DeKALB – With only one practice left until ending his first spring season, Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren put today’s spring scrimmage into proper context Thursday morning.
Doeren reminded that today isn’t his last chance to see his team on the field before NIU’s season opener against Army on Sept. 3. The Huskies will have another stretch of practices this fall, consisting of more than 20. What happens then, Doeren said, will dictate who plays during the season.
But what happens at 2 p.m. today at Huskies Stadium will finalize where the depth chart starts in August.
“I’m probably 90 percent right now where I think things are going to be,” Doeren said. “(Today) will help us one way or the other with certain positions, or it may make it more cloudy. If the third guy plays better than the first and second, you’re like, ‘Whoa.’ So there’s probably 10 percent of the roster that’s still up in the air.”
That 10 percent includes running back, defensive tackle and tight end, all positions Doeren said he specifically is looking for someone to step up today.
After Devon Butler announced Friday he will use his redshirt this season, Doeren also will get a chance to see who steps up at middle linebacker. Victor Jacques, Cameron Stingley and Mike Hellams all have received first-team reps since Butler was the victim of an off-campus shooting April 5.
Butler will be in attendance for today’s scrimmage.
“That’s all I’ve been looking forward to since weeks from now, just (today) coming up,” Butler said, adding he already has gotten into a few heated football debates with his coaches since being released from the hospital Tuesday. “I’m anxious to get out there and watch the guys.”
The structure of today’s scrimmage will have NIU’s first-team offense playing its first-team defense, with a score being kept. It also will be a practice, meaning Doeren will be able to control what happens to an extent.
One thing he specifically is looking for is a high competition level, which has been the theme all spring. Some teams have steaks or some other perk for the spring scrimmage winner. Doeren said the Huskies simply will play for pride.
Linebacker Jordan Delegal said that’s more than enough.
“I want to see the offense at its best because I know the defense is going to bring its best every down,” Delegal said. “I’m definitely proud of the offense, from what I’ve seen. I’m kind of worried about our competition because the offense is out there and the defense.
“Defensively, we’re definitely rallying around everybody, making it a team effort. It’s not one big play maker, but it’s a team of play makers. That’s one of the biggest things we want to accomplish (today).”