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April 3 Practice Observations
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NIU1981 Offline
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April 3 Practice Observations
Man, was it great to be back in Huskie Stadium on a beautiful Saturday. Bright sunshine and a nice crowd made for a fun atmosphere. Here are my observations with the usual caveats that it was only one practice out of fifteen, and I may not know what I'm talking about.

Rocky Lombardi looked really good at QB, better than I expected to be honest. He was missing some guys in drills at the beginning but when the lights came on he was great. He threw seeds (one of the strongest arms I've seen at NIU), was accurate and made good decisions. Very good to see. He seemed to be having the time of his life out there. As far as his running goes, I do not expect him to run anywhere near as well as Harnish or Lynch, but he moves well in the pocket and looks like he can keep defenses honest and extend plays with his feet. That should help the O-line and offense as a whole. All of this plus his leadership makes him a super addition to the team. It's easy to see why the coaches are so high on him.

Rodney Thompson was number two. He throws a great looking ball but missed a lot of guys today. He did thread in one beautiful TD pass to Cole Tucker later in the scrimmage.

Dustin Fletcher was number three and really had a tough go of it. I won't dwell on it but today was not a good day for him.

Ethan Hampton wasn't dressed which was disappointing, I was hoping to see him throw.

The starting O-line was Marques Cox, John Champe, Brayden Patton, Logan Zschernitz and Nolan Potter left to right. Later in the scrimmage they put JJ Lippe at center and slid Patton over to left guard so that's something to keep an eye on. The O-line looked pretty decent I would say, certainly better than last year.

The two's were Evan Buss, Tyler Pitcel, Lippe/Nygra, Matt Schooley and Leif Engstrand left to right.

The receivers were who you would expect with the exception of Trayvon Rudolph who I don't think was dressed. Tyrice Richie, Cole Tucker, Fabian McCray, Messiah Travis, Mohamed Toure and Jeremiah Howard got a lot of work. Tucker and Travis caught TD passes, with Travis's being mostly YAC, but it was McCray who really stood out for me today. It seems like the light may have come on for him.

The tight ends getting the vast majority of work were Liam Soraghan, Luke Mallette and Tristen Tewes (who flung Jordan Hanson to the ground after one catch, riling up the team). Blake Kosin did make one really nice catch on a low throw at the sideline. The wild card at tight end is Miles Joiner, who will arrive in June from Youngstown State. He's supposed to be a Daniel Crawford type.

Running backs were Harrison Waylee, Erin Collins and Clint Ratkovich in that order, although they also split Ratkovich out and do other things with him. Waylee was held in check while I was there. I left at about 1 PM and they were still scrimmaging. Coach Hammock wanted to get some tape apparently. I really liked what I saw from Collins today. He didn't break any big ones but really ran downhill between the tackles, great to see. Ratkovich broke a 60 yard TD run on short yardage, outrunning Kyle Pugh with a gear I didn't know he had. He catches the ball really well too and will be a great addition to the offense.

The number one D line was Pierce Oppong, Jeff Griffin, James Ester and Raishein Thomas. Demond Taylor wasn't dressed. (Edit: Taylor may have been out there and I just didn't see him. It's hard to read the numbers on some of the older practice jerseys.) Like always in these scrimmages they mixed and matched a lot of guys on defense. Ivan Davis, Matt Johnson and Devonte O'Malley also got a lot of reps. The D line did pretty well today with there being good give and take between the offense and defense.

Kyle Pugh is back in the middle which is great to see. He was flanked by Lance Deveaux and Jaden Dolphin. Jordan Cole, Daveren Rayner and Eddie Jackson weren't dressed so I wouldn't draw too many conclusions about Dolphin, but he did get into a lot of plays out there. Nick Rattin is the number two middle backer. They probably figure they need to have him ready since Pugh has gotten hurt so much in the past.

Myles McGee, Eric Rogers, Jordan Gandy and Cyrus McGarrell all got lots of reps at corner. It's a big and physical group and they played the ball well today. McGarrell sure looks the part physically, I can tell you that.

Dillon Thomas was working at safety today. Devin Lafayette and Jordan Hanson were the ones. Thomas was with the twos with Josh Earl. I didn't see CJ Brown, I don't think he was dressed.

Not much to report on special teams. I didn't see any extra point or field goal tries while I was there. Ference looked good as always. I thought his backup Tom Foley looked really good.

The scrimmage was physical. You can tell the coaches have instilled a competititive expectation and it has been embraced. There were a lot of good plays all around. It may be wishful thinking but it seems like this team is making progress.
(This post was last modified: 04-05-2021 10:20 AM by NIU1981.)
04-03-2021 02:51 PM
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HuskieDave Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
Terrific summary. Thank you.
04-03-2021 03:08 PM
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StevenNIU Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
Thank you for an in depth analysis. Very impressive job keeping track of all of the players. Thanks again.
04-03-2021 03:17 PM
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BigChilla Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
This matches what I have heard for the most part.

Dillon Thomas at safety is the right move. He fits there - not corner. Gotta imagine Rayner slides in as a starter, and deveaux will play his one game then get hurt. LBs need to stay ready.

Any real take away at TE as far as speed? Did any of them seem like difference makers this season, or are we all just waiting on that transfer?

And Fletcher is a kid I like at QB - he needs to get rid of that little hop he does when he passes, sounds like that hop is still there.
04-03-2021 03:59 PM
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NIU05 Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
Great job 81
04-03-2021 04:48 PM
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Teamduh Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
1981 love all the details from so many players across the team. I missed a ton no doubt. We seemed to agree on the QBs though.

I agree about Rocky's arm but I was more impressed with his decision making and ability to hit his targets. He was on.

So McCray was "Juiced"? Nice. WRs are deep this year.

I also agree that this practice was more physical especially compared to 2 years ago when there was limited contact to protect guys from getting hurt. Today I only recall 1 real tackle to the ground though.
04-03-2021 08:40 PM
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142niu Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
Good Stuff! Thanks for sharing......Georgia Tech game can't get here fast enough.
04-04-2021 12:43 AM
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Rabid Squirrel Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
I think it’s safe to say this is going to be an offense first team. All the players garnering admiration are on O. Let’s hope the defense can play great as a unit and maybe a couple stars emerge there as well.
04-04-2021 09:21 AM
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BigChilla Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
(04-04-2021 09:21 AM)Rabid Squirrel Wrote:  I think it’s safe to say this is going to be an offense first team. All the players garnering admiration are on O. Let’s hope the defense can play great as a unit and maybe a couple stars emerge there as well.

I think most, if not all, college teams are O first.

I will say your point is valid. The defense needs to show something this season. Scheme was garbage last season, kids were young, this season everyone needs to do better. Coaches and players b
(This post was last modified: 04-04-2021 10:26 AM by BigChilla.)
04-04-2021 10:20 AM
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Rabid Squirrel Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
(04-04-2021 10:20 AM)BigChilla Wrote:  
(04-04-2021 09:21 AM)Rabid Squirrel Wrote:  I think it’s safe to say this is going to be an offense first team. All the players garnering admiration are on O. Let’s hope the defense can play great as a unit and maybe a couple stars emerge there as well.

I think most, if not all, college teams are O first.

Not if Carey has anything to say about it.
(This post was last modified: 04-04-2021 10:24 AM by Rabid Squirrel.)
04-04-2021 10:21 AM
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HuskiePride12 Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
What I really like about McCray is that in a time with all these transfers, he has stuck it out and now going to reap the benefits. He had a lot of the tools coming out of high school but seems the coaches wanted more and now has produced. Much respect for that type of player in this day and age.
(This post was last modified: 04-04-2021 12:32 PM by HuskiePride12.)
04-04-2021 12:31 PM
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StevenNIU Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
That is a young offensive line. Other than Patton, you have a freshman, a redshirt freshman and 2 redshirt sophomores. Hopefully they can keep healthy and stay tpgether for a few years.
04-04-2021 01:31 PM
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BigChilla Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
(04-04-2021 01:31 PM)StevenNIU Wrote:  That is a young offensive line. Other than Patton, you have a freshman, a redshirt freshman and 2 redshirt sophomores. Hopefully they can keep healthy and stay tpgether for a few years.

Are they though? I mean in normal times you would add a year. Now say it...I mean this would be a vet O line in normal times when years counted.
04-04-2021 03:03 PM
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StevenNIU Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
(04-04-2021 03:03 PM)BigChilla Wrote:  
(04-04-2021 01:31 PM)StevenNIU Wrote:  That is a young offensive line. Other than Patton, you have a freshman, a redshirt freshman and 2 redshirt sophomores. Hopefully they can keep healthy and stay tpgether for a few years.

Are they though? I mean in normal times you would add a year. Now say it...I mean this would be a vet O line in normal times when years counted.

I didn't mean young as a bad thing. What I was trying to say is that they have a lot of experience for being listed as freshmen and sophomores. Some of NIU's bestlines hadbeen together for a fewyears and I hope they are ableto do that with this one.
04-04-2021 03:39 PM
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NIU1981 Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
Gents, thanks for the kind words.

BigChilla, my only observation about the tight ends is that Tewes looks like he could help this year. He looks natural at the position, has good size, moves well.

Teamduh, great scrimmage play by play in the other thread.
04-04-2021 10:30 PM
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BigChilla Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
(04-04-2021 10:21 AM)Rabid Squirrel Wrote:  
(04-04-2021 10:20 AM)BigChilla Wrote:  
(04-04-2021 09:21 AM)Rabid Squirrel Wrote:  I think it’s safe to say this is going to be an offense first team. All the players garnering admiration are on O. Let’s hope the defense can play great as a unit and maybe a couple stars emerge there as well.

I think most, if not all, college teams are O first.

Not if Carey has anything to say about it.

LOL - that isn't wrong.
04-05-2021 06:44 AM
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Teamduh Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
(04-03-2021 03:59 PM)BigChilla Wrote:  This matches what I have heard for the most part.

Dillon Thomas at safety is the right move. He fits there - not corner. Gotta imagine Rayner slides in as a starter, and deveaux will play his one game then get hurt. LBs need to stay ready.

Any real take away at TE as far as speed? Did any of them seem like difference makers this season, or are we all just waiting on that transfer?

And Fletcher is a kid I like at QB - he needs to get rid of that little hop he does when he passes, sounds like that hop is still there.

I saw a delay and that delay was an additional 1/2 seconds of slow time.
04-05-2021 10:01 AM
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NIU1981 Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
The hitch in Fletcher's throwing motion is a problem for him, it makes his throws late. I don't know if that can be fixed but it would behoove him to try.

Also FYI, I said in my writeup that Demond Taylor was not dressed but I keep seeing photos of him so he may have been out there. It's hard to read the numbers on some of those older practice jerseys.
(This post was last modified: 04-05-2021 10:14 AM by NIU1981.)
04-05-2021 10:13 AM
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klake87 Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
(04-05-2021 10:13 AM)NIU1981 Wrote:  The hitch in Fletcher's throwing motion is a problem for him, it makes his throws late. I don't know if that can be fixed but it would behoove him to try.

Also FYI, I said in my writeup that Demond Taylor was not dressed but I keep seeing photos of him so he may have been out there. It's hard to read the numbers on some of those older practice jerseys.

Or maybe you need new glasses lo.
04-05-2021 01:13 PM
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clcfball11 Offline
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RE: April 3 Practice Observations
Thanks as always, 81
04-05-2021 02:59 PM
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