2009 Northern Illinois Huskies Football Preview
2008 Record: (6-7, 5-3)
2008 Bowl: Independence Bowl vs. Louisiana Tech (L 10-17)
Coach: Jerry Kill (6-7 at Northern Illinois, 110-64 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Matt Limegrover
Defensive Coordinator: Tracy Claeys
Other Key Returnees: C Eddie Adamski, RB Me’co Brown, DE Jake Coffman, TE Reed Cunningham, LB Alex Kube, G Jason Onyebuagu, K Mike Salerno, G Kevin Skatrud, S Mike Sobol, RB Chad Spann
Key Losses: LB Josh Allen, OT Jon Brost, CB Chase Carter, DE Larry English, G Dan Keller, DT Alex Krutsch, LB Tim McCarthy, WR Marcus Perez, CB Bradley Pruitt, CB Melvin Rice, DT Craig Rusch, WR Matt Simon, S Tracy Wilson
Coach Jerry Kill exceeded expectations during his first year at Northern Illinois. After taking over a team that went just 2-10 the previous season, Coach Kill took the Huskies to a bowl game. The offense was not always pretty, but they usually got the job done. Now it is the offense that has to step up while the defense replaces some superstars.
Northern Illinois's Strengths:
Coach Kill likes to keep the ball on the ground and the team ranked third in the conference last year in rushing offense. Quarterback Chandler Harnish will get his fair share of yards on the ground, but so will backs Me’co Brown and Chad Spann. The offensive line returns three starters and has a few experienced backups ready to step into a starting role, so the ground game should be just fine. In fact, they should be better than fine. On the other side of the ball it is the back seven that suddenly has to carry the unit. Safeties David Bryant and Mike Sobol are two of the best in the conference and junior linebacker Alex Kube is ready for a breakout year. He will need some help from players like Cory Hanson, but there are also experienced options out there to fill in at linebacker including seniors Phil Brown and John Tranchitella.
Northern Illinois's Weaknesses:
Yet, not the entire secondary is strong. The Huskies went through quite a few corners last year and now it seems like they are all gone. The safeties will help keep this one of the best pass defenses in the conference, but they will not be one of the best in the nation this year if Patrick George and a host of other inexperienced corners are not ready to play from day one. The pass defense will take a big hit while the team tries to find a way to get to the quarterback as well. Defensive end Larry English is off in the NFL and tackles Alex Krutsch and Craig Rusch are also gone. That leaves Brandon Bice, who tallied 6.5 sacks last season, as the lone returning starter. And Bice will not get that much pressure on the quarterback without a player like English on the other side of the line.
The Bottom Line for the Huskies:
But in the end it might all come down to how well Harnisch throws the ball. He only completed 55.9 percent of his attempts in 2008 and he threw nine interceptions and just eight touchdowns, but that was all as a freshman. Can Harinsch be a leader and make plays with his arm and not just his legs? With most of his favorite targets gone, Harnisch and NIU might have one of the worst passing offenses in the league once again unless players like freshman Ron Walker can emerge as consistent receivers.
By Joel Welser
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