Lose an assistant coach, gain an assistant coach.
As wide receivers coach Thad Ward bolts for the running backs job at Illinois, Northern Illinois has reportedly struck back with a strong hire, as they are set to hire Bob Bostad as offensive line coach according to FootballScoop. (Full disclosure: I also write for FootballScoop.)
Bostad is a career offensive line coach, crafting blocking schemes continuously since 1990. He made his name as the offensive line coach under Bret Bielema at Wisconsin, where the Badgers finished with top-15 rushing attacks in each of his final four seasons in Madison.
Bostad left Wisconsin to become the offensive line coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then joined the Tennessee Titans as offensive line coach in 2014, where he currently remains.
Northern Illinois currently lists Joe Tripodi as its offensive line coach and run game coordinator. With Ward’s departure, it’s possible head coach Rod Carey will keep Tripodi on while shuffling staff assignments.
After finishing in the top 18 nationally in rushing annually from 2009-14, Northern Illinois plunged to 41st in 2015. The Huskies yards per carry fell from 5.05 in 2014 to 4.14 in 2015 while their sacks allowed spiked from 14 to 32.
Twelve days after his first day on the job, Lovie Smith has checked one major box on his to-do list. The Illini have announced Thad Ward as the club’s new running backs coach, completing Smith’s initial coaching staff.
“Thad Ward will bring a new level of energy to our program,” Smith said in a statement. “He has been successful at each stop of his career, and is a proven recruiter. Thad has helped develop several outstanding players along the way, and I’m confident our current players will respond to his coaching in a positive way.”
Ward replaces former former Illinois quarterback-turned-running backs coach Nathan Scheelhaase, who remained on staff in an off-the-field role.
Ward spent the past three seasons upstate at Northern Illinois as wide receivers coach. Prior to that he deposited a year at Western Michigan, a year at Gardner-Webb, and six at Western Illinois. That six-year run with the Leathernecks, from 2005-10, represents the last time he coached running backs.
Illinois finished last season ranked 111th nationally in rushing at a shade below 130 yards per game. Sophomore Ke'Shawn Vaughn is the club’s leading returning rusher with 723 yards and six touchdowns accumulated in 2015.
The New York Yankees and their rivals the Boston Red Sox have done it. So have the Chicago Cubs. Now, the latter’s cross-town rivals are doing it as well.
The “it” being referenced is hosting a college football game, with the Chicago White Sox announcing Wednesday that U.S. Cellular Field will be the venue for the Nov. 9 Toledo-Northern Illinois MAC matchup. The game, dubbed the “Huskie Chi-Town Showdown,” will be the first-ever played in the 25-year history of U.S. Cellular Field.
“This is a historical moment and an outstanding day,” NIU athletic director Sean Frazier said in a statement. “Our fans have said, come back to Chicago, come to the city. Well, we’ve listened and we’re back! There are 145,000 NIU alumni living and working in Chicagoland. U.S. Cellular Field is a fantastic venue and I can’t wait for our fans to see this game in the ballpark. For years, NIU and Toledo have been featured in the November weeknight #MACtion games on ESPN, and in 2016, we are taking it to another level.”
“We are really excited to play the first ever football game at US Cellular Field,” NIU head coach Rod Carey said. “Chicago is extremely important to us and it is going to be a fun atmosphere with a midweek night game on TV against a fine opponent in Toledo. I want to thank everyone that has had a part in getting this done, beginning with our administration, the Chicago White Sox and all of the people and the board at the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. Our players will be ready to go to Chicago and play in front of a great Huskie home crowd.”
NIU and Toledo, along with Central Michigan and Western Michigan, tied for the MAC West title last season. On the basis of tiebreakers, the Huskies represented the division in the MAC championship game, the sixth straight season they’ve played for the conference title.
A day after signing day, Northern Illinois put the finishing touches on its Class of 2016 with the addition of Oregon State transfer quarterback Seth Collins.
“We’re really happy to have Seth, he’s a quality, quality young man,” said NIU head coach Rod Carey in a released statement. “He’s obviously a fantastic football player and a great quarterback, and he comes from a great family who we have gotten to know during this process. We look forward to having him on campus with the rest of the class this summer and to 2017 when he will be eligible to suit up and play for us.”
As noted by Carey, Collins will not be eligible to play for the Huskies until the 2017 season. NCAA transfer rules mean Collins will have to sit out the 2016 season, but he can join the team in all other activities other than playing games.
Collins left Oregon State as speculation grew he was possibly going to be moved to wide receiver. At NIU it looks as though he will be locked into playing quarterback for the MAC squad. Collins started seven games for the Beavers in 2015 before being sidelined with a knee injury.
Chris Ash filling another hole on his first Rutgers’ coaching staff will result in Rod Carey having a hole on his own staff to fill.
RU announced in a press release Wednesday that Ash has added Jay Niemann as his first defensive coordinator. Niemann had spent the past five season as the coordinator at Northern Illinois.
Interestingly, Ash, a college defensive back, played for Niemann at Drake, with the former serving as that school’s defensive coordinator as well as Ash’s position coach.
“Jay will be a great addition to our coaching staff as defensive coordinator,” said Ash. “Jay and I have known each other for over 20 years and I have always admired his approach to coaching. Jay and I share a defensive philosophy. It will be a defense built on effort, fundamentals, execution and toughness.”
While Niemann has 25 years of coaching experience, this will be his first job at a Power Five program.