assistant sports editor
There are times when the old image of a coach standing in front of a chalkboard covered with X’s and O’s bites the dust.
Take NIU football assistants Bob Jackson and Pat Ruel. They spend as much time with chalk in hand as anybody, but after Tuesday’s practice, the two coaches hit the turf to fine tune their pass routes.
“Now, watch how I come at you,” Ruel said as he trotted toward Jackson, who backpedaled like a cornerback. Ruel put on a display of moves as he and Jackson discussed the science of beating your man.
“We do this from time to time,” Jackson said after the exhibition. “But we spend most of our time upstairs at the blackboard.”
Jackson is conducting his first spring practice as the Huskies’ receiver coach after joining the staff before the 1986 season. According to Jackson, the pieces are falling into place on a squad that lost two starters over the winter.
“We lost Kendrick (Cross) and we lost Darryl Taylor to graduation. So Virgil (Gerin) is really the only veteran we have who has been out there regularly,” Jackson said.
Cross, who shared time with Taylor and Gerin in 1986, was declared academically ineligible after the season. Gerin led the squad in receptions with 18 for 210 yards, while Taylor was tops in receiving average with 13.6 yards per catch.
Jackson said the competition has already begun to fill the empty shoes in the receiving corps.
“Right now, you have Maurice Brown, who was a red-shirt safety last year, so he’s just learning the position,” Jackson said. “Then we have Mike Weinburg, who probably has more speed than the other guys, plus he’s quick and he’s fiesty.”
Brown, a 6-foot-2-inch, 167-pounder who lettered in football, basketball and track in high school, earned a spot on Head Coach Jerry Pettibone’s informal top four red-shirts list last week.
Besides evaluating his personnel, Jackson said he is looking to toughen up his troops in the spring session.
“What we’re doing is perfecting our patterns and working a lot more on blocking on the perimeter,” Jackson said. “Last year, we weren’t physical enough. We’ve got to be more phyisical in executing our stand-up blocks and our crack-backs.”
Jackson said so far his receivers are “miles ahead of last year” in their job performances. On Tuesday, the players had extra incentive to impress their coaches—Ruel carried a 34-inch aluminum softball bat around at practice.
The bat, which had been left on the stadium turf by anonymous players, served as both a walking stick and a mock intimidation device for the Huskie assistant.