DeKALB, Ill. – The 2014 Northern Illinois University football team hit the practice field for the first time Saturday afternoon as second-year head coach Rod Carey put his team through a two-hour, 15-minute workout at Huskie Stadium.
The team practiced in shorts and helmets, as required by acclimatization rules, in the first of 23 practices scheduled between Saturday and Thursday, August 21st, when the Huskies will close out preseason camp prior to going into “game week” mode. NIU opens the season on Thursday, August 28th when they host Presbyterian at Huskie Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. (CT).
Carey said although the team did have to shake the rust off a little at first, he expects some of the typical first-day errors to clear up quickly.
“I saw a lot of first day stuff [errors] but the effort was good,” Carey said. “There’s a big difference between coming out here in the summer throwing with only the team [in voluntary workouts organized by the quarterbacks] and fall camp. Overall it was a good day.”
Thirty-eight of the players who took the field Saturday for the Huskies are new to the team this year, but were immediately indoctrinated into the flow of practice as NIU moved from specialist drills to individual position work. The defense and offense then worked as units on opposite sides of the field before coming together toward the end of the workout for a very competitive round of seven-on-seven or “skelly.”
Carey said the new NCAA rules that allowed summer contact between coaches and players helped the young players adjust to both the coaches and to the plays.
“I think the new rules [regarding summer meetings and access] made a difference,” he said. “We were around the players a lot more, whether in the weight room or in a weekly meeting. I think it helps with communication and getting to know them better, especially the new guys.”
Saturday’s workout also saw the return of several starters who missed spring football. Offensive tackles Tyler Loos and Ryan Brown and receivers Da’Ron Brown and Tommylee Lewis were back in action for the Huskie offense and it was a welcome sight for Carey.
“It was great having those guys back out there,” Carey said. “Having them back makes a big difference.”
Huskie football practices, which are open to the public, continue this afternoon at 2:30 p.m.