DeKALB – At first blush, it doesn’t sound like much. But for DeMarcus Grady, it’s a step that does carry some significance.
It has nothing to do with the throwing motion that the NIU junior quarterback tweaked – fewer stride-outs, no clicking his heels together – and worked on throughout the offseason.
While NIU began its first of 15 spring football practices on Tuesday morning at Huskie Stadium with a quarterback situation that, at best, is unsettled, Grady started the day with a few goals.
One of those goals was to get the No. 1 offense to snap out of the huddle and run to the line to get plays off quickly. Translated to a live game – better time management and maybe catching an opponent napping.
Tuesday, they listened to Grady.
“We didn’t have to bring anybody back,” Grady said. “That was something I told them before we started. I said ‘If we don’t run to the line, we’re coming right back and we’re going to call the play over and we’re going to do it again.’
“I didn’t have to do that today. So I can kind of see that aspect of those guys starting to look up to me.”
Again, it doesn’t sound like much. But it is a step forward for Grady, who along with redshirt freshmen Jordan Lynch and A.J. Hill, have an opportunity to put themselves up for consideration as to who will start at quarterback for the Huskies this season.
Two-fifths of that equation, Chandler Harnish (knee surgery) and junior college transfer Casey Weston (won’t be on campus until June) aren’t in right now, leaving a potentially major chance open for Grady, Lynch and Hill to, as NIU coach Jerry Kill put it last week, “capture their team.”
“I felt like (former NIU defensive end) Larry English was a great leader,” Kill said after Tuesday’s practice. “Last year, I felt like we didn’t have as good of leadership as we needed to have. I want somebody to step up and I feel like they naturally have to do it.”
That challenge for leadership could apply to any position, including quarterback.
And that leadership that Kill wants, Lynch and Hill each believe it comes naturally to them.
“Really you gain that trust in the offseason and winter conditioning, working hard,” Hill said. “Right now, it’s not a big deal. I don’t think they expect anything less out of me.”
“I’m just working on taking charge and being a vocal leader,” Lynch said.
Lynch, who started with the No. 2 offense on Tuesday, said his goals for the spring including learning the playbook better and getting his footwork down.
“It’s a long season,” he said. “You’ve got to stay in there. Don’t keep your head down after one play and don’t let it carry over.”
That’s the same attitude that Grady carries into spring practice. The junior said he used to keep his head down after bad plays and let it effect him, something he hopes to change this season.
Part of that shift in attitude is the result of better understanding how he throws and why the mistakes of the past happened.
“Every ball I throw,” Grady said, “I’m able to tell now, if I throw a bad ball, to tell exactly what I did wrong versus before, I had no clue.”
Count that as another significant step. The next is proving it on a consistent basis over the next 14 practices.
“I feel everyone’s starting to listen to me and taking me a lot more seriously than before,” Grady said.