DeKALB – For Tyler Loos, Northern Illinois’ season opener at Iowa Aug. 31 can’t come fast enough.
The 6-foot-6, 282-pound offensive tackle started the Huskies’ first 11 games last season, before suffering a broken tibia during the final minutes of NIU’s 31-24 win over Toledo on Nov. 14. He missed the final three games of 2013, and had to watch from the sidelines as NIU’s offensive line got pushed around by Florida State at the Orange Bowl.
“I was glad that we made it, and I’m happy for all my teammates that got to play in the game,” Loos said. “I just really wish I could have played. I just kind of felt down when I was sitting on the sideline, just knowing I couldn’t help my offense.”
Thursday was the first time Loos put on shoulder pads since the injury. He said he feels around 90 percent right now, and the coaching staff will give him some practices off. However, he feels like he’ll be ready to take the field at Kinnick Stadium in Week 1.
“I’m pretty stoked, even today, just putting the pads on for the first time in 9 months or whatever,” said Loos, who also missed the 2011 season with a knee injury. “I know the first game back, especially against Iowa – since we had a close loss last year – I really want to improve myself and help the team win.”
During spring drills, Loos was forced to watch practice and take mental reps. One thing NIU offensive line coach Joe Tripodi wanted from Loos was to have him watch more film, so he could take more mental reps and break down defenses.
Loos said he watched roughly 4 hours of film per week on his own, in addition to the film study he did in meetings. He wanted to be able to “master” both NIU’s offense and defense, and just keep his mind fresh.
“There’s a lot of stuff to think about,” Loos said. “If you make it second nature, just to see a blitz coming and call it out, it changes everybody else’s blocks. So it definitely helps out the whole line, and helps out myself, knowing what’s coming so I can prepare myself on that play.”
Tripodi thinks Loos is close to becoming a complete offensive lineman – someone who can pass protect, run block and be in tune mentally. He hopes his film study will help him with the next step.
“I just wanted him to learn the structures of the defense. I had him breaking down our defense and some of the Iowa stuff to get ahead of things,” Tripodi said. “I think as a player, as an offensive lineman you’ve got to learn your offense, what you’re doing. You’ve got to learn technique. The final piece of the puzzle as an offensive lineman is learning what the guy in front of you is going to do.”