Soccer | August 6
DeKALB, Ill. – After watching Saturday’s fifth practice of the 2022 NIU Football Preseason Camp, it would become clear that a positional group that is continually progressing and improving is the Huskies defensive line.
Between defensive tackle Demond Taylor Jr. (East St. Louis, Ill./East St. Louis) covering running back Antario Brown (Savannah, Ga./Beach) in the flat on a screen pass, defensive end Raishein Thomas (Racine, Wis./Washington Park) going to quarterback in situational drills, and Jacob Waskow (Canton, Ill./Canton) arrives with a recovered fumble late in the day, NIU’s front line of defense makes an impression on the head coach Thomas Hammock.
“If you have a good program, your defensive line is normally the strength of the program,” the head coach said. Thomas Hammock. “If your defensive line is good, it forces your offensive line to be better and the competition helps your program.”
“Our D line is really growing, getting stronger and hungrier. There’s a lot of depth and competition, and they’re making a lot of plays. We think we can go 10 deep and our young freshmen are giving our offensive line a lot of quality work.”
Redshirt-Sophomore Tackle Jacques Ester (Detroit, Mich./Cass Tech) leads the group, a year after earning Third Team All-Mid-American Conference honors. Ester has 25 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks in 2021. Sophomore defensive tackle Devonte O’Malley (Midlothian, Ill./Bremen) led NIU last season with four sacks among its 16 tackles for the year. This duo, with Taylor, Waskow and sophomore Cade Haberman (Omaha, Neb./Westside), has played all 14 games in 2021.
“I think we have three or four guys competing for entry-level reps, but at defensive tackle, if you’re not two deep, you’re not one deep,” the coach said. the defensive line. Jordan Gigli. “You need depth in this position. Our job up front is to create havoc and make plays. Sometimes that means facing a double team and someone else makes a play. You mix up the ability to be a selfless football player while at the same time, when you get the chance, you have to make the play in front of you.”
Thomas is looking to build on a strong rookie season in 2021, where he had 48 tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss in 14 games from the defensive position. Redshirt-Senior Michael Kennedy (Chicago, Ill./Mount Carmel) also had more than 40 tackles a year ago and added four more tackles for the loss. Add in second year Ivan Davis (Township, Michigan/Plymouth), transfer Izayah green-may (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) from Wisconsin and that only strengthens a group looking to improve an improving defensive unit.
“We did a really good job of playing more physically at the line of scrimmage, using our length, speed and strength from shot to whistle,” the defensive ends coach said. Travis Moore. “It’s going to give us a chance to be more dynamic up front. We’re extremely excited about some of the young guys – Roy Williams (Crestwood, Ill./Shepard), Cameron Crowell (Columbus, Georgia/Carver), Dawson Ripperda (Larchwood, Iowa / West Lyon) – who came here to play ball and they have the same tool as our older guys. It’s a combination of our growth as a program, but more importantly the growth of our defensive line identity.”
The Huskies practiced for two hours on the grass at Huskie Stadium on Saturday. After a day off Friday, NIU worked on more situational drills in team sessions. While the defense shone, the offense had its fair share of scoring plays. tight end Tristan Tewes (Pleasant Plains, Ill./Pleasant Plains) landed a brilliant one-handed grab on the sideline. Come back Mason Blakemore (Centralia, Ill./Centralia) broke up a 30-yard run in one of the team’s final periods of the day.
“I love the energy and the excitement the guys had today,” Hammock said of Saturday’s practice. “Our defense is playing at a high level. They are maintaining the level of play they have been playing in the spring and maintaining that momentum through the fall. They are going to be a force to be reckoned with and I am delighted with their development. »
The Huskies practice in full pads for the first time at camp Sunday, starting at 10 a.m. See the full camp schedule and links to daily coverage on the Camp Central 2022 page on NIUHuskies.com.
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