Thursday practice notes

Posted on August 21, 2014 - 17:25:30

Northern Illinois held its final practice of fall camp on Thursday. The Huskies will begin game week preparation for Presbyterian on Saturday.

NIU head coach Rod Carey said he was pleased with how far the defense came during camp, which is certainly a good sign.

"We had some question marks and still do, quite frankly," Carey said. "But not as many."

Carey said the defensive line was one area that took a big step forward, and he thinks there will be a deep rotation there.

Other notes from Thursday's practice:

• Carey still hasn't named a starting quarterback, and isn't sure when he will. It wouldn't surprise me if 2-3 quarterbacks played against Presbyterian.

• There are a number of true freshmen defensive backs who haven't been practicing with the scout team. My guess is you'll see a couple of them back there. Corner Mayomi Oluutu is one guy who has been getting solid reps.

• Another true freshman who could see time is linebacker Renard Cheren, a 6-1, 195-pound linebacker out of Lake Worth, Florida. Cheren was a late addition to the roster as he had to finish up a summer class back home. He's gotten a decent amount of reps and hasn't been with the scout team.

"He's got all the physical skills you look for," Carey said. "... His learning curve has been steep, but he's really caught on nicely."

Thursday scrimmage notes

Posted on August 14, 2014 - 18:51:44

Northern Illinois held a scrimmage Thursday afternoon at Huskie Stadium, one which could go a long way in determining who starts at quarterback for NIU against Presbyterian.

NIU head coach Rod Carey said that all three did some good things but didn't think anyone "ran away with it." He said he'll know more after watching the film. It will be interesting to see if the reps are distributed any differently next week.

For what it's worth, Matt McIntosh was the first quarterback to take reps and I thought he looked the best out of the three. He made a couple of ill-advised throws but overall was efficient. I've always liked his running ability as well. McIntosh, Anthony Maddie and Drew Hare all said there were things they liked and didn't like about their day. All three took reps with the first and second team.

I will have a full recap of the event with comments from Carey and all three online and in Friday's Daily Chronicle.

Other notes from the scrimmage:

• Maddie made a couple of real nice touchdown passes late in the scrimmage. He said the deep ball is one of his strengths.

• Tailback Keith Harris Jr. had a really good afternoon. He had a touchdown run of about 70 yards or so and had a goal-line TD run as well. He had been limited in practice with a hamstring injury.

• Cornerback Paris Logan had three nice pass breakups that I witnessed.

• Ezra Saffold was the only true freshman wideout that got consistent reps. He's got some quickness and agility to him. Christian Blake got some reps as well.

• It certainly looks like there will be some true freshmen that get into the defensive backfield. Deion Hallmon, Mayomi Olootu, Tifonte Hunt and Shawun Lurry got time at corner while Jawaun Johnson saw reps at safety. Hallmon had an pick-six when all the freshmen took reps. Lurry picked off McIntosh.

– Steve Nitz,, @SNitz_DDC

Wednesday practice notes

Posted on August 13, 2014 - 13:55:27

Northern Illinois will hold a scrimmage Thursday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. at Huskie Stadium. The event is open to the public.

The scrimmage could be important when it comes to the quarterback battle between Anthony Maddie, Drew Hare and Matt McIntosh, which NIU head coach Rod Carey said is still close.

"It's the same thing I had in spring ball, they're all getting better. One guy has a day here, one guy has a day here," Carey said. "There's movement in there, which is good. I think a live setting will be good. You don't have constraints on them, and then you can really see, hopefully some movement."

• Carey said the quarterback reps will probably be split evenly among the three quarterbacks.

• With the season opener against Presbyterian two weeks from Thursday, the coaching staff could start narrowing down the competition and redistributing reps among the quarterbacks. However, if nobody puts himself out front, that won't be the case.

"If someone's deserving of it then you will," Carey said. "If you come out and say all three are about the same, then you won't."

• Wide receiver Tommylee Lewis has been limited in practice, as he's recovering from a foot injury he dealt with during during the spring. Carey said Lewis will be limited during the scrimmage as well. It sounds like a situation where the staff just doesn't want to rush Lewis back.

• Defensive tackle Mario Jones is dealing with an ankle injury, and Carey said he would have more of a timetable after Jones met with a specialist Wednesday.

• I'll be out at Thursday's scrimmage. If there's anything you want to know, send me a tweet or an e-mail.

– Steve Nitz,, @SNitz_DDC

Friday practice notes

Posted on August 8, 2014 - 18:31:11

Northern Illinois completed its first full week of practice Friday. The Huskies will hold their first two-a-day Saturday, with practices at 9:15 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Notes and observations from Friday:

• NIU offensive coordinator Bob Cole said the Huskies' quarterback competition is one of the closes calls he's been part of in his coaching career.

"They all do some really, really good things," Cole said. "So, it's going to be close. It's close right now."

Cole said that following Thursday's scrimmage, the staff will probably sit down and discuss things like where everyone fits in and reassigning reps.

• Running Akeem Daniels, who missed last season due to a foot injury and was limited this past spring, said he's feeling 100 percent. Daniels had a touchdown run of around 30 yards Friday. Expect him to be the starter with Cameron Stingily hurt.

• Cole said that two freshman receivers who have stood out are Christian Blake and Ezra Saffold.

"Those two guys have consistently made plays in practice," Cole said.

Cole said Tommylee Lewis, who went to the same high school as Saffold (W.T. Dwyer in South Florida) vouched for Saffold as a player and person during the recruiting process.

• One wideout who has made some nice plays in practice is Kenny Golladay, though he's not eligible this season after transferring from North Dakota.

Wednesday practice notes

Posted on August 6, 2014 - 19:16:27

Northern Illinois held its first full-padded practice Wednesday at Huskie Stadium. The Huskies will take the field again at 2:45 p.m. Thursday.

I caught up with NIU defensive coordinator Jay Niemann following practice to get some quick information on the defense.

Here's what Niemann had to say:

• One position NIU has a lot to replace at is defensive line, and it's one spot on the defensive side of the ball where Niemann is trying to see exactly what he has.

"It's early to tell who's emerging, but they're all competing hard," Niemann said. "I think it's just the competition and who ends up being in the two-deep in that group is something that's unsettled. I think there's plenty of talent there, but we've just got to see who rises to the top there as we go."

• Junior Marlon Moore moved from cornerback to safety this spring, and Niemann likes the improvements he's made from then to now.

"Just better and better every day. He's working hard, he's picking things up well, he's vocal with his calls, has a very good understanding of what he's supposed to do and what others around him are supposed to do," Niemann said. "Good leader, I couldn't be happier with him."

• NIU has nine true freshmen in the secondary – Tifonte Hunt, Shawun Lurry, Albert Smalls, Will Daniels, Deion Hallmon, Mayomi Olootu, Darion Henderson, Devan Ingram and Jawuan Johnson.

It would not surprise me if a couple of these guys saw the field this season. Niemann said freshmen will continue to get a lot of reps throughout camp to see who emerges.

"They're competitors," he said. "Those young corners in particular, they're just really competing hard, and they're guys that definitely have the skillet to play in this league and on our team. Just like the way they go about their business practicing every day."

– Steve Nitz,, @SNitz_DDC

Who will start at QB for NIU against Presbyterian?
Matt McIntosh
Anthony Maddie
Drew Hare