Young Players in the Spotlight During Northern Illinois Scrimmage

GO HUSKIES <i>Alex Morrow was one of four running backs to catch the eye of NIU Head Coach Rod Carey on Saturday.</i>
Alex Morrow was one of four running backs to catch the eye of NIU Head Coach Rod Carey on Saturday.

Aug 17, 2013

DeKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois football team held its final extended scrimmage of the 2013 preseason Saturday at Huskie Stadium as coaches focused in on getting a long look at the team's younger players in order to determine how each can contribute to the team going forward.

The Huskies scrimmaged for approximately 90 minutes with Head Coach Rod Carey estimating the team was just short of his goal of running 130 plays between the first and second teams and "freshmen" groups. NIU also kicked field goals and extra points, and ran its punting and punt coverage units. Carey called Saturday's session "invaluable" to the Huskies' younger players, who received a large number of the plays.

"Today's scrimmage is invaluable to the young guys because it's one of the last times this camp that we'll have extended time to really play football," Carey said. "We'll have situational scrimmages going forward but it will be more limited during the course of practice. The young guys have a chance during these scrimmages to get a lot of reps. We're going to start to make the transition to coming together as a team. We'll have good competition but it has to be in the context of the team."

While the defense seemed to have the best of the offense for much of the scrimmage as NIU did not score in "regular" play situations, Carey liked the way the Huskies worked.

"I thought we had guys straining, working hard," he said. "We pushed them harder than we did a week ago, went a little longer. We didn't have the emotion, but they worked hard. We're not ready to play a game yet."

Carey was complimentary of the Huskie linebackers and running backs, not just for their play Saturday, but for their progress throughout camp. For the second straight week, the defense came up with a goal line stand during red zone reps.

"Boomer [Mays], Santa (Michael Santacaterina), Rock (Rasheen Lemon) and JB (Jamaal Bass) are all playing very solid," Carey said. "It's great because we've got four guys competing hard for three (starting) spots."



Although the offense did not reach the end zone except in goal line and red zone series', NIU did run the ball effectively throughout the scrimmage. Cameron Stingily (Romeoville, Ill./Romeoville HS), James Spencer (Fremont, Ohio/Ross HS) and Alex Morrow (Streamwood, Ill./Streamwood HS) received nearly all of the carries from the running back position while Keith Harris (Chicago, Ill./Leo HS) saw action in a limited role.

"Overall, the backs ran well," Carey said. "I am so proud of and pleased with Cameron Stingily. He's got a ways to go, but the way he's come into this camp and worked has shown. Keith Harris has played well too, he just has to be healthy. I'm very happy with James Spencer; I saw some things from him and from Alex Morrow today."

With Lynch, much of the starting offensive line and players like receiver Da'Ron Brown (Chicago, Ill./Morgan Park HS) taking extended series' off, Matt McIntosh (Evansville, Ind./Reitz HS) and Drew Hare (O'Fallon, Mo./Fort Zumwalt West HS) continued to battle for the No. 2 quarterback spot, and young receivers like Malik Mitchell (Alpharetta, Ga./Milton HS) and Chad Beebe (Aurora, Ill./Aurora Christian HS) were put in the spotlight. Newly-converted wide receiver Matt Williams (Geneva, Ill./Geneva HS) provided a highlight with a 22-yard touchdown grab in red zone periods, while receiver Angelo Sebastiano (Coconut Creek, Fla./North Broward Prep) and tight end Tim Semisch (Omaha, Neb./Millard North HS) also hauled in TD receptions in situational play.

Carey said practices like Saturday's allows not only the players, but the new coaching staff, to learn how to work in game situations.

"We're a new staff, so operationally we ran the last two scrimmages as we would on game day," Carey said. "We have to get better as a coaching staff too. I thought today was better than last week."

Poll Note: Northern Illinois earned 16 points in the Associated Press' 2013 preseason poll released Saturday, to take the No. 35 spot. The 16 points is the most the Huskies have ever recorded in an AP Preseason Poll; NIU received at least one preseason point for the third consecutive year. A year go, Northern Illinois did not exceed the 16-point mark until Week 11 (Nov. 4)

Northern Illinois opens the season at Iowa in two weeks, on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 2:30 p.m. The game will be televised on BTN. The Huskies' home opener is Saturday, Sept. 21 at 6 p.m. when NIU puts its nation-leading 21-game on-campus winning streak on the line versus Eastern Illinois.

Season and single game tickets for Northern Illinois' 2013 home schedule are on sale now. The 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 online at

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 and on the phone by calling 815-753-PACK (7225).

Northern Illinois will take Sunday off before returning to the practice field Monday, Aug. 19 at 10:05 a.m. for the first of two Monday practices.

-- NIU --

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