CHICAGO – Jimmie Ward thought the Northern Illinois football team deserved to be ranked in the preseason USA Today Coaches’ Poll on Thursday, but he wasn’t exactly shocked when he was told the Huskies didn’t make the Top 25.
After all, the Huskies weren’t ranked until Week 13 of the 2013 season, so they’re used to having to claw their way up the polls.
“We’ve had to work for everything we’ve gotten,” Ward said. “It wasn’t a surprise since we lost the Orange Bowl game, but all we’ve got to do is keep working, take it one day at a time and hopefully we do have a good season and they do have us ranked during the season.”
The Huskies weren’t even close to squeaking into the top 25 – their 19 votes put them 13 spots out of the rankings.
Coach Rod Carey said he voted for his team on his ballot, but he wouldn’t say where he ranked them.
“It would have been really nice to have been ranked, coming out of the season that we had,” Carey said. “But it’s not where you start, it’s where you end. We ended the year last year [ranked] and that was a big accomplishment. Now that will be our goal again this year.”
Daniels on the mend: NIU will be without its top running back when practice starts next week, but the timetable for his return remains a mystery.
Akeem Daniels will be back from a foot injury “as soon as he can,” Carey said, after offseason surgery.
In the meantime, Carey said Giorgio Bowers and Keith Harris Jr., will fill in.
“Akeem Daniels is going to be back with us, but right now he’s a little laid up with a little injury that’s been nagging on him,” Carey said. “We’ve had a chance to get in there and fix it a little bit and the doctors do a great job at NIU. So he’s on the mend, and he’ll be ready to go sooner rather than later.”
Loos back: After breaking his tibia against Toledo late in the season last year, left tackle Tyler Loos, who sat out spring practice, is back and ready to play.
“He’s back, he’s been cleared and we’re working him back into it,” Carey said. “He wasn’t with us all spring, obviously, because he was healing. Now he’s ready to go. So we’re expecting big things from him.”
Loos will be a welcome addition to a line that was humbled throughout the Huskies’ Orange Bowl loss. Carey said that experience is a motivating factor heading into the season.
“I think they put a chip on their shoulder, and rightly so,” Carey said. “I don’t think I’m speaking out of school when I say this: … they got pushed around in that bowl, and they put a chip on their shoulder and they’re trying to do something about that.”