Aug. 7, 2009
DeKALB - If you closed your eyes and listened to practice two of Northern Illinois football camp, you'd hear the sounds of kids playing a pick-up game in park. The Huskies laughed and whooped, hollered and cheered.
Maybe it's knowing the system, or the time the team spent together in the summer, but something about head coach Jerry Kill's second camp at Northern Illinois feels different. It feels exciting. It feels alive.
It feels fun.
"Practice this year is a lot of fun," said sophomore wide receiver Nate Palmer. "I'm a little older, so I know a little bit more, and we're having fun rather than our heads spinning with 1,000 things we have to learn."
Kill, too, is enjoying being back on the field.
"We work 365 days for limited opportunities, and now we're back on the field," he said. "In the summer we can't do anything as coaches, and you don't get to be around the kids. This is why we coach. This is fun."
The Huskie participated in an array of drills focusing on technique for the first half of Friday night's practice before coming together for 11-on-11 action. Sophomore quarterback DeMarcus Grady highlighted the full speed run-throughs with a 70-yard touchdown sprint, outrunning the defense down the right sideline.
Participating in helmets and shorts only for the second straight day, Northern Illinois appeared miles ahead of where the team was at this time one year ago. At that time, Kill and the Huskies were feeling each other out, both unsure of what to expect from the other. The more comfortable environment has the Huskies learning at a rapid pace, according to Kill.
"There's a lot of learning taking place, and we've been able to rep about everybody on our team," Kill said. "Everybody improved from day one to day two."
The Huskies return to the field just over 12 hours after leaving it, with a 10 a.m. practice scheduled for Saturday. Kill emphasized the importance of his team approaching the third practice of camp with the right attitude.
"The biggest test right now is the turnaround to get back on it at 10," Kill said. "We'll see how we handle that."
If the Huskies handle it anything like they did Friday's workout, it should be a lot of fun.