DeKALB – Sutton Smith looks explosive as ever, Mykelti Williams didn't allow a single pass completion, Kyle Pugh is returning to form and Northern Illinois' defense doesn't seem to have lost a step as the Huskies approach the midpoint of its spring practices.
"We can't worry about what happened in the past," linebacker Lance Deveaux Jr. said. "We lost Bobby and Jawuan, but we have guys who have experience and can step in and play right away. ...There's always something to prove. All we can do is go out there and play our game. We'll let our play talk for itself."
Saturday marked spring session No. 6 of 15 for the Huskies, who practiced outdoors at Huskie Stadium.
NIU's defense was impressive, allowing just two touchdowns during team sessions, including only one against the first-team offense. Linebackers Antonio Jones-Davis, Lance Deveaux Jr. and Pugh, along with NIU's secondary of Williams, Jalen Embry, Albert Smalls and Trayshon Foster, were a big part of the defense's success.
"There's been good competition on both sides of the ball," NIU coach Rod Carey said. "But our defense is always ahead early."
One of the biggest questions marks for the Huskies' defense this offseason is their situation at the linebacker position. The group lost senior Bobby Jones IV to graduation and junior Jawuan Johnson announced earlier this month he would become a graduate transfer next season.
Jones IV and Johnson led the Huskies in tackles last season with 205 combined tackles, while the trio of Deveaux Jr., Pugh and Jones-Davis tallied a combined 88 tackles.
Carey isn't fazed by the loss in production, though.
'"When Jawuan left, I thought (our linebackers) going forward could be a really strong thing," Carey said. "Antonio Jones Davis played every conference game last season. Whether he was a starter or played, he got significant time. With Kyle Pugh coming back, he's got some rust to brush off, but I think he has a chance to be really special. And Lance, even though he didn't play a ton last year, just on situational defense, the year before, he started a few games. So he has a lot of experience.
"I have a lot of confidence in them."
Deveaux Jr. said he's spent a lot of extra time studying film with Pugh, Jones-Davis and NIU defensive coordinator Jeff Knowles. Although the defense dominated most of Saturday's practice, Deveaux Jr. said the Huskies' defense needs to have a short memory.
"They've been a big role. Whenever we need anything, we can always hit them up.
The Huskies will conclude their spring season with the annual Huskie Bowl on Saturday April 28. NIU opens the 2018 regular season Saturday September 1 at Iowa.
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