Football starts to rebuild

By Matt Stacionis

During last season’s spring practice, Thomas Hammock made a huge impact.

With running backs Ivory Bryant and William Andrews’ academic status in limbo, Hammock was practicing with the first-team offense and looked good. As the starting running back last season, he finished as a 1,000-yard rusher.

NIU football coach Joe Novak hopes Hammock’s success will help fuel his team during this year’s spring ball, which begins Friday.

“Sometimes you get a player that establishes themselves,” Novak said. “Thomas was provided an opportunity, both he and Michael Turner were.”

Turner and Hammock aren’t the only sources for inspiration, though. Last season’s 6-5 record also allows the Huskies to go into spring practice with a winning record for the first time under Novak, which is something else he hopes can get his team up to play.

“I think the kids have gained some confidence and feel good about themselves,” he said. “We do have eight or nine seniors that we need to replace, but we have a lot of young kids that are good.”

Aside from the vacated senior positions, the back-up quarterback position could be another slot up for grabs this spring. Currently, No. 2 QB Dan Urban is playing with the NIU baseball team, and was named Mid-American Conference Player of the Week on Tuesday. Urban told Novak he will return to the team next season, and Novak is hopeful of that.

The Huskies also will adjust to coaching changes on offense. Current running back coach Matt Canada moves to the quarterback slot, and newly hired DeAndre Smith and Frank Kruth are taking over at running backs and offensive line, respectively.

“We’re working out great,” Novak said about his re-aligned coaching staff. “Matt Canada is a great teacher. DeAndre Smith has done a great job and Frank Kruth has coached at a lot of places.”