After Friday night's Northern Illinois practice at Huskie Stadium, I had a long, interesting conversation with offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover. Limegrover said he feels like the offense is much further ahead than it was at this time last season.
He also reflected on his play calling in his first year as NIU's offensive coordinator.
"I think one of the worst things we did last year, and we realized this, was that you kind of get predictable," Limegrover said. "You scale down because the kids [that were injured.] I don't know if you've noticed all the stuff we're doing with the fullbacks. We're going to move those guys all over. We feel like it's really going to add to our offense. And the same thing with Wildcat types of formations."
On how much the injuries to quarterbacks Chandler Harnish and Dan Nicholson limited the offense:
"I think that really had a lot to do with the things we tried to do," Limegrover said. "With all the injuries, losing [fullback] Kyle Skarb for some time, that's a little thing that people don't pay attention to but he gave us a lot of versatility. When you lose that, you say 'OK we're going to take this and cut it in half and move this and get rid of this.' It does create more predictability.
"With the team that we had, you don't have a Garrett Wolfe where everybody in the place knew where it was going and he got the yards anyways, you just didn't have that," Limegrover continued. "We didn't have the Doug Frees up front that could will themselves to just gaining yards. When you've got special kids at those different positions it makes your life a heck of a lot easier.
"It was a grind, that's the best way I describe it to people. The injuries, having good players but not special players, or guys that have a chance to be special but it's us getting them into the right spots. It just was a grind and I give the kids a lot of credit. They hung in with us."
On the differences between the first and second season:
"It's a lot better in Year 2 because you're not trying to lay that foundation," Limegrover said. "The kids like some of the things we're doing. We're able to expand. We're able to experiment where last year we had to keep it so regimented just to make sure we had the fundamentals and the basics down. Now we're working to get more of an identity and I think the kids like that."
Limegrover also said he likes what he sees out of Panan Tense at right guard and Kevin Skatrud at right tackle, but will be counting on Adam Kiel to push Skatrud and Joe Pawlak to push Tense for a starting job. A player to watch out for on the line is sophomore Keith Otis. Otis (6-4, 295 pounds) is the backup left tackle for now but has impressed Limegrover enough that the offensive coordinator has asked the sophomore about possibly moving to the right side and pushing for a role there.
I'll have more on the differences in this year's offense compared to last year and my conversation with Limegrover in this week's Daily Chronicle. Stay warm this weekend.