DeKALB – Dave Doeren waited 16 years to conduct his first practice as a college football head coach.
When the Northern Illinois coach took a look at the weather Monday night and saw thunderstorms in the forecast, it appeared that Doeren’s long wait would continue one more day.
“I was really upset last night when I saw the weather report,” Doeren said. “I went back and said the Hail Mary. I’m like, ‘Come on, now. You’ve got to give me a day.’ ”
The rain, wind and cold still came Tuesday, but not bad enough to halt a practice that Doeren not only waited 16 years for, but NIU’s players were anticipating so heavily that they were lined up and ready 15 minutes before practice was even scheduled to start. That’s the kind of false start a new football coach can live with.
As for what a Dave Doeren practice looks like, to be honest, it looks like a lot of college football practices.
There was plenty of intensity, physical play and players ran from drill to drill. Coaches coached, players played. An entire era won’t be judged on its first two hours of practice in March.
The best thing you can say about Doeren’s first practice was that it didn’t look like a first practice.
There were some hiccups here and there – Doeren didn’t like to see so many footballs on the turf – but this had the pace and tempo of a fall practice, not the first one with an almost entirely brand new coaching staff.
Most of that is because Doeren’s system isn’t too different from his predecessor’s in Jerry Kill. It’s allowed for players and coaches to focus on the little things rather than big-picture concepts.
“Schematically, the systems are very similar,” Doeren said. “We run a lot of the same plays and a lot of the same shells on defense. But some of the terminologies and tempos are a little different.”
When sophomore quarterback Jordan Lynch got a notebook from the coaching staff, it included a long list of new terminology that seemed overwhelming at first but Lynch believes he has learned pretty well.
“It’s pretty thick,” Lynch said. “Each play has 3-4 words.”
Learning about Doeren has been an interesting process. He doesn’t brand himself as anything other than a coach who is going to work hard and bring a lot of energy to the program. Organization continues to appear to be his strongest attribute.
Tuesday, we got a peek at Doeren as the on-field coach, and nothing strayed from those offseason attributes. Doeren said it was the most fun he’s had since he’s arrived in DeKalb, and there was another bonus to running his first practice as a head coach.
“The fun part was that I could go cheer for the offense,” Doeren said. “I was involved in a lot more stuff.”
• John Sahly is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.