Aug. 9, 2010
Over the next two weeks, NIUHuskies.com will preview every position on the 2010 Northern Illinois football team, beginning today with the wide receivers. In addition, sign up for Huskies All-Access to see a video breakdown of every position with interviews and practice highlights. The video will be available within 24 hours after the article is posted. Tomorrow's position group: the Defensive Backs.
DeKALB, Ill. - Heat hit Northern Illinois 2010 preseason football camp for the first time on Monday as temperatures reached over 100 degrees on the artificial turf at Huskie Stadium, but the change in weather did not affect the Huskies' work as NIU held a two-hour workout in shorts and shoulder pads.
Practice number four started slowly as the team came back after an off day on Sunday. With some "encouragement" from the Northern Illinois coaches, the team soon picked up the pace with a couple of extra water breaks provided and a misting system set up on the sidelines to help cool players off.
One group who did not miss a beat with the increased heat was the Northern Illinois wide receivers, under the direction of former NIU quarterbacks coach Pat Poore for 2010. Poore likes his new group.
"I think as a group we are very talented," Poore said. "We have size and speed, the older guys worked hard this summer to get faster and the young guys have come in with some speed. We've got to get physical and get consistent. We need to be competitive and have a winning attitude. We've got to be able to win the ball and win the battle with the defensive back. From a competitive standpoint, the competition is great. This early in practice, the work ethic has been good."
The receiving corps features five players who saw extensive action at wide receiver last year, but only three - senior Landon Cox (Calumet City, Ill./Thornton Fractional North HS), and juniors Willie Clark (Roselle, Ill./Lake Park HS) and Nathan Palmer (Elkhart, Ind./Central HS) - can truly be considered veterans. Cox has played in every game for NIU in each of the last two seasons and led the Huskies last season with 45 catches for 535 yards and four touchdown catches. Cox also has gained a reputation as one of the top blockers on the team. Clark contributed 19 catches to rank third on the 2009 team and averaged 11.6 yards per catch while Nathan Palmer has been dangerous both as a receiver and as a runner during his career. The Elkhart, Ind. native gained 135 yards on 11 rushes last season.
Poore said the veterans have played a big role in developing NIU's young receivers already.
"With the young guys, there is a learning curve, but I think the returning guys did an excellent job in the summer teaching the young guys," he said. "That takes a lot because what we're doing is very technical. Leadership-wise, Landon Cox is a tremendous role model for the younger players."
Cox said as a group, the receivers' goal is to help the Huskie quarterbacks.
"Our job is to make the quarterback look good," Cox said. "We want to stay consistent, we want to work hard and we want to have good camaraderie with the quarterback. We've practiced pretty good so far and we're making plays."
Kill said two players he has noticed early in camp are sophomore Martel Moore (San Antonio, Texas/Earl Warren HS), who caught 16 passes as a true freshman last year, and freshman Akeem Daniels (Kissimmee, Fla./Osceola HS), who had the advantage of going through spring practices with the Huskies.
"Martel Moore has really lit it up the first four days of camp," Kill said. "You can tell he wants to win a championship. Akeem Daniels has done some good things. We have a lot of competition at wide receiver. We need our receivers to make plays, and make big plays."
Sophomore Perez Ashford (Shaker Heights, Ohio/Shaker Heights HS) is the only other receiver on the roster who has caught a pass for the Huskies before as he made 10 catches, including four versus Akron, last year. Redshirt freshman Anthony Johnson (San Antonio, Texas/Earl Warren HS) is ready to see his first action and sophomore Matt Ng (Carol Stream, Ill./Glenbard North HS) and transfer Furqan Muhammad (Mableton, Ga./Pebblebrook HS) also return.
In addition to Daniels, there are three newcomers to the Huskie team at wide receiver in true freshmen Sam Altman (Fontana, Calif./Curie HS) and Da'Ron Brown (Chicago, Ill./Morgan Park HS), and redshirt freshman Jamison Wells (Combined Locks, Wisc./Kimberly HS), who spent last year as a member of the NIU baseball team.
"The young group is talented and they have a lot of speed," Kill said.
Poore said that receivers who make plays will have a chance to get on the field for the Huskies in 2010.
"The thing we are looking for are the best, most consistent and most physical wide receivers we can have," Poore said. "We need guys who can make plays."
Northern Illinois returns to the practice field Tuesday at 4:05 p.m. for the first practice in full pads. NIU will practice at 8:50 a.m. and 4:55 p.m. Wednesday and have a single practice at 9:50 a.m. Thursday. Friday will follow the same two-a-day schedule as Wednesday and the Huskies will hold a scrimmage on their annual Fan Day, Saturday, Aug. 14 at 9:50 a.m.
The Huskies open the 2010 campaign on Thursday, Sept. 2 with a 7 p.m. contest at Iowa State. The game will be broadcast by Fox Sports Net, and can be seen in the Chicagoland area on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
Northern Illinois opens its five-game home schedule on Saturday, Sept. 11 versus North Dakota at Huskie Stadium with kickoff set for 6 p.m. (Central).
Individual game tickets for the North Dakota game as well as home contests versus MAC foes Temple (Oct. 9), Central Michigan (Oct. 23) and Toledo (Nov. 9) are $20 each for the general public, while tickets for the Oct. 16 Homecoming game versus Buffalo are $25. Senior citizens (62 and older), youth (8th grade and under) and student guest tickets for Homecoming are $20 each and are priced at $15 each for the remaining five home contests.
Season tickets for Northern Illinois' 2010 home games are one of the region's best values at just $85 for all five games. NIU faculty and staff, Varsity Club (former letterwinners), NIU Alumni Association members and senior citizens can purchase season tickets for only $74. The three-game mini-plan allows fans to choose any three 2010 games, including Homecoming, and get the same reserved seat for all three games for just $50.
Tickets can be ordered online at www.NIUHuskies.com (click the "Tickets" link on the top of the page), on the phone at 815-752-6800 or in person at the NIU Convocation Center Ticket Office in DeKalb.
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