Huskies By Position: The Offensive Line Improves Through Competition, Cooperation

GO HUSKIES Senior Jared Volk has taken ownership of the offensive line this year.
GO HUSKIES
Senior Jared Volk has taken ownership of the offensive line this year.
GO HUSKIES
HUSKIE ALL-ACCESS HIGHLIGHTS

Aug 13, 2013

Over the next two weeks, NIUHuskies.com will preview every position on the 2013 Northern Illinois football team, continuing today with the linebackers. 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. Monday's position group: offensive line.

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DEKALB, Ill. -The Northern Illinois University football team was back to work Monday with its second of six two-a-day practices scheduled for this preseason following the team's first day off of camp.

The Huskies were put through an intense two-hour workout in full pads during the morning session before practicing for a little over an hour-and-a-half in helmets and shoulder pads under the lights in the day's second practice. As the Huskies open the second week of camp, the focus is on molding the team, and improving each day.

"Now is when you make your team," said NIU head coach Rod Carey. "You find out who can do what. You start molding the team, putting them in situations to do well keep their strengths strengths and improve on their weaknesses."

A characteristic of NIU football teams in recent years has been competition. This year's camp is no exception. There are plenty of position battles going on in camp and it makes the Huskies better team each and every day.

"You have to keep having competition, and we do at a lot of spots," Carey said. "Guys are vying for spots and that's healthy."

The offensive line has put a new twist on competition. A tight knit group, the NIU offensive line pushes each other and helps each other to get better.

"We have a lot of competition," Tripodi said. "The best thing about the competition is even though, they're competing, they're helping each other. I'm trying to elevate more of that competition. Today was a competitive day. One day you might have a starter not playing that well and it's nice to have someone step up and work with the first group. You push that competitive spirit and it drives the whole group."

One of the great unknowns heading into 2012 was. Heading into the season opener, NIU didn't have a single returning starter in the line up. However, NIU head coach Rod Carey, then offensive line coach, assembled a unit that cleared the way for a league-leading 469.5 yards of total offense a game, including Jordan Lynch's(Chicago, Ill./Mt. Carmel) 1,815 rushing yards. What a difference a year makes.

"You have to build an O-line every year," Carey said. "They have experience this year that they didn't have last year. They have a little more confidence in themselves because they've been there and done that. You still have to do the work."

The Huskies return all five starters from last year's offensive line. Carey hands over the keys to the offensive line he built to Tripodi, who returns to the unit after spending last season coaching the Huskie tight ends and fullbacks. The longest tenured coach on staff, Tripodi enters his fourth season at NIU. He spent his first two seasons with the Huskies as a graduate assistant working with the offensive line, including serving as offensive line coach in NIU's Humanitarian Bowl victory. Tripodi is very impressed with the closeness of the offensive line.

"It's a tight group and it's a fun group," Tripodi. "They work hard together. The cohesion of that unit is fun to see and fun to be a part of."

The offensive line is a young group with Jared Volk (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead) the lone senior on the starting five. Redshirt sophomores Andrew Ness (O'Fallon, Mo./Christian Brothers) and Aidan Conlon (Flossmoor, Ill./Homewood-Flossmoor) started all 14 games for the Huskies in 2012 at center and right guard respectively. Redshirt juniors Tyler Loos (Sterling, Ill./Sterling) and Ryan Brown(Elburn, Ill./St. Charles North) started 11 and 13 games respectively. Loos, the left tackle, had his season end prematurely with a leg injury, while Brown started his 13 games at right tackle.

While Brown, Conlon, Loos, Ness and Volk received the bulk of the starts last year they are not the only returners with starts under their belts. Senior Matt Krempel (Columbus, Ind./Columbus North) made four starts at right tackle and Tyler Pitt (McRae, Ga./Telfair County) started at left guard in the season opener. Senior Matt Battaglia (Chicago, Ill./Marist) has been pushing Conlon at right guard, while Michael Gegner (Indianapolis, Ind./Warren Central), who had a strong finish to spring ball, provides depth at center. Redshirt freshman Levon Myers(Franklin, Wis./Franklin) has seen his reps increase in camp.

Despite the success of last year, the Huskie offensive line has something to prove. They have a rough outing in the Orange Bowl against a very talented Florida State defense. They worked hard this offseason to get that taste out of their mouth.

"They took their aggression out in the weight room, and made their gains," he said. "Then we went out to spring ball and Jared Volk, in my estimation, had the best spring he's had here and took ownership in the group as a senior."

The Huskies open the 2013 season at Iowa Aug. 31st while the home opener against Eastern Illinois is set for Sept. 21st. Season and single game tickets for Northern Illinois' 2013 home schedule are on sale now. The new Huskieland Plan, which includes a ticket to all five home games (sections A and G) and $50 in Doggie Dollars good for parking and/or concessions, is just $50. All remaining season ticket locations for the 2013 Huskie Stadium home slate are just $100 while NIU Alumni Association members, senior citizens (62+), youth (3-13), NIU Varsity Club (former letterwinners) members and faculty and staff can see every game for just $88. Season tickets are available by calling NIU Athletics at 815-753-PACK (7225), or go online to www.NIUHuskies.com/tickets for complete information and order forms.

Single game tickets are priced at just $15 for seating in the upper rows of sections A and G in Huskie Stadium, while seats in sections B, F and lower A and G are $24 for the general public and $18 for senior citizens (ages 62 and over) and youth (ages 3-13). Seats in section C, D and E, as well as seats on the East Side, are just $30 for the general public and $20 for senior citizens and youth. Single game tickets for the five-game home schedule can be purchased through the NIU Athletics Ticket Office in the Convocation Center, online via Ticketmaster and NIUHuskies.com and on the phone by calling 815-753-PACK.

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