Created: Saturday, April 7, 2012 7:33 p.m. CDT

Something to build on

Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren watches practice on March 28 at Huskie Stadium. (Rob Winner –

DeKALB – There were the positive moments. Running back Leighton Settle made a move and ended up dragging two Northern Illinois defenders with him on the Huskie Stadium turf. Defensive back Jimmie Ward got his hands on a couple of passes.

Then there were the negatives. The defense lined up in the neutral zone six times during Saturday's scrimmage. NIU's offense committed a few unforced turnovers on poor exchanges between quarterbacks and running backs.

In other words, it was the second scrimmage of spring football practice.

"I know it's a huge learning curve for them," NIU coach Dave Doeren said. "We'll go into the meeting room with them and that will be a big deal this week is teaching the results of what just happened so the next Saturday when we do it again, they can grow, and [the] final Saturday grow again."

But on offense, junior running back Leighton Settle distinguished himself with a pair of touchdowns and several yards after contact on runs and catches throughout the scrimmage.

"I'm always looking to make one guy miss and just keep things going from there," Settle said. "But it starts from the [offensive] line."

Doeren said he thought Settle shined and helped his cause in the search for a starting running back.

"The guy makes plays after the first touch and that's what you've got to do," Doeren said. "It's not going to be perfect all of the time. There's going to be a defender there. He had a couple of runs today that I think put him ahead in the race right now."

Junior quarterback Jordan Lynch, who himself drew compliments from Doeren for his attitude and confidence, said one moment from Settle stuck out to him Saturday.

"He's one of those guys that's not a man of many words, just give him the ball and see what he can do with it," Lynch said. "I saw him dragging two, three guys into the end zone one time and scored."

Doeren said he was happy to see players finish plays, something they don't always get to do during spring practice because coaches don't want the players to get hurt. But there were some things to clean up in the second half of the spring.

"We put the ball on the ground, and it was nothing really the defense did, I thought the offense just had some bad exchanges where we coughed it up, which we can't do," Doeren said. "We can't beat ourselves up like that."

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