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Monday practice report

Northern Illinois had full pads on Monday morning, practicing for 2 ˝ hours in the heat.

Speaking of the heat, after Saturday when three still unnamed NIU players went to the hospital for dehydration, there were more mandatory water breaks with helmets off at this morning's practice, complete with coaches and trainers constantly yelling at players to drink more water.

Health update:

Sophomore wide receiver Nate Palmer's status is still unknown after he suffered a left knee injury at Saturday's practice. NIU coach Jerry Kill said Palmer, who was wearing an orange jersey, walking under his own power and helping out wide receivers coach P.J. Fleck in drills, will see a doctor today.

"They didn't MRI him immediately and they wanted to let it settle down," Kill said. "They wanted to see if he was going to feel better and that kind of thing. But that's exactly where he's at."

Sophomore running back Me'co Brown returned to practice after experiencing flu-like symptoms. Brown appeared to be 100 percent, as he dominated 1-on-1 drills against the linebackers.

Running back Justin Anderson appeared to hurt his left foot during scrimmage play and walked off the field to get examined. His status is unknown.

Practice highlights:

The last 30 minutes of practice is quickly becoming the most exciting period to watch.

While the veterans stretch, the rookies get their turn to get reps and show what they can do. It's also been when the coaches have been the loudest and celebrated more with every successful play. Kill was downright spry as he high-stepped to celebrate a run by running back Antoine Kirkland.

"The competition with them at the end of practice was great and I thought both sides did a great job," Kill said. "There's a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of fun. You've got to make football fun."

One sequence pretty much sums up the performance of the freshmen wide receivers as a whole so far: Anthony Johnson ran a beautiful route, shook his defender and got ample separation, caught a nice pass from quarterback A.J. Hill, took a couple of steps upfield and fumbled thanks to a nice play by cornerback Sean Evans. The freshmen wideouts look like starters one minute, freshmen the next.

In case you were wondering, the offense won rookie ball today, which means the rookie defenders had to run.

When it came to the full team, though, the defense won the 4-yard drill today. What's the 4-yard drill, you ask? Great question. The offense lines up at the 41-yard line and has to get to the 45 for a first down. It's the defense's job to stop them. Tracy Wilson and Cory Hanson combined to stuff Chad Spann on a key play in the drill and one of the biggest hits in camp. Spann had an otherwise impressive day running the ball.

Kyle Jenkins has been moved inside to defensive tackle, where Kill said he'll likely stay because of the play of freshman defensive end Alan Baxter. This move doesn't take place at the top of the depth chart, but it's worth noting because the coaching staff likes what Jenkins can do inside to help offset the loss of Mike Krause and feels confident enough in Baxter and the rest of the inexperienced defensive ends to move Jenkins.

If wide receiver Landon Cox wants to take the next step to become a true weapon on offense, he's going to have to learn that the easy catches matter just as much as the difficult ones.

When freshman linebacker Devon Butler does get himself into the right position, he's been as good of an open-field tackler as anyone so far.

Junior defensive end Jake Coffman has been consistently good at pressuring the quarterbacks and getting his hands up in the passing lanes.

Come back later this afternoon for a video interview with quarterback DeMarcus Grady.

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