Created:Sunday, April 10, 2011 1:37 p.m.CST
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Daniels stands out in full-contact practice

Since spring practice started three weeks ago, no position has seen more competition than NIU's running backs.

Each of the top three in contention – Akeem Daniels, Jasmin Hopkins and Jamal Womble – seem to have had their turn in the starting role. On Sunday, the rotation landed on Daniels.

"I'll have to watch the tape. I don't remember every play out there," NIU coach Dave Doeren said. "But I didn't see many negative plays when he was in there. And definitely he has a burst, man. When he puts that foot in the ground, it's noticeable."

Daniels, who played mostly running back in high school, has gotten reps at running back this spring after mostly playing receiver last fall. He said he enjoys lining up in the backfield again, a position where he can see more of the field before each snap.

There have been challenges with the transition. As a receiver, Daniels blocked cornerbacks. Now he's blocking linebackers. But overall, Daniels said the move has been beneficial.

"I can truly say that I'm finally home, my home position," Daniels said. "I feel a lot better from the backfield.It's never been my true position, but on the inside I felt like that's where I should be at. I'm real happy the coaches gave me a chance to show them my athletic ability."

Daniels said the running back competition is intense, and each player is giving "105 percent". The competition also has diversity.

Doeren said Daniels and Hopkins are shifty, and both seem to have the best speed. Womble is a power back who has run mostly inside the tackles. And Leighton Settle, who has made plays on the Huskies' second team, is more of a slasher.

Daniels has the least running back experience of the four. But Doeren said he's been impressed with the way Daniels has handled the change.

"He was a running back in high school, so that's what he's used to doing," Doeren said. "It was probably harder the other way for him. Last year they played him at wide out but never threw him the football. So we're trying to play him in both spots so that he's versatile and we can get him in and out of the backfield and take advantage of him as an athlete."

– Ryan Wood, rwood@daily-chronicle.com

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