Doeren Returns

Dave Doeren is coming home today. This time, he's coaching against the Jayhawks.

Dave Doeren, the first-year Northern Illinois head football coach, will be looking for a win against Kansas, the school where he served as an assistant coach under Mark Mangino from 2002-05.

A Shawnee Mission, Kan., native, Doeren attended Bishop Miege High School and began his coaching career at Shawnee Mission Northwest High.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," Doeren said earlier this week. "I've already done a few interviews with some of the local radio shows that I grew up listening to, talking to reporters that I'd seen as a younger coach. I was a high school student there. I was a high school coach there. I coached at Kansas. I grew up there and all my friends and family, for the most part, are back there. It will be fun to have those people show up to the game and be around with my family, who travels to the game. But when the clock starts, it will be just another game for our guys and me."

Doeren, who spent the last five seasons as an assistant at Wisconsin, knows it won't be easy for his Huskies.

"KU is a much better football team than they were a year ago," Doeren said. "You can see the improvement in their squad. Obviously, winning over McNeese (State) and rushing for over 300 yards, not turning the ball over and only having four penalties. You can see that they are running more downhill and more physical. You can see the improvement that coach (Turner) Gill's made in their program. Their players have bought in and it's going to be a challenging day for our guys."

Doeren knows all about challenges. He helped resurrect the Jayhawk football program as a member of Mangino's staff from the opening year in 2002, when KU struggled with a 2-10 record, including an 0-8 mark in Big 12 play.

He saw how Mangino weeded out the players who weren't mentally or physically tough enough to play at Kansas. And he saw KU earn a trip to the Tangerine Bowl in his second season in 2003, and then a victory in the Forth Worth Bowl in 2005 as KU posted its first winning season (7-5) since 1995.

Doeren, who served as KU's linebacker coach and recruiting coordinator his first three seasons before being promoted to co-defensive coordinator in 2005, said his four years at Kansas were "critical" in shaping his coaching career.

"I'm not going to say they were easy. They were tough," he said. "The turnaround job was a difficult situation that the staff took on there. They were last in the country in most every category, and you could take that to academics and off-the-field incidents, all the way across the board. The staff, with coach Mangino and all the assistants, did a tremendous job recruiting and developing talent and turned that into an Orange Bowl team five years later. That was a very rewarding time in my life. I learned a lot — good and bad — about how to operate in the business. It definitely made me a better coach."

Doeren recruited and coached prized players like Aqib Talib, Nick Reid, and James McClinton and helped pave the way for KU's historic 12-1 Orange Bowl-winning season in 2007. He also recruited and coached former Kansas linebacker Kevin Kane, who was his assistant at Wyoming the last three seasons and now at Northern Illinois.

Doeren and Kane hope to return home and knock off the Jayhawks. Doeren is aimed at keeping KU's rushing game in check. The Jayhawks rushed for 301 yards on 55 carries against McNeese State in the season opener, while quarterback Jordan Webb threw just 10 passes.

Army rushed for 303 yards in NIU's 49-26 victory last Saturday, although they featured a wishbone attack and carried the ball 63 times.

"It is a different offense," Doeren said about Kansas. "Obviously, the ball will be in the air, particularly if we stop the run like we want to. They're going to have to throw the ball more than they did last week if we do our job."

"We've got to keep their rushers under 100 yards," Doeren added. "We've got to do a great job of taking the ball away, which we did (against Army). That's a huge emphasis for us is to get the ball to our offense. When they have it, good things can happen. We have to do everything we can to prevent big plays. Those are three things that, if you watch (KU's) game from Saturday, when they did throw, they had some big gains in the throw game we can't allow."

While Doeren has heard NIU is the favorite, he doesn't "look into that kind of stuff."

"We respect who we're playing," he said. "I'm not ever going to go into a game and say we can't win. We don't talk like that with our players and we don't act like that as coaches. We'll be competitive all week and we'll be competitive on Saturday. Hopefully it comes out the way we want it to. Kansas is going to do everything they can to protect their home turf."

While Doeren is coming home, he doesn't expect to get much support from the crowd, besides his family and friends.

"It's a very loyal fan base," Doeren said. "It's a school that takes a lot of pride in their basketball, but there's enough people there that they support their football team. They had over 41,000 last weekend, so they'll probably have a few more for this one."

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