Daily Herald
Kill turns up the heat in NIU's final preseason scrimmage
By Lindsey Willhite | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 8/20/2010 12:00 AM

DEKALB - While thousands of students moved into the nearby dorms - a ritual of intrigue and uncertainty for children and parents - Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill and his de facto wards dealt with a similar phenomenon at Huskie Stadium on Thursday morning.

With exactly two weeks left until NIU's opener at Iowa State, the Huskies conducted their final live scrimmage of the preseason.

When it was over, Kill laced into his players for their less-than-superb effort in the heat.

Alternating compliments for their speed and skill and overall effort in fall camp (the intrigue) with complaints about their youthful and undisciplined play (the uncertainty), Kill made sure everyone knew how much time remains before the first exam begins.

"Two weeks!" he yelled near the end. "That's why I'm turning the heat up!"

Senior running back Chad Spann and junior safety Tracy Wilson - the best players on each side of the ball - agreed with Kill's assessment of the scrimmage.

At the same time, it was easy to agree because Thursday was so atypical of the Huskies' effort and play this fall.

"This is the best camp we've had since I've been here," Kill said. "No doubt. Because of the competition."

"I'm real excited about this season," said Spann, the team's most recognizable threat after rushing for 1,038 yards and 19 touchdowns last year. "We've got a lot of young talent - a lot of young talent."

"We're all ready," Wilson said. "We're all itching to show what we can do. I think we have more athleticism on defense. I think we have more experience. I think we can do some things we haven't done."

NIU welcomes back 10 starters on defense, so there aren't a lot of personnel decisions to be made on that side (except for identifying at least two freshmen as backup linebackers).

Kill and his staff have several decisions to make on offense, starting with the all-important quarterback question.

"They're the key to success," Kill said. "Look at the whole (sport) from the MAC to the New Orleans Saints. That's why the Vikings waited on Brett Favre."

Junior Demarcus Grady, who went 4-0 as a starter last year when Chandler Harnish injured his knee, jumps on the field when the coaches call for the first unit.

Harnish goes with the second-teamers in general, though it's misleading because he and Grady mix and match with first- and second-string personnel during practices and scrimmages.

On Thursday, Grady led the first team 70 yards for a score on the scrimmage's first drive. Spann capped it with a 3-yard touchdown blast. Grady finished 7 of 12 for 74 yards.

Harnish, on the other hand, produced the day's biggest play when he hit fullback Kyle Skarb for a 28-yard strike. Harnish completed 4 of 6 passes for 66 yards.

Redshirt freshman Jordan Lynch delivered the day's other score when he hit freshman Da'Ron Brown for a 7-yard score, though Lynch's group started the possession with the ball at the defense's 4-yard line.

"They've all had a good camp," Kill said. "They've all done well - that's the least of my worries."