NIU Prepares for Opener at Minnesota

As Saturday night's season opener at Minnesota approaches for the Huskies, Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill talked about his team going into the big game with the Golden Gophers.

Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill on the Minnesota Gophers…

"Everybody in the country knows what kind of recruiting class they had. It was one of the top in the country. They've done a great job of assembling some very good athletes. They're led by a very good quarterback, who I'm very impressed with on the film from a year ago. There is some unknown there with a new defensive coordinator and a new defensive scheme. It's always tough going into your first game, but to be honest with you, our concern lies with what we can control. That's our football team and what we need to do to get better on a daily basis, and that's been our biggest concentration."

Kill on the Huskies adjusting to his first summer as Coach…

"We basically had to combine two-a-day camps with spring ball, because we didn't have a lot of the players that we have now for spring ball because of injuries. The kids have done an outstanding job of handling the transition and the way that we do things differently. They've worked very hard. They've done everything I've asked them to this point. At the two-a-day camps, we accomplished a lot. The weather was very cooperative. I ‘ve never been through a camp where the weather was quite as nice. I think a lot of learning took place and we took advantage of it."

Kill on his veteran leadership…

"This is about the fourth or fifth time I came into a situation where the year before you come in they've struggled. Taking over the job and certainly having guys like Larry English, Britt Davis, Pat Simon, Craig Rusch, some of those guys that have been through it a little bit, certainly is a good advantage for us. I would say that Larry English has stepped it up more than anybody. He's had my back since the day I took the job. He's really stepped up his leadership role, which I don't think he did a year ago, according to him. I think the team has grasped that. He plays with a lot of energy. I thought Larry was pretty good when we played against him, but he's a lot better than he was a year ago. He's in great, great shape. I look for him to have a tremendous year."

Kill on MAC Football…

"Number one, it's very well coached. You're not going to outcoach anybody. Each school adapts to what they can do recruiting-wise. Each has its own niche. Everybody has people that recruit, work hard, and get after it. I think it's a league that offensively is very wide open and very diverse. It makes it tough for defensive football teams, because of all the different diversity in offense. It's a league that's always had great skill talent. It seems like everybody has a great receiver, great running back, great quarterback, those kind of things. The number one thing that I'm impressed with in the conference is the coaching in the conference. It is very fundamentally sound and very well coached."

Kill on the Huskies' Special Teams…

"Number one, I think it's one of the big strengths of our football team. Andy Dittbenner has done a tremendous job in camp, punting the football. That's been a plus for us. I think he's a legit guy that people will look at to play at the next level. He's punting the heck out of the football. Kicking-wise we've got a couple guys battling for that position. We'll see how that plays out. I think both of them are capable of doing it. We've just got to see which one is going to be the most consistent."

Kill on the health of senior quarterback Dan Nicholson

"It's a situation where he practiced very well yesterday. We had a good workout. He's thrown more than he has since we started camp. We're just gradually bringing him along and seeing how things go. He's getting better on a daily basis and we'll see how things play out."

Kill on the health of his returning team…

"I think we had 25 kids who didn't go through spring ball due to major injuries not minor. I mean they went through major surgery. We got the majority of those youngsters back. Hopefully we can keep them healed up. Some of those injuries we have to be careful with and practice those kids different and give them a little time off. We've had to some things different than I've ever done practice-wise. I think they've responded well."


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