DeKALB – Jimmie Ward patrolled the Northern Illinois defensive backfield the past three seasons, starting 39 of NIU’s 42 games.
Ward’s days competing at NIU are over. He is busy preparing to be selected in the first few rounds of May’s NFL Draft.
Last year’s other starter at safety, senior Dechane Durante, is currently sitting out with a knee injury.
Enter Marlon Moore, a junior who has started 15 games at cornerback during the past two seasons, defending 15 passes and picking off three in that time.
This spring, Moore has been moved over to safety, taking reps with the first team. Moore did play some safety in high school, and he’s using the spring to make the necessary adjustments for his position switch.
“Just having my eyes in the right spot at all times, reading the whole field,” Moore said after the Huskies’ practice Thursday at the Chessick Center. “Because at corner you just go off what the safety says, they give us the calls and things. At safety I’m giving the calls, I’ve got to be more loud, be more of a leader also, and just make plays.”
To the coaching staff, Moore was a perfect fit to move back a few yards to the safety spot.
“There are several reasons for it. One, he’s a really good tackler and he was a good run support guy in high school, we knew that,” NIU defensive coordinator Jay Niemann said. “He started off here as a corner because with Jimmie Ward in there and Dechane in there, we just felt like his opportunity to contribute was more so at corner to start with.
“Now that Jimmie’s moved on and Dechane’s on the shelf right now, it seemed like a good opportunity to get him in there, get him some reps and give him a whirl back there. So he’s done a great job, he’s off to a great start. I like what he’s doing back there.”
At the other safety spot, NIU has been rotating sophomore Mycial Allen and redshirt freshmen Jackson Abresch and Brandon Mayes.
As for Moore’s future into fall camp and the 2014 season, he is versatile being able to play at the safety, cornerback and nickelback spots.
So far, the experiment at safety is going well and there may not be much need for another switch.
“I don’t expect a change, necessarily,” Niemann said. “I wouldn’t say we’re chiseled in stone on it, but if things keep going the way they are, I don’t necessarily know that we would want to change, because it’s going pretty well as it is right now.”