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NIU receivers must block to play

DeKALB – When Martel Moore arrived at Northern Illinois, he learned quickly that if he was going to see the field, he would have to block.

Former receivers coach P.J. Fleck told Moore and the rest of the Huskies’ receiving corps that if they didn’t block, they weren’t going to get any reps during the game. After Fleck left, each position coach Moore has had – Pat Poore, Bob Cole and now Frisman Jackson, has emphasized having their receivers play physical.

Being able to block is something Moore has had in his head since he was being recruited.

“First thing they told me was, ‘You don’t block, you’re not going to play,’ ” he said. “We had to get the mentality that we’re going to have to block if we’re going to catch the ball.”

For NIU’s receivers, blocking success has been key in springing quarterback Jordan Lynch, a running back or a fellow receiver for big gains. Lynch’s numbers set a Football Bowl Subdivision record for rushing yards in a season by a quarterback with 1,771 yards.

Part of that success can be attributed to his receivers blocking down field.

When former NIU coach Dave Doeren interviewed Jackson, who’s in his first year at NIU, one of the first questions Doeren asked Jackson was how he was going to get the receivers to be physical in the run game.

“I’ve taken pride in that as a coach. I want other teams, other coaches on the sidelines to look at our receivers and say, ‘That’s how our receivers should be, they should be physical in the run game.’ ... That was how I played when I played the game,” said Jackson, who played six years in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. “That was important to me, being physical in the run game, and I wanted that to be part of my guys as well, and they were able to grasp that.

“I thought we did a great job of being physical in the run game this year.”

During a normal week, Jackson puts an emphasis on cut blocking each Tuesday. He said being able to cut gets receivers more room in the passing game, as it gives a defensive back one more thing to watch out for.

Sophomore Tommylee Lewis, who stands at just 5-foot-7, goes to cut defensive backs whenever he can.

“Every chance I get. Every chance I get I’m cutting,” he said. “... You’ve got to know your advantages and your disadvantages. You don’t want to be standing there fighting with someone that’s 6-2, 240 (pounds) when it’s just easier to [cut him].”

Jackson said becoming a good blocker is 10 percent learning fundamentals and 90 percent attitude.

Players like Moore have been able to grasp the basics, such as keeping their feet shoulder width apart, not over-striding and keeping three yards between the receiver and defender, so the wideout can judge where the defensive back is going to go.

Jackson also has seen his players accept the challenge of run-blocking.

“You’ve got to want to run block,” Jackson said. “It’s got to be important to you.”

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