Aug 15, 2013
Over the next two weeks, NIUHuskies.com will preview every position on the 2013 Northern Illinois football team, continuing today with the specialists. 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: quarterbacks.
Previous Position Previews
Fullbacks and Tight Ends
DeKALB, Ill. – The word “consistency” gets thrown around quite a bit in football. On both offense and defense, the coaching staff stresses the importance of consistent play.
Yet, for Northern Illinois’ specialists, the term takes on a slightly different meaning. For them, consistency also means having three highly-experienced individuals handling three underappreciated jobs.
In 2013, the Huskies return 2011 All-MAC kicker Mathew Sims (Hannibal, Mo./Hannibal), who will handle the placekicking duties for the third consecutive season. Sims has been one of NIU’s most reliable scoring options each of the past two seasons, combining for 35-of-47 in field goals and 131-of-134 in PATs. After setting the single season scoring record for NIU kickers in 2011, the Hannibal, Mo., native backed that up by breaking his own single season mark for most PATs made and attempted.
Sims has also made quite a mark in the career record books. Heading into this year, he ranks third in career PATs made (136) and attempted (141), fourth in career points kicking (247), fifth in field goals made (37), sixth in field goals attempted (50) and seventh in career scoring among all positions (247).
“It’s something where he’s battle-tested and you know what he’s going to do when he goes out onto the field,” said special teams coordinator Kevin Kane. “The young guys can learn from that and there is a great trust from the team for him.”
Meanwhile, NIU will be breaking in a new punter in Tyler Wedel (McFarland, Wis./McFarland) after losing former standout Ryan Neir to graduation. However, Wedel is hardly a stranger to the playing field, as he has handled the Huskies’ kickoff duties each of the past two seasons and will do so again in 2013. The strong-legged Wisconsinite has averaged 59.8 yards per kickoff in the last two years with 36 touchbacks.
“Tyler has a very powerful leg and he knows what we’re doing on the punt team and put the ball where we want it,” Kane said. “I think he’ll be just fine back there. As long as we protect for him, he’ll put it where we need it.”
One unsung hero among the returners, though, is long snapper Brian Mayer (Orland Park, Ill./Carl Sandburg). After taking over the position in 2011 as a redshirt freshman, the Chicagoland native has been a model of consistency for the Huskies. Though not officially listed on the stat sheet, Mayer has snapped for 108 punts, 46 field goals and 133 PATs in the past two seasons. In 2012, he added the directional snap to his repertoire, as he was a key component in NIU’s fake punts against Buffalo and Florida State.
“(He’s) probably one of the most underappreciated people on our team,” Kane said. “He’s a guy that you don’t have to worry about snaps going back there bad. Knock on wood, he’s done a great job for us the past two seasons and that’s what I expect for the upcoming one, too. He’s definitely an added bonus and it is such a relief when you know you’ve got a good snapper back there.”
Looking toward the future, the Huskies have two individuals waiting in the wings. The team signed freshman kicker Josh Brebant (Akron, Ohio/Copley) this past season. Brebant made six-of-10 field goals and 25-of-27 PATs as a high school senior, in addition to averaging 43.1 yards on 28 punts. Additionally, Bobby Ramlet (Appleton, Wis./Xavier) looks primed to hold down long snapping duties in a few years.
“I’m pretty confident,” Kane said in regards to both Brebant and Ramlet. “Watching Josh out of high school, we’ve known him for a long time. He’s got an extremely powerful leg and he’ll have a great opportunity when Sims goes away. Bobby Ramlet just keeps working and he’s a guys that we’ll be counting on in the future.”
In the return game, NIU returns both of their primary returners from a season ago in Tommylee Lewis (Riviera Beach, Fla./W.T. Dwyer) and Angelo Sebastiano (Coconut Creek, Fla./North Broward Prep). Lewis has been one of the most prolific returners in the MAC, returning three kickoffs for touchdowns in his first two seasons and finishing in the top 40 nationally in kick return average after the 2011 and 2012 campaigns. Meanwhile, Sebastiano averaged 22.7 yards per kick return and 6.3 yards per punt return.
So, in a sport that strives for consistency, NIU’s specialists made be the perfect example – in more ways than one.
Thursday’s Practice Highlights
- The Huskies opened the second half of preseason camp Thursday afternoon under partly cloudy skies at Huskie Stadium.
- After missing a field goal in last night’s two-minute drill, Mathew Sims atoned for his miss by going four-for-four in field goals to open practice.
- NIU broke out of positional drills early in camp to partake in a quasi-impromptu one-on-one pass rush/protect drill. TE Tim Semisch handled LB Austin Smaha in the first go of it before DE Joe Windsor got past OL Matt Krempel to put the defense on the board. In the next two rounds, FB Rob Sterling and LB Jamaal Bass battled to a tie in the most physical contest of the session, while OL Jared Volk and DT Ken Bishop seemed destined for a stalemate before Bishop’s bull rush got to the quarterback. The session ended with DB Paris Logan putting RB James Spencer on his heels to get the sack.
- Speaking of Spencer, he showed some good moves in the team run drills. On one play midway through the session, the Fremont, Ohio, native used his patience to find a cutback lane on a zone blocking play and race nearly untouched into the endzone. A few plays later, Spencer went inside the left tackle and raced for another touchdown.
- In 7-on-7, QB Matt McIntosh tossed arguably the best pass of the drill when he lofted the ball just over a leaping linebacker and into the hands of WR Matt Williams for what would have been a 25-yard gain.
- QB Jordan Lynch was almost automatic through the air in the goal line drill. In the first play of the session, the senior signal caller rolled left and lasered a pass between two defenders and into the hands of WR Da’Ron Brown. Later, he lofted a pass into the back corner of the endzone to Semisch, who snagged the ball and came in in-bounds for the score.
- The defense wasn’t without its highlights, though. Following Lynch’s TD pass to Brown, Bass and DB Jimmie Ward converged on RB Cameron Stingily at the one-yard-line and kept the bruising back out of the endzone.
- The Huskies host a two-a-day practice Friday with the team taking the field at 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. in preparation for Saturday’s afternoon scrimmage.
The Huskies open the 2013 season at Iowa Aug. 31 while the home opener against Eastern Illinois is set for Sept. 21. 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.