Created:Saturday, April 14, 2012 5:45 p.m.CDT
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Offense steps up at scrimmage

By ANTHONY ZILIS - sports@daily-chronicle.com
Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren watches a drill at practice at Huskie Stadium. (Rob Winner – rwinner@shawmedia.com)

DeKALB – Before spring practice started two-and-a-half weeks ago, Northern Illinois football coach Dave Doeren had questions about the Huskies’ offense.

“This team is really a flip of last year’s team,” Doeren said at a news conference March 26. “We sat here last year talking about how experienced our offense was going to be, how we had no idea who our specialists were and how we had a lot of new starters on defense.”

The offense returned only three starters, including only one on the offensive line.

It would have been difficult to tell watching Saturday’s scrimmage, in which the offense dominated for the last hour of practice.

“I’m really happy with where things are at,” Doeren said.

“It’s kind of where I thought it would be. I thought it would take a little bit of time with the offensive line. We’ve put a lot of stuff in.”

Doeren’s questions about the offense steadily are being answered.

Doeren wanted junior quarterback Jordan Lynch to improve his vocal leadership. Lynch has been lauded by teammates for his ability to control the huddle, and he feels comfortable doing it.

“I’m getting more and more comfortable during every practice,” Lynch said. “Whenever I need to step up, I’ll step up. So far we’ve got a pretty good chemistry going.”

Another question Doeren had was about the offensive line’s chemistry. With four spots left vacant by last year’s seniors, last year’s second string has filled out the line.

On Saturday, running backs were able to burst through holes with ease for most of practice, which meant good things for the offensive line.

“I think we’ve developed really well,” right tackle Matt Krempel said. “I think we’re going to surprise some people who thought we lost everything in the last class.”

The running back situation still appears to be murky. Akeem Daniels and Leighton Settle emerged during practices in early spring while Jamal Womble sat out with a sprained wrist, but Womble stood out from the pack on Saturday.

The offense returns several receivers, but speedy receiver Nathan Palmer graduated. Doeren thinks 5-foot-7 receiver Tommylee Lewis can help fill in for Palmer’s 695 receiving yards. During the spring, a lot of receptions are coming from tight ends Luke Eakes and Tim Semisch.

“We’ve made a few tweaks in the offense, but we’ve still got a lot of talent,” Womble said. “This team has the mold of last year’s team.”

Something that Lynch never questioned was his team’s chemistry.

Sure, there are a lot of new starters. But like Lynch, most have been eagerly awaiting their chance to play behind last year’s seniors.

“We’ve been working together on the second team,” Lynch said. “We know what to do, we know the playbook and everything. It’s just now we’re starters.”

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