DeKALB – One player who has been impressing the coaching staff during spring practice has been junior linebacker Jamaal Bass, the lone returning starter in the Huskies' linebacking corps.
Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey complimented his play after Saturday's spring game, and Huskies defensive coordinator Jay Niemann had some good words for Bass' spring after Monday's practice. Niemann said Bass has been running to the football as well as any linebacker he's seen during his time at NIU.
"Clear minds make for fast feet. You can see that he has really grasped everything that coach Kane has been trying to teach him," Niemann said. "His execution's better as a result. ... He runs to the ball with an attitude. I really look for him to have a great year."
I got some good info about the defense from Niemann. Here's what else he touched on:
• Last season, NIU had depth on the defensive line. This year, the Huskies hope to have the same luxury. Niemann said there could be anywhere from seven to 10 players in there, depending on the game.
He mentioned three redshirt-freshmen – defensive end Michael Ippolito and defensive tackles Corey Thomas and Mario Jones as guys who could step into the rotation. All three were on the scout team last season.
"Whether they can make enough strides of improvement and experience and those things from now until the time we kick it off against Iowa, that remains to be seen, but they're sure doing a good job, working hard," Niemann said. "They're coachable kids with good attitudes. They'll contribute here, it's just a matter of when."
• As for the defense as a whole, Niemann said the practices during the week have been good, but that he would have liked to see more from the two scrimmages.
"I'd really like to see us do a better job with our overall execution. The first scrimmage we gave up too many big plays. The ball went up and down the field way more than I would have liked to have seen it," Niemann said. "The scrimmage we had this past Saturday, we did a better job of containing plays and getting off the field. We had a bunch of third down plays scripted that we did a nice job on. We just needed to see overall consistency and execution improve."