Northern Illinois and head men's basketball coach Mark Montgomery have agreed to a two-year contract extension, NIU announced Friday.
Montgomery's contract now runs through the 2017-18 season. He has a base salary of $300,000.
The Huskies struggled in the first two year of the Montgomery era, winning just five games in both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. This past season, however, NIU had the biggest single-season win turnaround in program history with a 15-17 record. NIU defeated Bowling Green in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament before falling to Eastern Michigan in the second round. The Huskies advanced to Cleveland for the second time in Montgomery's three seasons.
Montgomery finished second in the MAC Coach of the Year voting behind Western Michigan's Steve Hawkins.
“I would like to thank President Baker and (athletic director) Sean Frazier for their commitment to myself, our staff and our program,” Montgomery said in a news release. “We made many positive strides this past season and I am excited about the future of NIU basketball. We look forward to raising the bar and reaching new heights in years to come.”
- Steve Nitz, email@example.com, @SNitz_DDC
Northern Illinois will conclude spring practice with the Huskie Bowl, which will take place Saturday at 3 p.m. at Huskie Stadium.
However, due the amount of injuries NIU has had, mainly on the defensive line and in the defensive backfield, the game is now tweaked. Instead of the Cardinal and Black teams that were drafted last week playing each other, the offense (Black) and defense (Cardinal) will face off in a scrimmage and a number of drills.
Points will be awarded for each one, and the team with the highest amount of points will be the winner. The defense will be coached by cornerbacks coach Kelvin Sigler, while the offense will be coached by offensive line coach Joe Tripodi.
Here is an explanation of each drill:
Towel drill – A defensive player will attempt to grab a towel off of a cone located approximately 20 yards off the sideline. An offensive player will defend the cone. A point will be awarded to the defensive player who grabs the towel or the offensive player who successfully defends the cone.
Release drill – A wide receiver will attempt to get of the line of scrimmage cleanly against a defensive back. If he does (as judged by the coaches), the wideout will score a point. If not, the defense receives a point.
Field goal competition – NIU's two kickers – Tyler Wedel (Cardinal) and Josh Orne (Black) kick from designated spots on the field, getting three points for each good kick. When one of the kickers misses, they are finished kicking.
One-on-one pass rush – The offensive and defensive line units will line up against each other, with the D-line rushing, one at a time. If a defensive lineman gets to the quarterback, it's a point for the defense. If he's blocked, the offense gets a point.
Pass protection – Same as the pass rush, except with linebackers and running backs. The running backs will block the linebackers from getting to a pop-up dummy. If the running backs block successfully, it's a point for the offense. If not, the defense earns the point.
Skelly (7-on-7) – The offense will attempt to convert a series of third downs from 5-9 yards. If the offense gets the first they earn a point. If the defense stops them successfully, they earn a point.
Scrimmage periods – The ball will be placed on the minus 15-yard line. The offense gets seven points for a touchdown and three for a field goal. The defense can earn points by – forcing a three-and-out (3 points), stopping the offense before it gets to midfield (2 points), forcing a field goal (1 point) and forcing a turnover (4 points).
There will be no tackling to the ground ("thud" only).
DeKALB – Aregeros Turner’s time at Northern Illinois didn’t get off to the best start.
Roughly a month after Turner, rated a three-star athlete by Rivals, signed with the Huskies, the man who recruited him to DeKalb – Roy Manning, left to become linebackers coach at Michigan, his alma mater. Manning accepted the job in Ann Arbor, Mich. less than two months after being named NIU’s running backs coach.
Manning recruited Turner to Cincinnati when he was the Bearcats’ running backs coach in 2012, and continued recruiting him at NIU. But before Manning could actually coach Turner, he was gone.
However, there were other reasons Turner had signed with NIU.
“It was tough. We had a good relationship, but I committed to the school instead of the coach,” Turner said after the Huskies’ practice Tuesday at the Chessick Center. “I came here on a visit, I liked the atmosphere. I liked how everyone was a family.”
While he was recruited as an athlete, Turner expected to be lining up in the Huskies’ backfield. But when he arrived on campus the coaching staff told Turner they wanted him to play wide receiver, feeling his size (he came to campus at 165 pounds) would work better out there.
The only experience the Akron, Ohio, native had at wideout was when he would run a couple of fly routes here and there in high school. He still made his way on to the field as a true freshman, catching eight passes in 11 games.
Turner missed some time early this spring because of a hamstring injury, but he’s been able to take a lot of reps to fine-tune his receiving skills, working on his footwork and route-running.
“Coming here it was all new to me,” Turner said. “Just learning different stuff and how to run routes was basically the hardest thing.”
Wide receivers coach Thad Ward said that despite his lack of experience at receiver, Turner catches the ball well.
He’s also a player who can get into the backfield and take the ball on jet sweeps. Ward said Turner could end up being a player similar to TommyLee Lewis.
“I think he can. He’s a very intelligent guy for the first part. He understands all five [wideout] positions ... which is good,” Ward said. “That was really good for him [in 2013]. Right now, he’s still knocking out some of the rust because he didn’t practice all spring. But he’s a very smart guy, and we’ve just got to continue to clean him up so we can get better with him. He’s going to be a big part of our offense this year I would say.”
Northern Illinois sophomore guards Daveon Balls and J.J. Cravatta have been granted their release from the Northern Illinois men's basketball program and will transfer, NIU confirmed Sunday.
Balls, a native of Indianapolis, averaged 18 minutes and four points a game as the backup to Travon Baker at point guard. NIU will add another point guard next season, when sophomore Michael Orris, a Kansas State transfer, becomes eligible.
Cravatta, who graduated from Streator High School, played 6.9 minutes a contest and averaged 2.4 points a game last season. Cravatta's minutes were down from his freshman year, when he averaged 11.2 a game along with 2.7 points.
In addition to Balls and Cravatta leaving the program, the Huskies will lose guard Antone Christian and wing Aksel Bolin to graduation.
NIU will gain Orris, as well as Purdue transfer Anthony Johnson, a shooting guard who will have one season of eligibility remaining.
Northern Illinois junior quarterback Matt McIntosh sat out Friday nights' scrimmage with a minor back injury, so sophomores Drew Hare and Anthony Maddie split the reps. Both worked with the first team.
McIntosh's injury is not serious, he was held out as a precaution.
NIU head coach Rod Carey liked what he saw from each quarterback.
“I thought they both did a good job,” he said. “Where I was a little disappointed in Drew, a couple turnovers there – but I liked the way he bounced back and got the team into the end zone and commanded the team. Same with [Anthony], I thought he had good command of the offense and getting them into the end zone tonight.”
Friday was the final spring scrimmage before the Huskie Bowl on Saturday, April 19 at 3 p.m. Fans who attend will see plenty of Hare, who is the only quarterback for the Black Team. Maddie and McIntosh will split the reps for the Cardinal Team.
Other notes from the scrimmage:
• Hare showed off his athletic ability, he had a few good runs on Friday. Athleticism isn't a problem with any of these quarterbacks.
• Carey thought the defense had the better night. Carey mentioned defensive ends Perez Ford and Austin Smaha, linebacker Ladell Fleming and safety Marlon Moore as players who stood out on the defensive side.
“I liked the way they stepped up at the end,” Carey said. “There was that lull in the middle where I think [the offense] kind of took it to them a little bit, but then both two-minute drills, they responded in fourth-down stops, so I was really pleased with that.”
• I saw cornerback Paris Logan make three nice pass breakups. Sophomore defensive end Matthew Baltimore had a nice interception to close out the scrimmage.
• I liked what I saw from the running backs. The known guys, Cameron Stingily and Akeem Daniels, had some good runs, including a touchdown scamper from Daniels from around 25 yards. Redshirt freshman Jordan Huff has had a good camp, he had a real good run of 15 yards or so after a fumbled snap.
- Steve Nitz, firstname.lastname@example.org, @SNitz_DDC