the screens will be something, but some of the routes that we’ve talked a lot about as a staff being able to multi-train a couple guys where we can move Tommylee from the outside to the inside, move some of these guys in places where the matchups will be tough on the defense. Martel might just lineup in one spot so we can get some linebackers and safeties to cover him at times. Those are things that coach Dunbar has done in the past and we will tinker with this spring.”
On Jordan Lynch’s leadership skills compared to Chandler Harnish
“They are different. Chandler has started a lot more games, so it was easier for him to step out in front. Jordan, the first thing he’ll tell you is that ‘I like to lead by example.’ My comment to that is he’s already done that. Now it’s time for him to lead verbally. That will be what this spring is about for him because he has already helped us come back from a deficit and help us win a game, so the guys respect him throughout. His work ethic, you aren’t here to see us train, but he is one of the hardest workers we have when it comes to running and lifting. Whatever he says is going to go and the guys will follow. It’s just being in a new role. It’s just like being promoted professionally, you are trying to figure out what am I allowed to say in this role and that’s kind of where he is right now.”
On if this is the ideal situation for Lynch
“I think so. He’s played enough to where being out there is not going to scare him. It’s just the preparation and the number of snaps. He took a lot of snaps last year when we were resting Chandler in certain weeks. I know he’s ready.”
On the difference between this year and last year
“It’s night and day. I hope the product is the same. I felt like last year, going into the spring, we had our systems and we ran them. As we went, we started to change our systems to fit our personnel and it’s the flip of that now. We already know our personnel, so we are not putting plays in that we don’t think are good for our players. We know what their strengths are. We know what their weaknesses are. There’s a few things with the O-line that we still have to work out because we haven’t seen them do as much. For me, I know what buttons to push, maybe a little better with our guys. I know their personalities. I know how to challenge them. The management of the player is the biggest difference. I know those guys so much better than I did.”
On the offensive line
“The good thing is there are good players there. It’s just figuring out the right five and how they are going to play together. Trevor Olsen will be missed tremendously as a player and as a leader. He was the one that held those guys together and we will definitely miss those guys. But that happens every year, so you can’t complain about it. The good thing for us is we are not sitting here with an empty tank. We have 10 guys that are ready to compete and some of them I am really excited to see play. Last year I thought Tyler Loos was close to beating Otis out when he got hurt. You got a kid coming out, who you won’t see this spring, but you will see in August that I think is really talented.”
On the schedule
“Preseason, opening at Soldier Field, against Iowa is a game I am really looking forward to, not that I wasn’t excited about playing Army. When you get to play a traditional football team instead of a triple option team it’s a lot better for your defense. They will be spending a lot of fall camp talking base plays, zones, powers, leads, play actions and boots. The things that Army did with the triple option, that’s exciting. Having Kansas play at Huskies Stadium, Big 12 team here, a team we lost a heart breaker to last year. I know our players are excited about hosting them. Then going to West Point, a sacred place in college football, I think those are three games we are really excited to have on our schedule and we look forward to seeing the rest of our schedule when it comes out.”
On the coming together of the coaching staff
“They feel great together right now. They’ve been working together every day in the office since coach Dunbar got here. Obviously when you get on the field there will be some new things. I’m really happy with the chemistry of those guys and the respect they have for each other.”