DeKALB – Trevor Olson learned quickly his new offensive line coach, Rod Carey, is a man who expects an answer when he asks a question.
“He’s high energy, really enthusiastic and just loves the game,” said Olson, Northern Illinois’ starting left tackle. “In meetings when people were just sitting around and not really answering his questions, he’ll kind of get on people and be like, ‘Hey, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.’ ”
The Huskies’ starting offensive line is a veteran unit, one of the team’s most experienced groups. All of them have been in the program at least four years. All of them are returning starters. Three were named to the all-Mid-American Conference team last season.
Carey asks questions. With the amount of experience he has in his meetings, he said he gets the desired response.
“I ask for answers, they give it to me,” Carey said. “When you’re in other (position meetings), that doesn’t always happen.”
With first-year coach Dave Doeren implementing a no-huddle offense, the biggest change in the first week of spring practice, NIU’s offensive line will have to draw on all of its experience. Doeren said he won’t be able to accurately evaluate the offensive line until they put the pads on today and he can see the all-important physical part of the position.
So far, though, he’s happy with how the group has responded.
“They’re getting it down. It’s a process, it’s different,” Doeren said. “You can see as soon as the play is over their intensity to get their eyes where they need to be and get lined up, and they’re communicating and talking.
“It will take them some time, but they’re doing a good job with it. And that’s the nice thing about having veteran guys. They know there’s urgency, and they’ve got to get on it. I thought today they were lined up pretty quick.”
At one point during Thursday morning’s practice, NIU ran 30 plays in 10 minutes. Just watching the drill was exhaustive. To keep a similar pace during games, it will take plenty of physical stamina, but that isn’t the biggest key.
“It’s a lot of the mental stuff,” right guard Joe Pawlak said. “Getting our reads, getting the defenses, what the alignment is and stuff like that. And getting the play called (quicker).”
In the first day of spring practice Tuesday, the offensive line struggled making the tempo change, leading to untimely snaps and other mistakes. Doeren said those miscues cleaned up on Day 2.
Wedige said he felt more comfortable Thursday.
“From the first day to the second day, I think it was a night-and-day difference,” Wedige said. “I think we learned our calls, got a little more comfortable. I didn’t feel like we were so helter-skelter. We kind of settled into the offense a little more.”
The experience on the offensive line should help them completely settle into the no-huddle by fall camp. Wedige said he’s excited to see what the change could mean during the season.
“The good thing is, we get to practice that (no-huddle offense) now, and the opponents aren’t going to be used to that,” Wedige said. “So that will be a huge benefit for us in the fall, and I’m excited for the fall to come.”