Sophomore cornerback Devin Haney had made up his mind about his future before the Huskies' 31-28 win over Toledo on Wednesday.
He announced that he had entered the transfer portal Thursday. At NIU's news conference Friday, coach Thomas Hammock wished Haney luck but said he still is coming to grips with the new realities of frequent transfers. Much has changed since his days as a player.
“I think nowadays it’s become commonplace," Hammock said. "I think there’s a lot of young men in the transfer portal, and it’s become easier to move around, which is unfortunate. I just think in life, if I don’t like my job, or I don’t like my boss or I don’t like something about it, I can’t just leave, you have to buckle down and be committed to what you’re doing.”
For Haney, from Kansas City, he's looking for his next football opportunity.
“Devin Haney, I wish him nothing but the best," Hammock said. "He came and spoke to me before the Toledo game and he expressed what he wanted to do. I shook his hand and said, ‘I wish you nothing but the best.’”
Aggressive O-line makes difference: Hammock commended the team's physicality in the Toledo win, during an offensive display in which the Huskies achieved the type of balance they have been seeking with 222 passing and rushing yards each.
True freshman Logan Zschernitz started his first career game at guard, and he was praised for his physicality.
“He played real physical," left tackle Marques Cox said. "He didn’t let mistakes get to his head. He just kept on playing, kept doing his job efficiently.”
Preparing for cold: The Huskies had prepared in the freezing cold in practice leading up to the win over the Rockets, something that tight end Mitchell Brinkman said the team had been told would happen well ahead of the below-average November temperatures.
“Coach mentioned the weeks prior that we were going to be outside, and we’re going to stay outside," Brinkman said. "We kind of had it in our minds to stay mentally ready.”
Tight end production continues: Daniel Crawford, who is second on the team in receptions (33) and receiving yards (410), hauled in his first career touchdown reception on a 36-yarder against the Rockets.
“I can’t make fun of him anymore," Brinkman said. "I was doing it all year; I was like, he always asks me 'how does it feel to get in the end zone?' He was joking with me, but it definitely was nice to see him get in there. He does a great job. Surprised it took him this long to get in the end zone.”
Still plugging along: Marcus Jones recorded perhaps his biggest play of the season, hauling in a 23-yard reception through heavy contact to set up a Tre Harbison rushing touchdown for a touchdown and a 21-7 NIU lead in the road win. The redshirt senior has 134 receiving yards and only 11 rushes.
“I told him last week I was really proud of him," Hammock said. "He’s a senior that probably hasn’t played as much as he’s played in the past, but every single day you know exactly who you’re getting. You know exactly the type of work ethic that he brings to the table. He’s competitive. He fights us to get on special teams, which is what you want to see, and for him to stay locked in. That’s a play he hasn’t practiced all week, and I said give him a chance to go make a play and he made a play for us."
Injury bug continues: There has not a depth chart provided leading up to Tuesday's game against Eastern Michigan.
Jack Heflin, who was injured Wednesday, was in a walking boot at the end of the game. His status is unknown for Eastern Michigan.
“No update. We just played a game less than 48 hours ago," Hammock said. "I think we still have a lot of time before our next game, and we’re going to maximize that time in the treatment room to get guys back and get them read to play."
The Huskies, having lost Haney, now are down another starting player they have to replace with two weeks remaining in the regular season.
“Obviously it’s not ideal to lose all three starting linebackers," Hammock said. "It’s not ideal to lose starting corners, but at the same time, like I’ve said before, nobody cares. And I think our coaches have done a great job getting the next man ready to play. We kind of bend but don’t break."
Staying focused: Hammock denied that the team is looking ahead to a potential bowl game or MAC title game.
“The message is 'let’s beat Eastern Michigan,'" Hammock said. "Let’s not look ahead. Let’s stay in the moment."
C.J. Perez an 'amazing person': Hammock didn't provide an update on center C.J. Perez, who was seen in a walking boot at a recent practice before the Toledo game.
“C.J. is just an amazing person," Cox said. "That’s who he is. He loves supporting his teammates. He loves to keep on being there through the hard times when he’s going through hard times. I know for a fact if I was going through a hard time I’d still be there for him. I really appreciate him being there for us.”
Brinkman couldn't help but smile about Perez's loud support from the sideline.
“If you know C.J., that’s definitely C.J.," Brinkman said. "So I wouldn’t expect anything less from him, and I know he’s going to be screaming from the sideline on Tuesday.”