DeKALB – Northern Illinois turned up the volume for its fifth football practice of training camp.
The Huskies coaches cranked out hits from AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Linkin Park and other rock bands over the loudspeakers at Huskie Stadium on Tuesday as the NIU players practiced in full pads for the first time this season.
The beats and guitar riffs seemed to energize NIU as the heat index approached about 100 degrees in DeKalb.
“You hear music and it’s kind of like the crowd yelling, so we just try to get that atmosphere,” junior safety Tracy Wilson said.
Like it has for most of training camp, the Huskies defense took it to the NIU offense in 11-on-11 drills. Kiaree Daniels set the tone during a two-minute drill as the senior cornerback made the hit of the day when he cracked an NIU wide receiver across the middle.
After the hit, many of the defensive players lining the sidelines ran onto the field to congratulate Daniels and gibe the offensive players.
“That set the tempo,” Wilson said. “The offense got real quiet after that.
“Everybody came out with energy. We knew there was going to be the live period, so we (were) really amped about that.”
The offense failed to get a first down on three straight possessions. NIU head coach Jerry Kill said in his experience the offense usually is behind the defense early in the practice season.
“I just think it’s all a mindset right now,” junior guard Joe Pawlak said. “If you think the defense is going to be ahead of you, they’re going to be ahead of you. You just got to keep that positive mindset on offense.”
Of course, the Huskies offense scrimmages against a defense that led the Mid-American Conference in total defense last year.
“They’re good, but it only makes us better on the offensive line,” Pawlak said.
“I like the juice of the defense,” Kill said. “The offense has got to be a little bit more of a team and concentrate and focus. They can’t worry about playing with enthusiasm. They got to learn what to do and how to do it.”
Other than a few contact drills, the first full-padded practice was very similar to the four previous sessions, except for a few more water breaks.
The Huskies will have their first two-a-day today, as they practice at 8:50 a.m. and 4:55 p.m. Temperatures are expected to be in the 90s again, so Kill likely will alter his practice again give his players more breathers.
“We’re getting what we want to get accomplished (despite the weather),” Kill said. “We’re having to do it a little slower than we like. But if we want our kids to practice, we can’t go any different than what we’re doing.
“You’re teaching kids in tough situations at the end of practice to finish up like you were at the beginning. That’s kind of like a fourth-quarter situation.”
Injury update: Senior cornerback Patrick George sat out Tuesday’s practice with a sprained ankle. George was wearing a walking boot and walking with crutches. Kill said the injury is “nothing that he’s out for a long time.”