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NiuFootballfan Offline
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Spring Practice Update?
Below is the official press release from today's "Spring Practice", however, I'm curious to hear a more candid report of how today went. Who looked good? Starting lineups? Injuries? Surprises?

"DeKALB, Ill. – The Northern Illinois University Huskies closed out 2018 spring practices with a 75-minute practice Saturday at Huskie Stadium that included individual drills, special teams as well as several periods of 11-on-11 work in front of a crowd of approximately 1,000 fans.

Following the practice, which followed a similar format to each of the previous 13 workouts of the spring, NIU Head Coach Rod Carey said the 2018 spring was one of the best in his tenure in terms of skill development.

"In the skill development part, I think it has [been one of the best springs]," Carey said. "We still have work to do. All that this spring does is gives us an opportunity to do more work and that gives us a chance to be successful. I feel good about it."

Two of the areas of concentration this spring were the offensive line, where a host of young players are challenging the five returning starters for playing time, and at quarterback, where Carey and company were looking for more consistency from returning starter and 2017 MAC Freshman of the Year Marcus Childers (Adairsville, Ga./Adairsville HS), as well as the development of young back-ups Rodney Hall (Detroit, Mich./Cass Tech) and Anthony Thompson.

"The focus [coming into spring] was O-line and quarterback," Carey said. "Those are the two areas we needed to get better at in terms of skill development. Marcus [Childers] had a good year [in 2017] for a freshman, and I'll just qualify it like that. It's nice to have a guy [at quarterback] that's set. He had a good spring practice and really developed, and Anthony Thompson (Chicago, Ill./Mount Carmel) had a whale of a spring too, really developing in that back-up role."

"The O-line, as a group, we needed to make a step there. With everyone back we were able to do that and get some cohesion going that way, so I was pleased with that. I think those guys took steps individually as well."

The team periods on Saturday saw the young players get nearly all the reps as Hall and Thompson were under center during most of the team sessions. Thompson's completion on a short swing pass to receiver Jordan Nettles (Romeoville, Ill./Romeoville HS), who took it almost 77 yards to the three-yard line, highlighted the team sessions, while Tre Harbison (Shelby, N.C./Crest HS) and Jordan Rowell (Elmhurst, Ill./Immaculate Conception) also showed burst and speed during the earlier periods.

"I liked the way the backs went about things," Carey said. "Overall, we held out several guys today, and really quite a bit this spring, but what that allowed us to do is get the young guys a lot of work. Some young guys, have really stepped up and we've seen the development which has been good. We focused a lot on improving on an individual basis this spring and that's going to make us better this fall."

Among the young guys who developed this spring were a quartet of defensive players in defensive end Mike Kennedy (Chicago, Ill./Mount Carmel) and linebackers Danny Walker (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton North HS), Jordan Cole (Ferguson, Mo./McCluer-South Berkeley HS) and Rayshawn Gay (Maywood, Ill./Proviso East HS), while Carey liked what he saw from veteran Antonio Jones-Davis (Vero Beach, Fla./Vero Beach HS). NIU lost all three of its starting linebackers from a year ago, but will see the return of veteran Kyle Pugh (Chicago Heights, Ill./Bloom Township), who was injured early in the season in 2017 and was limited during spring ball this year.

"Antonio Jones-Davis, he's not a young guy anymore, he's played a lot of football, he had a really fantastic spring," Carey said. "He was flying around, really communicating and doing things well."

On the final play of spring practice, NIU inserted a "secret weapon" into the backfield as 12-year old Tyler Neppl, a native of Sycamore who has a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis, got the opportunity to run the ball in for a touchdown, escorted by Childers and the entire Huskie team.

"Tyler Neppl is a kid who has been dealt a raw hand, but you would never know it from [being around] him," Carey said. "He is an unbelievable kid and has a great attitude. He's been out to a bunch of practices. We've gotten to know him and we just thought what a great opportunity to run the ball. I think he had a great time with it. The whole team had fun with it too.""
04-28-2018 07:22 PM
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HW58 Offline
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RE: Spring Practice Update?
There are a lot more qualified guys than me on here to provide an update, but I'll try to get the ball rolling.

QBs: Childers wasn't heavily involved, but in a drill throwing long he looked pretty good (although he was throwing with a stiff wind behind him what I saw, so not a great barometer). Will be interesting to see how Childers does this year. Thompson throws well and looked solid. If Hall remains at QB all four years I'll be surprised. Does NOT throw well. But boy is he fast, big and strong. Some wildcat this year would be a nice weapon, and maybe WR in his future as a lot of guys have been suggesting in other discussion threads.

RBs: We seem to be loaded here. The Nettles run after catch was explosive--very fast. Harbison will be a load and Rowell as well. In his comments to the season ticket holders after practice, Uremovich talked about employing a two-back set at times to get the most out of a deep group of running backs.

WR: My only impression was about Cole Tucker. When he signed two years ago, he looked like a little kid to me. Man has he filled out, and very quick. Can't wait to see how he does over the next four years. Love the local flavor.

Lines: In a practice like this I thought it was utterly impossible to draw any conclusions. Sorry--didn't have a feel for rotations, starters, etc. Anyone else who was there have better information about the O and D lines?

LBs: Again, hard to tell much. Pugh was held out. Lot of speed among the LBs and DBs. Really stood out to me.

Kicking game: Was very windy out of the north, so again not a good day to judge. The grad transfer can really boom it, but he missed a couple. Carey told the ticket holders the kid's still working his way back from the injuries that cost him during his senior year at Cincy. Our sophomore punter is going to be a weapon. So nice to see after years of pulling our hair out thanks to generally crappy kickers and punters.

Future pro: Carey said "You all know about Sutton Smith" (and everyone laughed), but there's another kid you might not know about." He proceeded to talk about the long snapper, Hayden Sak, who by all measurables is quicker and more accurate than most long snappers currently in the pros. Carey said he has no doubt he'll be playing on Sundays.

Overall impression: We will be one heck of a fast team. But we already knew that.

About the event itself: I'd never been before. The block party was enjoyable. Met two young guys who are working on their PhDs, one from U of Oregon, the other from Costa Rica. Both now at lil' ol' NIU! I asked how they liked their first winter in DeKalb, and the Costa Rica kid said, "Loved it! I want more snow." For real.

Good beer samples from new microbrewery in DeKalb (Forge, down by the McDonald's). Long conversation with STF--he was easy to talk with, in no hurry to cut it off, felt he was pretty open and honest about what still needs to be done. He's a high-energy guy--same impression I've had of him the 2-3 times we've talked. Practice was enjoyable. Great to go down on the field after the practice. Afterward the food/bar in the athletics center was nicely done with good talks given by STF, Carey, Uremovich and Knowles. All and all, a great time and worth the 45 minute schlep from the western suburbs. I'd do it again.

Hope this was useful info.
04-29-2018 11:22 AM
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JoeNovak Offline
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RE: Spring Practice Update?
(04-29-2018 11:22 AM)HW58 Wrote:  There are a lot more qualified guys than me on here to provide an update, but I'll try to get the ball rolling.

QBs: Childers wasn't heavily involved, but in a drill throwing long he looked pretty good (although he was throwing with a stiff wind behind him what I saw, so not a great barometer). Will be interesting to see how Childers does this year. Thompson throws well and looked solid. If Hall remains at QB all four years I'll be surprised. Does NOT throw well. But boy is he fast, big and strong. Some wildcat this year would be a nice weapon, and maybe WR in his future as a lot of guys have been suggesting in other discussion threads.

RBs: We seem to be loaded here. The Nettles run after catch was explosive--very fast. Harbison will be a load and Rowell as well. In his comments to the season ticket holders after practice, Uremovich talked about employing a two-back set at times to get the most out of a deep group of running backs.

WR: My only impression was about Cole Tucker. When he signed two years ago, he looked like a little kid to me. Man has he filled out, and very quick. Can't wait to see how he does over the next four years. Love the local flavor.

Lines: In a practice like this I thought it was utterly impossible to draw any conclusions. Sorry--didn't have a feel for rotations, starters, etc. Anyone else who was there have better information about the O and D lines?

LBs: Again, hard to tell much. Pugh was held out. Lot of speed among the LBs and DBs. Really stood out to me.

Kicking game: Was very windy out of the north, so again not a good day to judge. The grad transfer can really boom it, but he missed a couple. Carey told the ticket holders the kid's still working his way back from the injuries that cost him during his senior year at Cincy. Our sophomore punter is going to be a weapon. So nice to see after years of pulling our hair out thanks to generally crappy kickers and punters.

Future pro: Carey said "You all know about Sutton Smith" (and everyone laughed), but there's another kid you might not know about." He proceeded to talk about the long snapper, Hayden Sak, who by all measurables is quicker and more accurate than most long snappers currently in the pros. Carey said he has no doubt he'll be playing on Sundays.

Overall impression: We will be one heck of a fast team. But we already knew that.

About the event itself: I'd never been before. The block party was enjoyable. Met two young guys who are working on their PhDs, one from U of Oregon, the other from Costa Rica. Both now at lil' ol' NIU! I asked how they liked their first winter in DeKalb, and the Costa Rica kid said, "Loved it! I want more snow." For real.

Good beer samples from new microbrewery in DeKalb (Forge, down by the McDonald's). Long conversation with STF--he was easy to talk with, in no hurry to cut it off, felt he was pretty open and honest about what still needs to be done. He's a high-energy guy--same impression I've had of him the 2-3 times we've talked. Practice was enjoyable. Great to go down on the field after the practice. Afterward the food/bar in the athletics center was nicely done with good talks given by STF, Carey, Uremovich and Knowles. All and all, a great time and worth the 45 minute schlep from the western suburbs. I'd do it again.

Hope this was useful info.

Thanks for the recap. Is Cole Tucker running with the first team? I am pleasantly surprised with his quick growth.
04-29-2018 11:37 AM
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NIU32 Offline
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Post: #4
Spring Practice Update?
(04-29-2018 11:22 AM)HW58 Wrote:  There are a lot more qualified guys than me on here to provide an update, but I'll try to get the ball rolling.

QBs: Childers wasn't heavily involved, but in a drill throwing long he looked pretty good (although he was throwing with a stiff wind behind him what I saw, so not a great barometer). Will be interesting to see how Childers does this year. Thompson throws well and looked solid. If Hall remains at QB all four years I'll be surprised. Does NOT throw well. But boy is he fast, big and strong. Some wildcat this year would be a nice weapon, and maybe WR in his future as a lot of guys have been suggesting in other discussion threads.

RBs: We seem to be loaded here. The Nettles run after catch was explosive--very fast. Harbison will be a load and Rowell as well. In his comments to the season ticket holders after practice, Uremovich talked about employing a two-back set at times to get the most out of a deep group of running backs.

WR: My only impression was about Cole Tucker. When he signed two years ago, he looked like a little kid to me. Man has he filled out, and very quick. Can't wait to see how he does over the next four years. Love the local flavor.

Lines: In a practice like this I thought it was utterly impossible to draw any conclusions. Sorry--didn't have a feel for rotations, starters, etc. Anyone else who was there have better information about the O and D lines?

LBs: Again, hard to tell much. Pugh was held out. Lot of speed among the LBs and DBs. Really stood out to me.

Kicking game: Was very windy out of the north, so again not a good day to judge. The grad transfer can really boom it, but he missed a couple. Carey told the ticket holders the kid's still working his way back from the injuries that cost him during his senior year at Cincy. Our sophomore punter is going to be a weapon. So nice to see after years of pulling our hair out thanks to generally crappy kickers and punters.

Future pro: Carey said "You all know about Sutton Smith" (and everyone laughed), but there's another kid you might not know about." He proceeded to talk about the long snapper, Hayden Sak, who by all measurables is quicker and more accurate than most long snappers currently in the pros. Carey said he has no doubt he'll be playing on Sundays.

Overall impression: We will be one heck of a fast team. But we already knew that.

About the event itself: I'd never been before. The block party was enjoyable. Met two young guys who are working on their PhDs, one from U of Oregon, the other from Costa Rica. Both now at lil' ol' NIU! I asked how they liked their first winter in DeKalb, and the Costa Rica kid said, "Loved it! I want more snow." For real.

Good beer samples from new microbrewery in DeKalb (Forge, down by the McDonald's). Long conversation with STF--he was easy to talk with, in no hurry to cut it off, felt he was pretty open and honest about what still needs to be done. He's a high-energy guy--same impression I've had of him the 2-3 times we've talked. Practice was enjoyable. Great to go down on the field after the practice. Afterward the food/bar in the athletics center was nicely done with good talks given by STF, Carey, Uremovich and Knowles. All and all, a great time and worth the 45 minute schlep from the western suburbs. I'd do it again.

Hope this was useful info.


Good write up, thanks HW58. The young guys at RB and LB are exciting. So is Cole Tucker. Always fun to see which young guys break out first


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04-29-2018 11:37 AM
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Teamduh Offline
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Spring Practice Update?
I spent 80% of my time focused on the QBs as it has been the most volatile position for the past 3 years.


Overall the practice was designed to show the basics and didn't challenge the players excessively.  For instance, last year I remember much more timing routes such as slants etc... This year position coaches were standing waiting for a well positioned passes.

With that in mind I came away pleasantly surprised.  Marcus Childers looks like a college QB, a good college QB.  He had the arm strength to get the ball to his receivers.  An improvement from last year. He has the details to the motion, fake, hand-offs, feet position and balance then throw to WRs/RBs.  He is clearly the #1. 
Overall the QBs did not throw downfield much but when they did they threw with a stong wind at their back and their passes were on target or slightly long.  Not enough to gauge if his inability to hit WRs deep has been corrected.  His passes were accurate and what you would hope for.  I actually thought he had the best arm strength I have seen in the last 5 years or so.  

I am optimistic about him for this coming year.

Ryan Graham was on the field and threw the ball lightly but not in any drills that I saw.

Anthony Thompson showed off a strong arm and is #2 QB worthy.  This is kind of a shock to me but I suppose if I was around the team more it wouldn't be a surprise.  He also improved from last year.  He looks good.  I was impressed.  While he is inexperienced he gave me confidence that he could lead the team in a pinch. His passes were accurate in drills and live 11-11 action.

Rodney Hall also improved from last year in terms of arm strength and accuracy.  Unfortunately, he does not look ready to be the lead QB just yet.  He had several fumbles and his accuracy is still a hit or miss thing.  His mechanics were improved but there still appears to inconsistencies in his throwing motion.  He seems to be trying to throw over the shoulder more but still threw 45 degrees on some.  In one drill he threw 90 degrees to make a completion which was impressive.  He had a defender running in his face, jump up with 2 arms to prevent a pass but Hall threw around the defender. 
His passes didn't always hit the target, even the ones that were stationary.  Some did and he looked the part.  When they didn't I just think he needs more practice time.

Oh, I forgot to mention that Hall is fast and quick as a runner.    I would love to get Hall on the field like Jordan Lynch's sophomore season where he came in and ran the ball.

Here were my quick notes

Short wrs except for #83 (roster says Dennis Robinson

#85 (roster says Ryan Gibbons) had 2 drops in drills almost back to back but then came back and a caught a few

37 wind aided fg

Hall dropped 2nd snap came back and converted 1st down pass. Threw into coverage after couple qb keepers.

Thompson threw left across field after a couple of check downs on right and middle for a td.

#10 DJ Brown is fast and appears to still be small.  He looks like a solid player.

Next series, Hall fumbled 1st snap then tried to shuttle ball forward to RB who already ran past the potential handoff.  Ball fell to ground and Hall then leapt forward to fall on ball.  Hall bad decision making in that spot.  Could easily been a turnover.  

Missed 45 fg right. Strong leg but also wind aided.

Hall short slant pass into right side of endzone almost int.  Pass should not have been thrown.

#83 was strong during drills.  Expect playing time for Dennis Robinson.

Hall is quick
Hall made mistakes
Hall is fast

Center fell over backwards on 1 snap. 5 yards penalty.

#29 (roster - Adam Buirge??  this seems wrong) busts long screen.  He is fast.

Next play 29 run up the middle then
#28 (Roster-Jordan Nettles) middle 5 yd td

K strong leg 13 yd fg xp

Most punts went with strong wind and team coverage was good.

12 yr old kid enters game and busts one up the middle for 65 yd td while being chased by whole team from both sides. Fans cheer. Time to leave.

There is so much more I couldn't watch or forgot to note but hopefully that gave you a flavor.


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04-29-2018 11:43 AM
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Boca Rocket Online
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RE: Spring Practice Update?
Thought Childers was pretty impressive for a Freshman QB. He should be able to take the next step up this season. Looks very durable.
04-29-2018 11:50 AM
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HW58 Offline
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RE: Spring Practice Update?
Teamduh, thanks for filling in the blanks. Great report! Joe, couldn't tell if Cole Tucker was running with the first team, but I think he'll see the field a lot this year. All I know for sure is the season can't get here fast enough.
04-29-2018 06:06 PM
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Teamduh Offline
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RE: Spring Practice Update?
(04-29-2018 11:22 AM)HW58 Wrote:  There are a lot more qualified guys than me on here to provide an update, but I'll try to get the ball rolling.

QBs: Childers wasn't heavily involved, but in a drill throwing long he looked pretty good (although he was throwing with a stiff wind behind him what I saw, so not a great barometer). Will be interesting to see how Childers does this year. Thompson throws well and looked solid. If Hall remains at QB all four years I'll be surprised. Does NOT throw well. But boy is he fast, big and strong. Some wildcat this year would be a nice weapon, and maybe WR in his future as a lot of guys have been suggesting in other discussion threads.

RBs: We seem to be loaded here. The Nettles run after catch was explosive--very fast. Harbison will be a load and Rowell as well. In his comments to the season ticket holders after practice, Uremovich talked about employing a two-back set at times to get the most out of a deep group of running backs.

WR: My only impression was about Cole Tucker. When he signed two years ago, he looked like a little kid to me. Man has he filled out, and very quick. Can't wait to see how he does over the next four years. Love the local flavor.

Lines: In a practice like this I thought it was utterly impossible to draw any conclusions. Sorry--didn't have a feel for rotations, starters, etc. Anyone else who was there have better information about the O and D lines?

LBs: Again, hard to tell much. Pugh was held out. Lot of speed among the LBs and DBs. Really stood out to me.

Kicking game: Was very windy out of the north, so again not a good day to judge. The grad transfer can really boom it, but he missed a couple. Carey told the ticket holders the kid's still working his way back from the injuries that cost him during his senior year at Cincy. Our sophomore punter is going to be a weapon. So nice to see after years of pulling our hair out thanks to generally crappy kickers and punters.

Future pro: Carey said "You all know about Sutton Smith" (and everyone laughed), but there's another kid you might not know about." He proceeded to talk about the long snapper, Hayden Sak, who by all measurables is quicker and more accurate than most long snappers currently in the pros. Carey said he has no doubt he'll be playing on Sundays.

Overall impression: We will be one heck of a fast team. But we already knew that.

About the event itself: I'd never been before. The block party was enjoyable. Met two young guys who are working on their PhDs, one from U of Oregon, the other from Costa Rica. Both now at lil' ol' NIU! I asked how they liked their first winter in DeKalb, and the Costa Rica kid said, "Loved it! I want more snow." For real.

Good beer samples from new microbrewery in DeKalb (Forge, down by the McDonald's). Long conversation with STF--he was easy to talk with, in no hurry to cut it off, felt he was pretty open and honest about what still needs to be done. He's a high-energy guy--same impression I've had of him the 2-3 times we've talked. Practice was enjoyable. Great to go down on the field after the practice. Afterward the food/bar in the athletics center was nicely done with good talks given by STF, Carey, Uremovich and Knowles. All and all, a great time and worth the 45 minute schlep from the western suburbs. I'd do it again.

Hope this was useful info.
HW58, just read your feedback and it was a nice writeup. My only hope is that Hall sticks it out and continues to improve. I don't think quiting helps him much. He would have to wait another year anyways. I'm hoping the team can get him on the field somewhere.

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04-29-2018 11:13 PM
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thxjoenovak Offline
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RE: Spring Practice Update?
Thanks Teamduh & 58

Just a couple takes from Saturday:

Thompson looked poised and confident. And if anything happens to Childers, he's clearly the "next man up."

If Graham was healthy, Hall would not have been wearing a "green Jersey" Saturday. I think come Fall he'll go to WR.

And as pointed out, Tucker looks bigger. Robinson is a much needed WR with length. He needs to bulk up though. Really skinny.

Love Nettles as a RB/WR. Anywhere to get him on the field.
04-30-2018 07:30 AM
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RE: Spring Practice Update?
(04-30-2018 07:30 AM)thxjoenovak Wrote:  Thanks Teamduh & 58

Just a couple takes from Saturday:

Thompson looked poised and confident. And if anything happens to Childers, he's clearly the "next man up."

If Graham was healthy, Hall would not have been wearing a "green Jersey" Saturday. I think come Fall he'll go to WR.

And as pointed out, Tucker looks bigger. Robinson is a much needed WR with length. He needs to bulk up though. Really skinny.

Love Nettles as a RB/WR. Anywhere to get him on the field.

I said a long time ago Hall is athletic but would never play QB (other than a couple of snaps as wildcat) unless we have injuries and have no other options he is currently number 4 if Ryan is every healthy

robinson can play and has the other players respect

Tucker gets time only if we have injusies or Tears isn't on the team for being a knuckle head. I thinks he already starts the season suspended for two games from what I have been told . He needs to grow up or we will never see what he can do
04-30-2018 08:12 AM
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NIU1981 Offline
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RE: Spring Practice Update?
Is Jordan Robinson still on the team? He was nowhere to be found this spring.
04-30-2018 08:24 AM
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