2008 Northern Illinois Huskies Football Preview
Northern Illinois (NIU) Huskies - Mid-American Conference (West)
NIU 2007 Record: (2-10, 1-6)
2007 Bowl: none
NIU Head Coach: Jerry Kill (1st season at Northern Illinois, 104-57 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Matt Limegrover
Defensive Coordinator: Tracy Claeys
Returning Leaders for NIU:
Other Key Returnees: C Eddie Adamski, LB Josh Allen, DE Brandon Bice, OT Jon Brost, RB Montell Clanton, WR Britt Davis, LB Cory Hanson, DT Alex Krutsch, CB Bradley Pruitt, CB Melvin Rice
Key Losses: G Chris Acevedo, TE Brandon Davis, DT Zack Holycross, K Chris Nendick, S Mark Reiter, DT Adam Schroeder
What do you do when you lose to an FCS school? If you are Michigan, you never play a non DI team again, but if you are Northern Illinois you hire their coach. Coach Jerry Kill and his Southern Illinois team went to DeKalb to take on the cross state Huskies last September and came away with a thrilling 34-31 victory. That says some good things about Coach Kill, but it also means NIU has a lot of work to do.
Northern Illinois' 2008 Strengths:
Just about every starter returns on both sides of the ball and an offseason is always helpful to start getting healthy. Few teams in the nation could match Northern Illinois’ injury problems during the 2007 campaign. Running back Montell Clanton went down for the year two games into the season and that paved the way for Justin Anderson to have a superb year. With both of them back, the team should have a dynamic running game. With a couple talented receivers in Matt Simon and Britt Davis, the passing game has potential to open up the ground game even more.
Northern Illinois' 2008 Weaknesses:
But is quarterback Dan Nicholson healthy enough and talented enough to get them the ball consistently? It could have been Nicholson’s nagging injuries that led to 14 interceptions and just nine touchdowns last year. If he can keep the turnovers to a minimum, Nicholson has the tools to be successful. He has a nice quick release and is a very accurate passer. His senior leadership, and all that experience, has to turn him into a smarter passer if the Huskies want to be a surprise team in the MAC. The opposition could simply hand off the ball and run, run, run against NIU. Giving up over 210 yards per game on the ground is not going to cut it. Most of the starters are back, but Alex Krutsch and Craig Rusch have to clog the middle of the line more effectively than last season.
The Bottom Line for the NIU Huskies:
Yet, getting into the backfield will not be a problem with superstar Larry English on the end. English has tallied 22.5 sacks in the past two seasons and is expected to increase that production as a senior. Linebacker Josh Allen is very experienced and safety Alex Kube led the team in tackles last year, but most of the players around them need to step up and increase their production. If they do not, some of the newcomers, including a junior college transfer or two, could take some of their snaps away.
2007 Team Stats for NIU:
Rushing Offense: 135.50 (80th in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 202.42 (80, 10)
Total Offense: 37.92 (94, 10)
Scoring Offense: 19.08 (109, 12)
Rushing Defense: 210.08 (111, 12)
Pass Defense: 224.17 (51, 6)
Total Defense: 434.25 (97, 11)
Scoring Defense: 30.83 (86, 9)
Turnover Margin: -1.42 (117, 13)
Sacks: 1.92 (68, 4)Sacks Allowed: 1.75 (44, 4)
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