Created:Monday, April 1, 2013 5:30 a.m.CDT

FOOTBALL: Huskies hold first practice in pads


Saturday, Northern Illinois practiced in pads for the first time. Huskies head coach Rod Carey said he liked the way his team competed, but added that there’s a lot of things his group needs to clean up. He said the offense was rusty, and though it’s natural for that to happen early, he doesn’t accept it.

“It’s always hard because one day you’ll see, like today, the defense had a pretty good day. And then you come back and hopefully the offense will have a good day, so you’re never really totally happy as a team, that’s the hard part, when you’re looking at the whole picture,” Carey said. “But when you break it down, what I’m looking for is each person getting better individually every day, and knowing there’s going to be give and take there.”

Other notes from Saturday’s practice:

• There was a group of referees present Saturday, and Carey said he hopes to have refs out as much as possible this spring. There are more rule changes this season, which include new changes when it comes to blocking below the waist and helmet-to-helmet contact to defensless players

Now, if a defender is found guilty of helmet-to-helmet contact in the first half, he’s ejected. If it happens in the second half, he’s out for the rest of the game and misses the first half of next game.

“You’ve got to stay on top of [the rule changes],” Carey said. “If you don’t, you’re wrong on something. We’re going to have [the referees] out as much as we can. That helps.”

• There’s been a good number of potential recruits at each of the Huskies’ first three practices. Carey wouldn’t say if there’s been more than the past two seasons thanks to the Orange Bowl, but did say he likes the way recruiting is going so far.

“We’ve got a good slew of guys coming out,” Carey said. “We’re excited about it, and we’re excited about how recruiting’s going.”

Will NIU football win the MAC this season?