Huskies by Position: DEFENSIVE LINE DEEP IN 2010

GO HUSKIES Jake Coffman was named the Touchdown Club of Columbus' 2009 Male Athlete of the Year.
Jake Coffman was named the Touchdown Club of Columbus' 2009 Male Athlete of the Year.

Aug. 11, 2010

Over the next two weeks, will preview every position on the 2010 Northern Illinois football team, including today's feature on the defensive line. 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. Friday's position group: the Running Backs.

DEKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois University football team held its first of four two-a-day sessions of the 2010 camp Wednesday at Huskie Stadium with an hour and 20 minute workout in the morning followed by a 75-minute practice in the afternoon.

NIU spent much of the morning working on special teams, and individual work, while the afternoon session focused on group and team drills.

"I thought we got a lot accomplished in the morning," NIU head coach Jerry Kill said. "In the afternoon, we did group work, and I think we got what we needed to get accomplish. I wish we had moved around a little better, a little faster and quicker and pushed through things a little better. That's part of camp and you have to keep preaching it and keep pushing them."

The Huskies will have their second two-a-day practice of camp Friday and two more next week. So, which does Kill prefer, one-a-days or two-a-days?

"There's a lot of debate on that," Kill said. "If you do two, you go in short spurts. In a lot of ways, you get a lot of the same work in the same amount of time as you do in a one-a-day. You get a little bit more teaching work on a two-a-day. It's gotten to a point where you don't need 10 two-a-days."

One group that had a productive day Tuesday was the defensive line. While the other units were dividing their time between special teams and individual drills, the D-line spent the entire morning practice working together. With seven returners, five that have seen significant playing time, five redshirts and three newcomers, the Huskie defensive line has the most depth on the team.



"This is the deepest we've been across the board, top to bottom since I've been here," NIU defensive line coach Jeff Phelps said. "The first three groups are pretty solid. The fourth group is the younger guys. They're still in the learning process."

Veterans like seniors Jake Coffman (German Valley, Ill./Forreston), who split starts at defensive end and tackle last season, D.J. Pirkle (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln Way East) and Mike Krause (Germantown, Wis./Germantown), and redshirt sophomores Brian Lawson (Park Forest, Ill./Rich East) and Sean Progar (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) are aiding in the development of the younger players.

"The great thing is, the older guys understand the philosophy of the group," Phelps said. "Any time, somebody can go down and we need the next guy to step up and get going without any production drop off."

"The young guys are coming along," Progar said. "We know we need them because we are a young team. The biggest part of the experience I gained last year is helping the younger guys know it's going to be in a game and how it's going to be in practice."

One veteran in particular has played a key role in the success of the unit last year. Coffman, who originally decided to forgo his senior season, announced his return this summer, bolstering the defensive line. He led the team in sacks with 8.5 and tackles for loss with 13.5 and was eighth on the team in tackles with 39. His return was like a Christmas present to Phelps.

"When I heard he wanted to come back, I was very excited about that," Phelps said. "You add a guy that had been a starter the previous year, so you add leadership and experience. He's a guy that made a lot of plays. He's a guy that can play inside or outside."

Northern Illinois returns to the practice field Thursday morning for a scrimmage. 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.

NIU 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 (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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