DeKALB – Well, that went by fast.
Northern Illinois' fall camp has come and gone. On Aug. 31, the Huskies will finally take the field for real for the first time since the Orange Bowl when they take on Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.
Gone are a lot of prominent faces from last year. There are a lot of different ones that will line the stat sheet this fall.
We won't really know what NIU is made of until the Huskies take the field – after all – these are light-hitting workouts for the most part, but fall camp gave me some good insight into the team.
Here are five things I learned about the 2013 Huskies.
1. The defense may have the chance to be close to last year's
"Chance" is the key word. NIU's losses on "D" have been well-documented. There's also a ton of talent coming back.
Jimmie Ward should be a first-team All-Mid-American Conference pick. Jamaal Bass should be on a different level. Ken Bishop played great on the interior line at the end of last season.
At linebacker, Boomer Mays should do a fine job replacing Victor Jacque in the middle, and the position is deep with Michael Santacaterina and Rasheen Lemon in addition to Bass. Joe Windsor had seven sacks last year and is now in a starting role. Dechane Durante is back as a starting safety after missing some time with an injury last season.
There's key losses here, but perfectly capable replacements.
2. There's options at running back
NIU was in a rough spot at the Orange Bowl. Starting tailback Akeem Daniels probably wasn't 100 percent. Keith Harris Jr. was out with an injury, and Leighton Settle was gone by then.
Cameron Stingily had an impressive August, and Harris looked good at last week's scrimmage and had some success as a true freshman last year (remember, he did score the Huskies' first TD of the season).
Daniels is the guy, but the coaching staff probably feels a lot better about depth than they did at the start of camp.
However, Daniels is still recovering from offseason foot surgery, and it looks like there's a good chance he doesn't play at Iowa, so we may get to see that depth real quick.
3. No clear backup QB
Earlier this week, NIU head coach Rod Carey told me he hadn't yet decided on a backup quarterback, that the competition between sophomore Matt McIntosh and redshirt freshman Drew Hare was extremely close.
Both have had second-team reps in camp. Hare looks like the better passer, McIntosh the better runner. Interested to see who it is when the team's depth chart is released.
Of course, Huskie fans certainly hope we don't have to see too much of either of them.
4. Huskies boast a strong wideout crop
Tommylee Lewis should be in for a good season. Juwan Brescacin is a nice target at 6-1, 219 pounds and averaged over 20 yards per catch last year. Big things could be in store for him. Angelo Sebastiano had a good spring and brought that momentum into August. Talented true freshman Aregeros Turner has a good shot at seeing the field.
5. Not a lot of respect for NIU
I honestly figured the Huskies had a decent shot at being ranked in the Top 25. The coaches and media members who vote didn't share the same opinion. NIU came in with just 19 votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll (one of them from Carey) and 16 in the Associated Press Poll.
It basically proves that for a non-AQ team to earn a preseason ranking, they either have to sustain a long run of great seasons (Boise State) or end up winning a BCS bowl.
Steve Nitz is the NIU football beat reporter. Nitz can be reached at email@example.com.