DeKALB – There is a day in the near future that is going to be like pulling teeth for Brandon Bice.
It’s a good thing the Northern Illinois senior defensive end knows a little something about that.
“Growing up I always loved going to the dentist,” Bice said. “I loved the feeling of my teeth being clean after.”
Bice wants to be an oral surgeon when he’s finished with football, and at some point after this season he will take the Dental Admission Test, a five-and-a-half-hour grind that he hopes will land him in dental school.
“Not the most fun process,” Bice said. “I’ve taken three or four practice tests and after the 5 hours you just want to lie down.”
The process will be worth it, said Bice, who proudly proclaimed he’s never had a cavity.
Thursday night at Huskie Stadium, Bice took the first step toward what he hopes will be a season where he consistently rattles the teeth of opposing quarterbacks at the first practice of the season for the Huskies.
“Bice will be a better player than he was a year ago,” NIU coach Jerry Kill said. “He’s had a great summer.”
A third-team all-MAC performer a year ago with 6.5 sacks, Bice will be counted on this season to help offset the loss of first-round NFL draft pick Larry English on the defensive line.
Replacing English’s production is one of the key questions the NIU defense will have to answer.
And Bice downplayed some of the high expectations he faces at the start of the season.
“Clearly I’m no Larry,” Bice said. “I don’t know how you really replace a guy like that. I called him this summer and talked with him about stuff he’s learned in the league and he gave me some hints and tidbits. “
Some of those tidbits included some of the things English excelled at, like taking off on the snap and not predicting a move to offensive linemen. It’s something that Bice said he considers the hardest thing to learn as a defensive end and was thankful to receive tips in that area from the two-time MAC MVP.
“You can tell when you watch on film if you’re predicting a move,” Bice said. “It’ll end up slower rather than if you just went and did it full speed. It looks a lot better and it usually works.”
Defensive line coach Jeff Phelps said Bice has changed his game and has become a leader on the defensive line.
“I just think he’s gotten a little more athletic, a little faster, a little stronger,” Phelps said. “The love of the game changes and it looks like you run faster, because you’re happy to be out here.”
Just as happy as pulling teeth.