Injuries force freshmen to perform like veterans

By David Lance

NIU head football coach Charlie Sadler almost erupted more than once at the mistakes some of his players were making in the Huskies’ 13-12 loss to Southwestern Louisiana Saturday.

Sadler collected his cool because most of the errors being committed were by freshmen—the same freshmen he told, during recruitment, wouldn’t see much action.

“We didn’t anticipate the injuries,” Sadler said. “We’ve had seven true freshmen play in games this year.”

Some of those freshmen not only have played, but have started.

“I thought I’d be red-shirted,” starting linebacker Gerald Nickelberry said. “I didn’t expect (to start), but I’m loving it. It’s going to pay off. I’ve grown.”

“(Starting) is both a positive and a negative,” 6-2, 235 pound starting nose guard Mike Adams said. “I’m getting a lot of experience. That’s the good part.

“The bad part, as far as physical maturity goes, is I’m not where I should be.”

Sadler is not displeased with the play of his freshmen.

“Some have stepped in and done a good job,” Sadler said. “Three guys who stick out in my mind that have played consistently are Gerald Nickelberry, (wide receiver) Vaurice Patterson and Mike Adams.

“From an overall standpoint, some have played like you thought a freshman might play. Some have shown inexperience. We’d like to see some of them bigger, stronger.”

Patterson, 6-1, 170 pounds, said he’d like to get bigger.

“I need to get stronger so I can play with bigger guys,” he said.

“I think I’ve learned a lot,” Patterson said. “We’re not looking past this year, but we’re looking forward to next year.”

Freshman tailback Marwin Leslie and Nickelberry agreed.

“All year we’ve been playing hard,” Leslie said. “We practice hard. We have a lot of inexperience. Right now, we’re looking forward to next year.”

“I think we are improving, even though we are losing,” Nickelberry said. “Next year, you’ll start seeing improvement.”

“With the strides we’ve made this year, we’re going to really get after some butt next year. We ought to win a lot of games.”