DeKALB – Northern Illinois came into fall camp with several offensive starters back from last season's Orange Bowl team.
Compare the offense to last August, when the Huskies' were not only breaking in a new quarterback, but had a lot more inexperience.
Following Saturday's scrimmage at Huskie Stadium, the team's last extended scrimmage of fall camp, Jordan Lynch, in his second year as the starting QB, said his offense is further along than it was last year at this point in preseason practice. He felt the first-team offense clicked Saturday.
“I would say so. I have, for myself, I have 14 starts under my belt now," Lynch said. "I feel more comfortable out there, I feel like things are going, we’re starting to throw more checks in the offense and more stuff like that. Smooth sailing so far.”
NIU opens the season two weeks from this past Saturday, on Aug. 31 at Iowa. There's certainly a lot expected form a group which averaged nearly 40 points per game a year ago.
Is the group on track to be where it needs to be at Kinnick Stadium? That remains to be seen, according to head coach Rod Carey.
“The're not ready to play a game yet," he said. "But are they on course? Maybe."
Like it is for any offensive attack at this point in the season, the Huskies are trying to work out the kinks.
“The mental errors. That way we’re able to play fast without thinking," sophomore wideout Angelo Sebastiano said. "When we're not making mistakes, we're able to play fast and when we play fast people cant catch up and that’s when we really gash teams. Just the getting the tempo up faster is really what we need to work on.”
Wide receiver was probably the offense's biggest question heading into August, and the group has been hurt by injuries. Tommylee Lewis hasn't practiced since Monday due to a leg injury, and sophomore Juwan Brescacin has been out the past couple of days with a knee injury. Earlier this week, Carey said Lewis "will be fine" and said Brescacin won't be out too long.
Lynch did say guys like redshirt freshman Clayton Glasper and sophomore Jacob Brinlee have been taking advantage of the extra reps available, and the 2012 MAC MVP feels comfortable with what he has on the outside.
"We have a lot of speed," Lynch said. "Even though guys didn’t start last year like Da’Ron Brown, I consider them veterans. The’re making good plays.”
Sebastiano, who will be the Huskies' main punt returner, should see key time at receiver as well this season. He spent time with both the first and second teams Saturday and had some nice catches, including a touchdown.
“I’m thankful that I got a lot of expereince getting thrown in there at the end of [last season]," he said. "So this coming year when we get thrown in in two weeks, that I know the speed of the game and I'm going to be ready to go out there and ball.”