It seems only fitting that the http://www.niuhuskies.com/sports/m-footbl/niu-m-footbl-body.html" target="_blank">NIU football team’s newfangled cornerbacks group has a lively position coach in http://www.niuhuskies.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/mcnutt_richard00.html" target="_blank">Richard McNutt.
The Ohio State alumnus inherits a renovated Huskie secondary, after the departures of starting corners Chris Smith, Kiaree Daniels and Patrick George.
“We got a great group of guys,” McNutt said. “Even though they’re young, they’re talented and capable of doing a lot of different things.”
The guys McNutt is referring to include Jimmie Ward, Rashaan Melvin and Sean Evans, among others.
“Somebody’s got to step up,” Ward said. “But I think we can fill their shoes and spots.”
For Ward, it took hardly any time for him to click with McNutt from their first meeting.
“I really connected with him the first day,” Ward said. “As a coach, I like him because he does more coaching than he yells.”
McNutt hasn’t been apprehensive getting engaged in drills with the Huskie corners. During NIU’s first week of spring practice, McNutt leaped as if he was sliding for home-plate as a ball was deflected upward, which created an opportunity for a corner to snatch a turnover.
“Day one, he said to us that he felt like he could still play the game,” Ward said. “He’s trying to get us involved and tell us you only got one chance out there and give it your best shot, every play you get.”
McNutt’s participation is an attempt to get his players to seize the opportunities they’re given to succeed on the football field.
“You got to be high energy out here,” McNutt said of his exuberant coaching style. “These guys feed off of you as a coach. You got to give everything you have out here if you’re going to expect them to give everything they have.”
McNutt’s resume is littered with numerous football connections, both at the college and professional level.
Before being brought on to NIU head coach Dave Doeren’s staff, the three-year Buckeye coached the Kent State defensive backs. After completing his undergraduate degree from Ohio State in 2004, he was quickly brought on as a student assistant to Buckeye head coach Jim Tressel.
In 2008, McNutt made the coaching-jump to the NFL, coaching the Cleveland Browns’ safeties.
“He played the position, so he’s got personal knowledge of playing corner,” Doeren said. “He played at a high level at Ohio State. And he’s been in the NFL, where he’s been around really good players and seen how you do it at the highest level.”
Being a Park Forest, Ill. native is another facet that Doeren sees as a positive in McNutt working and connecting with his players.
For Ward, it isn’t a matter of when, but who will take a leading role at the cornerback position.
“He’s a local guy. So he knows where a lot of these guys are from and what their neighborhoods look like,” Doeren said. “So he’s got a lot of perspective for our players.”