Football set for the spring


Football set for the spring

By Tom Burton

DeKALB — The football team is back in action after a cold winter as training in preparation for the 2018 season began Tuesday.

Head Coach Rod Carey is entering his sixth season with the Huskies and said he looks forward to getting the players back on the field.

“They’ve done a great job of working out and running and being in shape,” Carey said. “They’re anxious for it and ready. It will be fun to see them get out and get on the field.”

The Huskies’ offense will have two starting quarterbacks, redshirt junior Ryan Graham and freshman Marcus Childers.

Graham is still working his way back from an elbow injury, which sidelined him for all but two games this past season.

Carey said he has noticed improvements in the offseason from young quarterbacks Rodney Hall and Anthony Thompson.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Huskies are looking to replace a few key players from this past season: tight end Shane Wimann and wide receivers Chad Beebe and Christian Blake.

Carey specifically referenced the challenge in replacing Wimann, who finished his Huskie career with seven touchdowns and 283 receiving yards.

“I’m just going to be honest with you — he is in the discussion of the best tight end that has ever played here, at least from what I could tell going back to coach [Joe] Novak’s years,” Carey said. “He’s in the discussion. You’re not going to replace Shane by Mitch [Brinkman] or [Daniel] Crawford; you’re going to do it with both of them.”

Max Scharping, redshirt junior offensive lineman, said he is excited for what the offense can accomplish.

“We have all of our offensive line coming back, so that should help,” Scharping said. “The full offense should be great to watch.”

On the defensive side of the football, Sutton Smith, redshirt sophomore defensive end and 2017 Consensus All-American, is returning to lead the defense and said he is excited to get into training.

Another key player the team is looking forward to having back next season is redshirt sophomore linebacker Kyle Pugh, whose 2017 season ended early with a shoulder injury.

“I don’t think I’m as excited as he is, I can tell you that,” Carey said. “He hasn’t played football in a while after the fourth game. Certainly, Kyle will have to step up in that leadership role, and he knows that. Along with getting himself fully healed, he has a lot of skills, a lot of care and a lot of desire. When you have that combination of things, I am expecting a big year from him.”

The Huskies will also be without one of their main anchors on the defensive line as linebacker Jawuan Johnson is exploring his options for other programs and has been released from the team, said Donna Turner, NIU Athletics Communications associate athletic director.

The team is looking ahead to a non-conference schedule that includes the University of Iowa, the University of Utah and Florida State University.

“We want to prove that we are one of the best teams in the country, and there is no ceiling,” Smith said. “We got to do what we got to do.”