DeKALB – Every practice, Mike Dunbar has a roll of play calls and cheat sheets, covered in writing and looked over carefully.
A coaching veteran of 35 years, the first-year Northern Illinois offensive coordinator studies them hard. He’s made it clear since he arrived two months ago the concepts of NIU’s offense are similar to what he’s used to calling, it’s the terminology that’s completely different. A few times, he’s caught himself using the wrong verbage or a player has corrected him.
Dunbar has taken it in stride, telling players, “Yes, yes. Good call. Thank you” when he misses one.
“You should see my desk,” Dunbar cracked after Monday’s practice at Huskie Stadium. “I’ve got papers laying everywhere and I’ll go, ‘OK, what was that one?’ I need my cheat sheets. I’ve got to have my call sheets. But it’s going well and it’s getting better every day.”
Dunbar said he’s improving at it, referencing those cheat sheets a little less each practice while he learns more and more names of NIU’s players.
NIU coach Dave Doeren said Dunbar already fits in with the rest of the coaching staff. Doeren said he’ll bounce ideas off Dunbar, and the offensive coordinator’s organization and experience have been a good resource from a self-scouting standpoint.
“When you bring a coach that wasn’t here last year, he’s able to make you answer some questions that maybe you wouldn’t have even gone through in your head,” Doeren said.
Just more than halfway through spring practices, Dunbar likes the progress of NIU’s offense, too. He said the Huskies have focused on fundamentals and the base concepts of plays, hoping that knowledge will carry over to the start of fall camp.
“I think our young guys up front are getting better,” Dunbar said. “It’s not perfect. It’s not a game of perfect. But we’re heading in the right direction.”
Quarterback Jordan Lynch said the experience Dunbar brings is valuable, and that they’re working on getting on the same page for the fall.
“You need to know what the offensive coordinator is thinking going into each week with the game plan,” Lynch said. “He needs to know what you like on third down or something like that. He needs to know the plays you like and what you feel comfortable with.”
Lynch said the Huskies love Dunbar’s even-keeled approach, an attitude Doeren said he prefers from his coordinators.
“Him and (defensive coordinator) Jay (Niemann) are really similar in that they’re kind of the same guys every day,” Doeren said. “They’re not up; they’re not down. I like that in a coordinator. Not that you don’t want energy. You do. They’re both really competitive guys, but the players are going to get coached the same all the time.”
Faustin out: Doeren confirmed after Monday’s practice that junior cornerback Jhony Faustin will miss the rest of the spring with a severely sprained ankle. Faustin suffered the injury early in Saturday’s practice. Doeren said Faustin should be ready by the time fall camp starts.