Aug. 25, 2012
DeKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois Huskies closed out 2012 preseason football practices Saturday with a "mock game" at Huskie Stadium that included pregame stretching, the team entrance, seeing every personnel group on offense, defense and special teams, halftime and even the singing of the post-game fight song. There was no hitting, no passes thrown and no real "defense" played during the mental exercise.
Second-year head coach Dave Doeren said he "feels good" about where the team is with the season opener versus Iowa just a week away and classes set to start on Monday,
"We had a great fall camp," Doeren said. "I really like the chemistry of our team, and our senior leadership has impressed me. Today was a really good day mentally, we got a lot of things in.I feel good about where we're at right now. It's time to play a game and see what we have."
The Huskies, who have a 16-man senior class but only five fifth-year seniors on the roster, went through three complete weeks of preseason this year. With two starters returning on offense from a year ago after the loss of offensive lineman Logan Pegram in the first week, Doeren and his staff saw positive signs at every position on that side of the ball.
"Our quarterback [Jordan Lynch] played extremely well throughout fall camp," Doeren said. "Our tight end position is immensely improved from a year ago. We've got Luke Eakes, who is a year older, Tim Semisch is a year older and [2010 starter] Jason Schepler is back in the line-up. Our tailback pool has improved over the last couple of weeks. I think Leighton Settle has really started to come on now that he's healthy. I feel good about where we are [offensively]."
Doeren expressed confidence in the Huskies' new offensive line, which included primarily redshirt freshmen and redshirt sophomores with returning juniors Jared Volk
and Matt Krempel
slowed by injury during camp. They are expected to return but will find competition for playing time.
"We have a talented offensive line," Doeren said. "They're young, but they're really talented, they learn fast and they have good chemistry. [Losing Logan] hurt us from an experience standpoint; he's been in a lot of battles, so he brought a calming presence. But I really like the guys that are playing too. I don't feel like we're in a position where we're saying `oh my gosh, you're playing this guy,' that's not where we're at. We might have a guy here or there that's playing a little more than you thought he would. We would have rotated a lot of guys inside this year anyway."
There were fewer camp questions to answer on defense, where nine starters returned from last season's Mid-American Conference Championship team and 2011 starter Tyrone Clark came back at outside linebacker.
"I think we learned [that] our defense picked up where they left off [last year]," Doeren said. "I think you know what your problems are, you know what your strengths are, but you need to play a little bit to find that out for sure. We just have to get out there and play a little football and see what our problems are."
Doeren said that side from the injury to Pegram, the Huskies came out of camp without any major losses due to injury.
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 will take Sunday and Monday off before returning to the practice field Tuesday. NIU plays host to Iowa at Chicago's Soldier Field on Sept. 1 in Soldier Field Showdown III. Northern Illinois, the University of Iowa and WSCR 670 AM teamed up to create the Score Four Pack, a set of four tickets in the upper levels of Soldier Field sold for just $120, or $30 each. The Score Four Pack, as well as lower level and midfield seats ($70), club seats ($80) and upper level seats outside of the four-pack area ($60) are on sale now through Ticketmaster by calling 1-800-745-3000, or online at www.Ticketmaster.com.
-- NIU --
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