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NIU Football: Three storylines to follow after spring camp

By Eddie Carifio

Young veterans.
It’s one of those phrases that sounds like a contradiction. But given the number of freshmen that have started the past two years for the NIU football team, when coach Thomas Hammock uses the phrase it is most definitely not an oxymoron.
Those young veterans wrapped up spring camp last week, 15 practices that rended with the team's spring showcase. I was at a little less than half of these, and below are three things that really stood out.

The defense is loaded, pumped and could be very scary
Since the start of the pandemic, when the team and staff knew there would be no fans in the seats, so the concept of juice took off. Two years later, the team still stresses creating its own energy, and the defense seems to relish this.
Any big play, any turnover, any anything, and the black shirts on the sidelines erupt. Will that energy carry over into games? If last year taught us anything, a hallmark of this Huskies team is it plays like it practices, for the most part.
And it’s not like they’re without talent. Daveren Rayner had a big camp. The defensive backs are working on ramping up turnover production. Kyle Pugh is back for year eight (8!).
After the final practice, Hammock said the team traditionally ranks the top 30 defensive players, “and normally you feel good about 16, 17 guys.” This year, however, he said there are 28 guys on defense they feel good about.
Preseason hyperbole and/or optimism? Maybe. But from what they showed, from the depth of the rotations used throughout the camp, the defense can (and honestly needs to) make an impact this year.

Just go with the flow with the running backs
For a big chunk of the spring, Harrison Waylee was the only running back on the field, while fellow returners Mason Blakemore and Antario Brown missed big chunks of the camp. Blakemore, who saw limited time last year but is expected to be in the mix with Brown and Waylee, was back for the final practice.
Dozier took reps at running back, moving from wide receiver, and had a big showcase practice on the final day. Plus there’s a couple running backs coming in from the late signing period that have very high upsides in Terron Kellman and Jaiden Credel.
So is Brown hurt? Hammock said it was precautionary holding him and Blakemore out, but I guess we’ll find out in the fall. The big picture is they are very deep at the position and it will be a strength of the team, even with an injury or, let’s say confusion, about who’s healthy back there.
Might not be the best for daily fantasy players. But it’s working for the team.

The backup quarterback position is interesting
Let’s get this out of the way right here - every indication shows it’s redshirt freshman Jeffery Lomax. He had the most snaps behind Rocky Lombardi. His arm strength is incredible. He even scrambled for a score in the spring showcase.
But. Justin Lynch came in from Temple this year after playing and starting some as a true freshman. The goal was for him to redshirt this year and be in the mix to take over when Lombardi graduates.
Of course, if Lombardi ends up missing significant time, it will be interesting to see if the team escalates the timetable on Lynch. Of course, it’s a hypothetical most NIU fans would rather not think about. But still worth pondering.
Left Hampton out of the QB conversation. Odd.



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(04-22-2022 09:30 PM)Teamduh Wrote: [ -> ]Left Hampton out of the QB conversation. Odd.



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Not much to talk about with him. I believe he was recovering from an injury and has been sidelined all spring? Even still, I get it. He's the only other QB to play this year. That's worth some sort of mention.
Did Hampton get injured in the one game he started? Trying to figure out when and how he got injured since he barely had playing time and practices are non-contact for QBs.
(04-23-2022 07:27 AM)epasnoopy Wrote: [ -> ]Did Hampton get injured in the one game he started? Trying to figure out when and how he got injured since he barely had playing time and practices are non-contact for QBs.

His feelings need time to recover. You jerk.
(04-23-2022 07:27 AM)epasnoopy Wrote: [ -> ]Did Hampton get injured in the one game he started? Trying to figure out when and how he got injured since he barely had playing time and practices are non-contact for QBs.

Guys can get injured in a workout, practice, or it doesn't even have to come from football...So who knows when/what happened, but from personal experience coaches are extremely cautious with spring practices. A tweaked muscle is usually enough cause to hold guys out of spring ball. I never physically participated in spring ball in college even though my health was at a level where if it had been fall camp or regular season I would have been full go, and that choice was not left up to me. In spring, from a coaches perspective most times mental reps & recovery > risking any lingering issue.
Agreed. The article talks about backup QB. Hampton was throwing 25 yards in warmups. He at least deserved to be mentioned as starting a game last year and missing most, if not all of spring.

Last year Hammock was extremely impressed with his poise as an early enrollee freshman.

If healthy he should be in the mix. There is a QB competition but it is for #2 QB.

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