Practice report #4

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Northern Illinois quarterback DeMarcus Grady is looking at this spring as his shot to possibly become the starter for the season opener at Iowa State.
Northern Illinois quarterback DeMarcus Grady is looking at this spring as his shot to possibly become the starter for the season opener at Iowa State. (Rob Winner – rwinner@daily-chronicle.com)

Spring practice means a lot to a decent number of players at Northern Illinois, but it probably means most to DeMarcus Grady.

The junior quarterback, as has been mentioned here before, has a huge opportunity this spring. Two quarterbacks (Chandler Harnish and Jordan Lynch) are hurt. Another (Casey Weston) isn't on campus yet. That leaves the bulk of the reps to Grady and redshirt freshman A.J. Hill, who is behind Grady.

This morning, I asked Grady if, from his view and looking at the bigger picture, he sees this spring as his shot.

"Yeah. I just want to come out every day and just play hard and do things consistently," Grady said after practice at Huskie Stadium. "Unfortunately, we had the situation with Chandler (knee injury). I just feel like it's my opportunity to come in and just be the guy and continue to lead this team hopefully to big things in the future."

So far, Grady, who has a 5-0 record as a starter though he was relieved by Harnish in two of those games, is trending towards a good spring and leaving a good impression on the coaching staff.

This past Saturday, the Huskies did about 30 minutes of scrimmaging. It was also the first day NIU had pads on for practice. Grady completed a little more than 60 percent of his passes and connected on a few deep routes.

"He did well," NIU coach Jerry Kill said. "He graded out well."

More performances like that would push Grady further into the conversation about who starts at Iowa State to open the season.

"I'm satisfied with the way I'm progressing," Grady said. "You're going to have mistakes. The biggest thing is correcting them and being consistent, not making two or three throws and then doing bad on the next two."

As for this morning's practice, Grady and wide receiver Nate Palmer seem to have their timing down pretty well for four practices into spring. Palmer did a nice job of adjusting on a couple of passes to haul in a few catches.

And here are a few other observations from Tuesday's practice...

• Right tackle Adam Kiel was in pads and did some individual drills. Kiel has been rehabbing an injured right foot that he hurt against Ohio. There is no exact return date to full contact for Kiel yet, for a couple of reasons including a special shoe being built for his foot that will allow him to practice full speed.

"A lot of it has to do with how he responds this week to what he's doing now," Kill said.

• Middle linebacker Victor Jacques made a one-handed strip of running back Jasmin Hopkins and Jacques recovered the ball with the same hand.

• Defensive end Alan Baxter showed off some quick instincts with an immediate scoop of a Grady fumble caused by middle linebacker Devon Butler.

• Safety Tracy Wilson graded out high from Saturday's 30-minute scrimmage, Kill said.

• Wide receiver Perez Ashford had the catch of the day, leaping high to snag a Tommy Coughlin pass over the middle.

• Some of you have e-mailed me asking for results of NIU's pro day last week. No one from NIU actually takes down the results. They leave the scouts to do that. So there are no results to report. The pro day also was closed to the public. But I can tell you four NFL teams were in attendance. Those teams were the Bears, New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals.

• Come back later tonight or pick up Wednesday's Daily Chronicle for a story on tight end Adam Coleman.

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