DeKALB – Upon first glance, Northern Illinois sophomore Juwan Brescacin doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary for a Mid-American Conference wide receiver: big, strong and athletic.
But the 6-foot-4 Brescacin is not your typical college football player. His story began in Mississauga, Ontario, where he grew up and learned to play football. Only he didn’t start off as a wideout. He played quarterback.
After his sophomore year, Brescacin moved to Indiana and began attending Culver Military Academy. There, he was a wide receiver, and he broke the school’s career records for receiving yards, receptions and touchdown catches in two seasons.
He was also a standout on the basketball court, but the gridiron was where he drew the attention of then-NIU coach Jerry Kill. Kill took a job at Minnesota near the end of the 2010 season, Brescacin’s senior year, but Kill continued to show interest.
Kill decided on another wide receiver recruit over Brescacin. Fortunately for him, the Huskies’ Dave Doeren continued to show interest, and when he offered Brescacin just before the NIU spring game in 2011, it was an easy decision for Brescacin to commit.
NIU coach Rod Carey, who was then the offensive line coach, liked what he saw.
“He was just a big, athletic guy that made plays,” Carey said. “That’s really what the most impressive thing was coming off of his recruiting film.”
Brescacin was given a redshirt as a freshman in 2011, and the next year, he was caught in the shadows of more-experienced receivers like Martel Moore and Perez Ashford. Still, he racked up 223 yards on the season with an average of 20.3 a catch.
Now, Moore and Ashford are gone, and a lot of expectations are falling on Brescacin to make up for some of the lost production.
“He’s gotten a lot better at his route running, a lot better at his ball skills, his attention to detail, the way he pushes, and I think he’s gotten faster,” Carey said. “The ceiling’s as high as he wants to make it.”
Brescacin isn’t going into this year focusing on reaching a certain number or yards or catching a certain number of touchdowns. He just wants to improve.
“I’d like to progress every year and just continue to be better,” he said. “I’m looking to get a leadership role and keep the NIU legacy going.”
• Carey ended Thursday’s practice by saying he was really happy with the team’s work, but he specifically lauded the play of his defense.
“I love the way [cornerback] Sean Evans is pushing through out there,” Carey said. “I love the way our linebackers are playing. I think that’s a really good thing to get those young guys in there; Cody Hazelett, Bobby Jones, Jamaal Payton, I think they’re playing pretty well. And the way the D-line is pushing through. I was really impressed with the defense today.”
• Cornerback Marlon Moore has been getting a lot of reps at safety during practice, but defensive coordinator Jay Niemann said it’s only precautionary.
“He’s practicing a little bit more at corner than he is at safety,” he said, “but we’re dual-training him so that if something happens and he has to play both spots, he’ll be able.”
• Safety Jimmie Ward has been wearing a cast on his hand this week, but it is minor. Carey didn’t have a specific diagnosis, but he said that Ward should be wearing it for “a couple weeks.”
• NIU’s next scrimmage takes place Saturday, and Carey’s focus is very wide.
“It’s kind of the last big scrimmage day before we get into game week and everything,” he said. “You’ve got to start to put it together now. It’s the time of the year where the special teams, the substitutions, all the penalties, all the little things have to be put together.”