DeKALB – Dave Doeren knew Northern Illinois’ offense would eventually adjust to the increased tempo of its no-huddle system, and it has.
Now he wants his players to grasp its purpose.
“Right now they’re kind of mad when I slow them down, which I do at times because I want them to understand the result of the play and what it means,” Doeren said at NIU’s media day on Tuesday in DeKalb. “There are certain times in practice where it’s no holds barred, go as fast as you can. There are other times when we’re going to have a down and distance, see what happens and talk about the result.”
The different speeds the Huskies practice their no-huddle mirrors what they want to do in games. Doeren said he doesn’t want the Huskies offense to go full speed all the time, even if they aren’t huddling. But if the fast tempo is working, he won’t necessarily sit on a lead either.
Doeren and NIU offensive coordinator Matt Canada spent the early part of fall camp teaching players the difference.
“A lot of it depends on flow of the game,” Doeren said. “A lot of it comes down to, honestly, first of all, is our defense playing well? Do they need time to rest? But secondly, I don’t care how many points we’re up by, if it’s working I’m not just going to stand there and wait for the clock to run out.
“We’re going to be aggressive – aggressive, aggressive, aggressive – and smart.”
Straddling that balance may be the most difficult thing to learn.
“That’s true,” senior quarterback Chandler Harnish said. “When we have to slow it down we get upset because that’s something coach Canada preaches to us – fast, fast, fast. Get the defense on their heels, get them tired. If we have to slow it down and let them get back into it, that kind of makes us mad because we’re built on really taking advantage of those things.
“But guys are really buying in. There’s still a lot of work to do, but we’re going in the right direction.”
Senior center Scott Wedige slimmed 10 pounds over the summer preparing for the no-huddle’s physical demands.
He’s able to run plays quicker. He doesn’t need as much rest. He wants to go fast.
But Wedige said he enjoys playing uptempo while keeping parts of what NIU did in the past.
“It’s easy to buy into this offense,” Wedige said. “It’s fast, it’s furious, and we’re still going to run the ball. We’re still going to have our M.O. of pounding the crap out of the rock.”
There have been growing pains the past few practices. Centers and quarterbacks struggled with the snap. Receivers and running backs realized going no-huddle in a hot and muggy August – or September, or October – is different than the spring.
NIU has 24 practices left before opening the season against Army, including two today at Huskie Stadium. Wedige knows the offense isn’t where it would like to be Sept. 3. He’s unsure how much more it needs to improve.
But he hasn’t spent much time measuring improvement, either. He’s too busy making sure it exists.
“Of course you’re never going to be where you want to be,” Wedige said. “It’s Day 5 of camp, it’s early. I hope we’re not even close, because if we’re close now we’re going to be an average offense. If we get better a little bit every single day, the sky is the limit for us all.
“We say we’re getting there.”