As NIU Football head coach Thomas Hammock came to the podium this afternoon, it signified the beginning of a new football season for his team. Fresh off a MAC Championship and Cure Bowl visit, Coach Hammock and the Huskies will begin their title defense this Wednesday, March 23 as spring practice kicks off. As indicated by Coach Hammock, Jordan Gandy, and Rocky Lombardi, what happened last year was great. However, they are on to the next and improving daily in order to defend their title and continue to build the program.
Coach Hammock spoke highly of the returning production the Huskies will have on both sides of the Football. The team is returning 10 defensive starters, seven offensive starters, and the ice man himself, kicker John Richardson. In addition to the returning production, the Huskies did very well in the recruiting cycle, even utilizing the transfer portal for more pressing needs the team had going into this season.
Coach Hammock said, “the spring is getting you ready for the season, show me how you’re going to respond this spring and go out there and compete.” Anybody who has watched a Coach Hammock team knows that competition is at the core of his beliefs, and that the best players will ultimately play. Although the team is still young on paper, the fourth-year head coach stated he expects this year’s team to be a veteran team.
When asked about the return of senior Kyle Pugh and safety Devin Lafayette, Hammock oozed confidence when addressing his players. “It brings more competition. We had a big defensive personnel meeting last night and the amount of players we’re bringing back is encouraging,” Hammock said. “We have guys with excellent communication and confidence that we fully expect to go out there and cut it loose.” Coach also talked about improving on their takeaway numbers and ability to minimize the “explosive play.”
Rocky Lombardi and Jordan Gandy
In addition to Hammock meeting the media today, starting quarterback Rocky Lombardi and starting cornerback, and DeKalb native, Jordan Gandy fielded questions today as well. Arguably the most memorable quote of the day by a long shot came from Lombardi.
“I came here to win games, and win a lot of games and I think we have the team to do that this year. That’s what is on my bucket list, to win as many games as possible.”– Huskies’ quarterback Rocky Lombardi
While Rocky and the Huskies captured the MAC Championship last season, he assured me that the page has turned and that title is the last thing on anybody’s mind. Lombardi and Gandy credited this attitude to the “Keep it Small” mindset that Coach Hammock has instilled in the team. This mindset ensures one is never to high or never to low, but instead lives in the current moment they are in.
Lombardi was described as a “weapon” by Coach Hammock and spent his offseason perfecting his craft working with a QB coach as well as his teammates.
The DeKalb Native
Jordan Gandy spoke about the importance of getting better during the spring practice period. Gandy is trying to “go out there every day and try to get 1% better every day.” Gandy added, “[you] try to do that and take the time to work on your craft.”
Gandy also spoke about the defense working on coming together, getting on the same page, and making the jump as a unit to become better this season. The defense, which was one of the youngest in all of college football, returns 10 starters. When asked about the experience on the defensive side of the ball, Gandy said:
“Experience is invaluable, you can’t simulate what happens on the game field on the practice field all the time. Now that we have that game experience, we’ve been together, I think we’re going to take a big jump ahead.”– Huskies’ defensive back and DeKalb native Jordan Gandy
What’s On Tap Next?
NIU Spring Football practice begins on Wednesday, March 23. NIU’s pro day is also approaching quickly, with the event scheduled for March 30. To cap the spring off, the final spring showcase will take place on Saturday, April 16.
The spring showcase is open to fans and is a great opportunity to get an early look at this year’s team. With the returning production, the coaching staff in place, and the additions made via the transfer portal and recruiting, this season is poised to be another one for the ages. The Huskies have two SEC opponents on their schedule, and host Vanderbilt on September 17 as the second part of a home-and-home series.
It’s an exciting time to be a Huskies fan. Do not be surprised if you see this team crack the top 25, as well as put 10 wins up in the standings. For all other Huskies news and updates, stay connected with Huskies On Tap on both Instagram and Twitter.
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