Aug. 14, 2012
Over the next two weeks, NIUHuskies.com will preview every position on the 2012 Northern Illinois football team. Tuesday’s third installment focuses in on the tight ends and fullbacks. 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. Coming Thursday: specialists.
Previous Huskies by Position Previews
Wide Receivers (Friday, August 10)
Defensive Backs (Monday, August 13)
DEKALB, Ill. -- By their nature, the tight end and full back positions require a multitude of different skills from a player, juggling the responsibilities of being part-offensive linemen, part-receiver. In the offensive scheme at Northern Illinois, the need for all of those skills is multiplied even more.
"One of our goals is to be a complete player,” said NIU tight ends and fullbacks coach Joe Tripodi. “To be a true tight end you need to stretch the field in the pass game and you need to block people. Especially with what we want to do here at Northern, we want to be a physical offense and our tight ends need to be a part of that as well. I tell my guys all the time, the longer you block, the better you block, the more often you will be open.”
While the group is young in age with just one player, fifth-year senior Jason Schepler (Sycamore, Ill./Sycamore), having played more than one season, it does feature some quality depth with a pair of redshirt sophomores that saw significant time last season.
“We return Luke Eakes and Tim Semisch who played a ton last year,” said NIU head coach Dave Doeren. “Then Schepler is in-and-out of the lineup as he is still getting his legs back underneath him. All three of those guys have a lot of experience. At the fullback position, Rob Sterling played for us a little bit last year. Quite honestly, there is more experience with that group than there was the season prior.”
Schepler continues to work his way back after missing the 2011 season with a knee injury. In 2010, he was NIU’s starting tight end, appearing in all 14 games during the season. The Sycamore, Ill., native hauled in eight catches for 93 yards on the season and earned All-MAC Third Team honors.
Luke Eakes (St. Marys, Kan./St Marys) saw action in all 14 games during the 2011 campaign, making four starts. The St. Marys, Kan., native had six receptions for 49 yards last season, including a 13-yard touchdown catch against Army. Tim Semisch (Omaha, Neb./Millard North/Nebraska Omaha) played in 12 contests a season ago and caught one pass, a seven-yard touchdown against Cal Poly. The 6-foot-8 Semisch made a pair of starts last season, getting the nod against Kent State and Western Michigan in his first year at NIU after transferring from Nebraska Omaha.
With Schepler in-and-out of practice during fall camp, Doeren has seized upon that opportunity create even more depth among the Huskie tight ends.
“When (Schepler) gets in there it gives us a chance to rep him at the "Y" and move Luke (Eakes) to the "H,” Doeren explained. “Tim Semisch plays both positions, and when he is out of there it gives us a chance to get Desroy Maxwell a lot of reps. We take advantage of the time that we don't have him out there to get some of the younger guys involved.”
The collection of tight ends, and the pair of Huskie fullbacks, sophomores Rob Sterling (Lansing, Ill./T.F. South) and Ricky Connors (Powder Springs, Ga./Harrison), give Tripodi a group he is very happy with.
"The first thing I see with them is great effort,” said Tripodi. “They all give great effort, they are a bunch of good kids and they are a close knit group. It's a room of several different talents.”
In addition to being talented, Tripodi likes what he sees in the versatility of his group.
“One of our main goals is to allow the offense to be as multiple as possible,” Tripodi said. “You take a kid like Tim Semisch, who is 6-foot-8, 270, he is going to be able to do different things in the pass game, being so tall. Then you have a like Rob Sterling, who is able to block somebody out. Luke Eakes, is a jack-of-all-trades, if you ask him to block somebody he can do that, he can help us in the pass game. There are a lot of good players in our group with many different talents.”
“I am very fortunate,” Tripodi continued. “I have a lot of good tight ends and fullbacks in my room, and they make (my job) pretty easy.”
After going through their second two-a-day on Monday, the Huskies returned to the field for just one practice, its 10th of camp, on Tuesday. The afternoon session was highlighted by a nice diving catch by senior Perez Ashford (Shaker Heights, Ohio/Shaker Heights) during the team period. NIU returns to two-a-day work on Wednesday, including a scrimmage scheduled during the morning workout.
Northern Illinois takes the nation's longest Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) winning streak into the 2012 season-opener after winning its final nine games of the 2012 season, including the Mid-American Conference Championship and the GoDaddy.com Bowl. The Huskies play host to Iowa at Chicago's Soldier Field on Sept. 1 and tickets to Soldier Field Showdown III are now on sale through Ticketmaster by calling 1-800-745-3000, or online at www.Ticketmaster.com.
Northern Illinois 2012 football season tickets are on sale through the NIU Athletics External Office at 815-753-1923 or online at www.NIUHuskies.com for just $120 for the full six-game Huskie Stadium season. Mini-plans, featuring any three Huskie Stadium games, can be purchased for $60, while NIU's HuskieLand Plan provides a ticket to the season-opener versus Tennessee-Martin (Sept. 8), the Kansas game (Sept. 22) and the MAC West rivalry game versus Toledo (Nov. 14) along with $45 in gift cards from Buffalo Wild Wings, Village Commons Bookstore and HyVee.
-- NIU --