DeKALB – Every once in awhile, Northern Illinois defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen will simply stick his head into the film room on a Sunday or Monday, taking a little break from game planning.
When Nielsen peaks in, he usually sees one of his defensive linemen, guys like Sean Progar, Nabal Jefferson, Alan Baxter or Joe Windsor to name a few, either studying themselves or their upcoming opponent.
Nielsen stresses film study, and it could very well be a main reason his defensive line currently ranks second in the Mid-American Conference with 13 sacks.
“Every time I’m in there, Joe’s in there, Sean. Alan’s done a good job, Nabal,” Nielsen said. “Pretty much the whole group. They come in on their own, they watch extra film.”
One player who has watched more film while working under Nielsen is Windsor, the Huskies’ 6-foot, 236-pound junior defensive end. Windsor has not only watched tape more, but has learned how to watch film. It’s not just simply going into the room, picking up the remote and watching the previous week’s game.
When he’s watching with the rest of the group, or by himself, Windsor’s picking up keys to his game, learning how he can use his speed.
It’s certainly paid off for Windsor this season. The junior has four sacks through NIU’s first four games, a total which ranks third in the MAC. Baxter leads the conference with five sacks.
Windsor isn’t at the top of NIU’s depth chart, but Nielsen said he sees roughly 30 snaps a game. The Huskies like to use Windsor on pass-rush situations.
He admits he might not be the strongest guy on the field, but learning to beat offensive tackles with his good speed is just one thing Windsor’s picked up in the film room. He’s learned about getting off the ball quickly, and Nielsen has worked with him on looking the same on each play to not give anything away.
This year, opposing offensive linemen have had a tough time combating Windsor’s quickness off the ball.
“If I can find something that I can use my quickness with, use my speed with, I can use that to my advantage,” Windsor said.
Windsor is also fairly seasoned for a third-year collegiate player, as he played as a true freshman instead of redshirting. However, the junior didn’t record his first sack until he got to Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg during the Huskies’ Week 1 loss.
Nielsen said his confidence is just high at the moment.
“His confidence is huge compared to last year,” Nielsen said. “He’s a really confident player right now. And this is a really mental game.”
To Windsor, things have just came together at the right time.
“Everything just seemed to click with me this year,” he said. “That’s how the game goes, you know.”