HUSKIES BY POSITION: OFFENSIVE LINE GELLING AT RIGHT TIME

GO HUSKIES The Huskie offensive line will feature five new starters in 2012.
GO HUSKIES
The Huskie offensive line will feature five new starters in 2012.
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HUSKIE ALL-ACCESS HIGHLIGHTS

Aug. 24, 2012

NIUHuskies.com concludes its preview of every position on the 2012 Northern Illinois football team with a look at the offensive line. In addition, go to Huskies All-Access to see a video breakdown of every position with interviews and practice highlights. The video will be available approximately 24 hours after the article is posted.

DEKALB, Ill. - After enjoying mild weather during most of its 2012 preseason practices, the Northern Illinois University football team closed out its final days of preseason camp in 90-plus degree heat at Huskie Stadium Friday.

Despite the hotter temperatures, Northern Illinois held a crisp, upbeat two-hour practice. The NIU offense, in particular, displayed a fast paced tempo.

As preseason comes to an end and "game week" begins, the Northern Illinois position group that entered August with the most questions - offensive line - has managed to find some answers. With four starters lost to graduation, the goal for offensive line coach/run game coordinator Rod Carey in camp was simple; find four new starters.

"We had to identify the guys that were going to be in there," Carey said. "We're not there yet. We'll look at the film from today, make a decision and roll with it. We're probably going to play more than five guys this year."

Carey's task was made a little more challenging when Logan Pegram (Silver Lake, Kan./Silver Lake), NIU's lone returning starter on the offensive line, went down with a fractured leg. Carey has been pleased to see the younger players step up with the junior Jared Volk (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead) stepping into a leadership role.

"We lost Logan, and we feel bad for him, but it is next man in," Carey said. "Jared's done a good job of leading them, but as a group, they're coming."

A trio of redshirt freshmen, Aidan Conlon (Flossmoor, Ill./Homewood-Flossmoor), Matthew Killian (O'Fallon, Mo./Francis Howell) and Andrew Ness (O'Fallon, Mo./Christian Brothers College) have been working with the first team in practice at the guard spots and center position, respectively. Tyler Loos (Sterling, Ill./Sterling), a redshirt sophomore, has assumed the left tackle duties, with redshirt junior Matt Krempel (Columbus, Ind./Columbus North) at right tackle.

Volk, a redshirt junior, who started the final two regular season games of 2011 and worked with the first unit against Ohio and Arkansas State, leads a second team unit comprised of redshirt sophomores. Volk, who is working his way back from an injury suffered during winter conditioning, and Tyler Pitt (McRae, Ga./Telfair County) are playing at right and left guard respectively. Left tackle Ryan Brown (Elburn, Ill./St. Charles North), right tackle Wes Ott (Western Spring, Ill./Lyons Township) and center Michael Gegner (Indianapolis, Ind./Warren Central) round out the second team offensive line.

Over the last three weeks of camp, Carey has seen the offensive line grow and develop into a cohesive unit.

"They're starting to gel, like every offensive line does," Carey said. "It takes time. It's not something that happens overnight. It's something that you have to go through.

"You have to go through the heat, like today. You have to talk when you're tired and those things are happening."

NIU head coach Dave Doeren has been pleased with the development of the offensive line in camp.

"I really like the chemistry those guys have," Doeren said. "I think Coach Carey's done a really good job with them. It's a tight knit-group of guys.

"We are young, but we're talented. They have good chemistry, communicate well with each other and they understand what to do with our system."

Tickets for the Sept. 1 NIU-Iowa contest at Soldier Field are on sale to the general public through Ticketmaster, as well as the NIU Athletics Ticket Office. Fans can order tickets online at Ticketmaster.com, by calling the Ticketmaster toll-free number at 1-800-745-3000, or in person at any Ticketmaster outlet. The NIU Athletics Ticket Office is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Northern Illinois 2012 football season tickets are on sale now through the NIU Athletics External Office at 815-753-1923 or online at 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 new HuskieLand Plan tickets provide a ticket to the home 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 Hy-Vee.

-NIU-