Aug. 12, 2010
DeKALB, Ill. - On what may have been the hottest day of the year, or at least the hottest day third-year Northern Illinois football head coach Jerry Kill has witnessed in DeKalb, the Huskies held their first scrimmage of preseason camp.
"Oh yeah, there is no question," said Kill about it being the warmest day he's experienced in DeKalb. "There is not a comparison. None. Zero."
Balmy conditions aside, the Huskies were still able to get plenty of work done as Kill was able to assess the roster up and down.
"Our total focus today was to evaluate people and not so much scheme," said Kill. "There were some good things that happened offensively, and then the defense rallied up and did some good things. And after that it went back and forth, and each team had their moments."
Among playmakers during the early offensive dominance were three quarterbacks, each of whom led their respective groups to paydirt on three consecutive chances. Junior DeMarcus Grady (Grand Rapids, Mich./East Grand Rapids) captained a 65-yard scoring drive by going 4-for-5 with 40 passing yards as senior tailback Chad Spann (Indianapolis, Ind./North Central) scored from five yards out to cap it. Freshman Jordan Lynch (Chicago, Ill./Mt. Carmel) ended another 65-yard scoring drive with a 17-yard strike to senior tailback Ricky Crider (Evansville, Ind./Reitz). Senior Chandler Harnish (Bluffton, Ind./Norwell) needed only one play, which resulted in a 35-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Nate Palmer (Elkhart, Ind./Central).
"We've got some good things going on in [the quarterback] area right now," said Kill.
However, the defense did not take long to respond to the early success of the offense. On the second play of the next drive, freshman defensive back Dominique Ware (Bolingbrook, Ill./Plainfield North) jumped in front of a pass from junior Casey Weston (Prattville, Ala./Prattville/NW Mississippi JC) and took the interception the other way for a touchdown.
The play really riled up the defense, which continued to hold the offense scoreless over the next three drives. The main reason behind the solid play was the defensive line tandem of senior defensive end Jake Coffman
(German, Ill./Foreston) and senior defensive tackle D.J. Pirkle
(Frankfurt, Ill./Lincoln Way East). The duo combined to stop several plays in the backfield and racked up two sacks.
The stellar play from the two seniors, and the upperclassmen in general, opened the door for the younger players on the team to really get some repetitions in, which is all part of Kill's plan of developing a promising youthful roster.
"Defensively, we have a tremendous amount of speed and athleticism," said Kill. "[The younger guys] have to get consistent in knowing what to do. We [worked] them pretty well today because that's who needs it."
Speed and athleticism were also on display on the offensive side of the ball. It wasn't just the quarterbacks that had a solid scrimmage. Junior tailback Cameron Bell had a bruising 34-yard run, while fellow newcomer junior Jasmin Hopkins (Stanley, N.C./East Gaston/Fort Scott CC) put together a tough ten-yard run for a score on a fourth-down-and-one situation, carrying two defenders into the end zone. The highlight of the day, and longest play, belonged to freshman Akeem Daniels (Kissimmee, Fla./Osceola), who made a leaping catch over a defender to complete a 61-yard touchdown pass from the arm of Grady.
While the big plays were encouraging and nice to see, Kill was more satisfied with the amount of repetitions that everyone got while defeating the heat at the same time, which allowed him to get a good judgment of the areas to work on.
"The big thing is that, if you count special teams, we ran somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 to 130 plays in a very hot temperature," said Kill. "I think the kids handled it well, and we got everything that we needed to look at done today."
The Huskies return to the practice field Friday for their second two-a-day practice, starting the first session at 8:50 a.m. (Central) and the second at 4:55 p.m. Northern Illinois opens 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.
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.