Aug. 20, 2009
DeKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois head coach Jerry Kill put his Huskie football team through another extended preseason scrimmage Thursday morning at Huskie Stadium as the campus came alive with activity on NIU's Annual "Move In" Day.
With music blaring from the stadium's loudspeakers and the team decked out in full pads, Kill looked to continue to find answers about who will be ready to play in the NIU season opener at Wisconsin on Sept. 5. Classes begin Monday and Northern Illinois has just three practices left in preseason camp.
"Right now we're battling the mental and physical fatigue of camp," Kill said. "We are not fresh-legged, we are tired. We have a young team and we're making too many youthful mistakes. The next couple of practices, we will be looking at the freshmen and seeing where they fit. Right now, there is not a lot of depth. We need to see what we are going to do with kids."
The quarterback position serves as a good example of the youth of Kill's second NIU team as redshirt sophomores Chandler Harnish (Bluffton, Ind./Norwell HS) and DeMarcus Grady (Grand Rapids, Mich./East Grand Rapids) enter the year as two of the "veterans" under center, along with senior grad student Ryan Morris (Carol Stream, Ill./West Chicago). Despite their own youth, the three have "adopted" the three true freshmen QBs on the roster - A.J. Hill (DuQuoin, Ill./DuQuoin), Jordan Lynch (Chicago/Mt. Carmel) and Tommy Coughlin (Northbrook, Ill./Glenbrook North) - and assumed a leadership role on offense.
"It is a lot easier [for them] to take a leadership role now when they've done some things on the field," said Huskie quarterbacks coach Pat Poore. "It is always something we have to keep working at. As the quarterback, you have to set the tempo, be the sharpest and strive for perfection on every play. We're a young group but we're fortunate to have experience."
Poore, Kill and Grady all said the key to the quarterbacks' improvement this camp is the hard work they put in this summer, and even last winter.
"The big thing is how the quarterbacks - Chandler, Ryan and DeMarcus - have worked," Kill said. "After the bowl game, they threw all winter long, they'd meet at Chick Evans Fieldhouse at 10 p.m. at night. They have all put in the time and that's why they are all better. They have done a good job. I've seen them develop."
Poore said the work has taken place both on the field and off of it.
"They had a good approach to this season," he said. "They looked at last year, especially Chandler, and saw that there were a lot of things to improve on. As a group, they dove into finding out about the offense, finding out about the defensive schemes. There was a lot of learning going on. If you prepare mentally, then you are not thinking, you are reading and reacting. Physically, they put the work in and they know the type of passes and when to throw. They've worked on their relationship with the receivers - what they did all summer has been evident."
Grady also referenced the summer work and said that dedication to helping each other in order to help the team has not waned as they compete for playing time.
"We work together, we have a good relationship," Grady said. "Whoever is coming off the field, we all talk and give advice, tell each other what we saw on a play. It feels kind of funny to be a veteran as a sophomore, but I feel fortunate to be with the group of guys I'm with, to have that bond on and off the field. You don't find that too often. With these guys, we're all in it together."
While the young QBs also have shown a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn, they are still in the beginning stages as Huskies, while Poore looks forward to not only 2009 with Harnish and Grady, but beyond.
"Their upside is huge because Chandler and DeMarcus have three years to continue getting better and to play, and that's when you have the opportunity to improve," he said. "Going into this year, the biggest difference in them is their maturity, moxie, savvy, the `it' factor, whatever you want to call it. I see players who get in a situation and they have been there, done that and know how to handle it."
Season and single game tickets for the 2009 Northern Illinois Football season are on sale now. Season tickets for the entire six-game home schedule can be purchased for the value price of just $90 with discounts available for NIU Faculty and Staff, NIU Alumni Association and Varsity Club members and senior citizens. A three-game "mini-plan" and single game tickets are also on sale. With the mini-plan priced at $50 and single game tickets priced at just $20 for general public. Tickets can be ordered at www.niuhuskies.com, by calling 815-752-6800, or in person at the Athletics Ticket Office in the NIU Convocation Center.
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