DeKALB — Akeem Daniels has gotten the majority of first-team reps at running back during Northern Illinois' preseason camp.
When the Huskies open the season against Iowa at Soldier Field on Saturday, Sept. 1, he'll see his share of carries. As will junior Leighton Settle and senior Jamal Womble. True freshman Keith Harris Jr. shined in Saturday's scrimmage and could even see some playing time.
Maybe one of the backs will show something once the season starts, take the job, and run with it. Right now, NIU plans on using a backfield committee.
"We don't have one running back right now. Jamal's really good at this, Akeem's really good at this, obviously Keith showed he's a home-run guy the other day," Huskies coach Dave Doeren said. "So it'll be a committee and all of them are good at certain things. That's kind of what we had last year, so we'll move on with it until one of them says 'it's mine.' "
When asked about Daniels, Settle and Womble, NIU running backs coach Mike Uremovich said each back is better at certain things, but also noted that they're all versatile and he's confident in each of the them when they're in there. Uremovich said each of the backs will be featured in certain packages.
"They all can do everything. They're all talented, but some of them do some things better than the other guys," Uremovich said. "So, it's a nice problem to have."
Daniels is the team's top returning rusher from last season. He had 303 yards on 56 carries in 2011. Womble carried the ball 37 times for 124 yards, while Settle had 16 attempts for 84 yards.
Harris is the most interesting back though. In Saturday's scrimmage, he showed good speed and looked tough to bring down while scoring three touchdowns. His practie reps increased Monday, but he had the flu Tuesday and missed practice.
The coaching staff will have to decide whether it's better to forgo a redshirt so they can use him this season, or if he's better off having a fifth season later on, when he would likely be better and more experienced.
Doeren hasn't made that decision yet.
"I was hoping to see him today. Obviously he's sick," Doeren said. "The longer we get him on the field, the more we'll be able to tell you that. It may be a deal where it's next week. We'll see."
Daniels, who has seen his reps double from last season, said the running back group as a whole is a lot more comfortable in the offense compared to spring practice. The unit is done with the basics and is getting more technical.
"We're prepared for anything," Daniels said. "Anything that's being thrown at us we're prepared for. We're that confident."