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09 Homer Preview: Huskies Edition

homer previewIn an effort to provide coverage of teams outside of the OTP Preseason Top 25, we’ve asked some of our friends and fellow college football aficionados to follow our preview format for their team or go outside the box. This edition of The Homer Preview is courtesy of Mike Breese, an ardent NIU supporter and proprietor and creator of one of the best blogs out there… Red and Black Attack.

Homer Preview: NIU Huskies

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What You Need to Know
Last year there weren’t too high of expectations for Coach Jerry Kill and the Huskies. He inherited a lot of returning players, but it was hard to prepare for the season as 20+ players were recovering from significant injuries they endured during the “injury plague” that was the 2-10 2007 season. Coach Kill managed to take a strong grasp of the team with limited turnover and turn them in to a team that won the games that they were supposed to win. In the regular season the Huskies finished 6-6, but ended up with a losing 6-7 record after falling to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in the Independence Bowl 10-17.

Throughout the entire off-season, we’ve been known as “That MAC team that lost Larry English to the San Diego Chargers in the 1st round.” It’s become a stock quote for any media conglomerate that doesn’t pay a lick of attention to the non-BCS schools out there. In previous seasons, we’ve just been “That MAC team with Michael Turner/Garrett Wolfe.” This year we don’t really have any star power at this point and only hardcore Huskie fans can name off a few of the players.

Our preseason favorites for All-MAC status are offensive linemen in LG Jason Onyebuagu and C Eddie Adamski (Outland Watch List). K Mike Salerno (Groza Watch List) should be the best all-purpose kicker in the MAC this year as well. Obviously offensive linemen and special teams guys aren’t going to be household names.

Something just has to flourish on the offensive passing game for any sort of success this year, depending on the development of QB Chandler Harnish and the WR corps. Also a “go-to guy” will have to appear at the RB position (possibly Me’co Brown?). Expect to see a lot of action to the Fullbacks & Tight Ends this year as outlets for the QB.

The NIU D has a ton of talent waiting in the wing. Coach Kill rotates defensive players like crazy, so a lot of guys have a lot of experience. DE Brandon Bice figures to step up big this year as he had 6.5 sacks last year and was named 3rd team All-MAC as a BACKUP. On the other side of the line is (just like Ball State) an older former Marine in Jake Coffman. DJ Pirkle is also a force at DT.

At LB, be have speedy productive guys returning on both outside spots in Alex Kube, Cory Hanson & John Tranchitella. Young talent Mike Schiller should step up big in the middle after playing in all 13 games last year with 24 tackles.

Safety has a trio of players returning that performed spectacularly last year in FS David Bryant and Strong Safeties Tracy Wilson and Mike Sobol. At CB, we have to replace two starters but both speedster Patrick George and Kiaree Daniels have a ton of experience and talent.

Who You Need to Know
QB Chandler Harnish – Finished with 2,067 total offensive yards last year as a redshirt freshman. Will have to do a lot of growing up this year and improve his 8-9 TD to INT ratio and be more consistent game-in and game-out. Will need protection from the offensive line and a group of young Running Backs and Wide Receivers to really step up their games. Harnish has to stay healthy and can’t have another season as the leading rusher. Last year he was the leading rusher for 539 yds but missed a few games with an ankle injury.

LB Alex Kube – Hands down one of the biggest leaders and hardest hitters on the team. A converted SS, Kube gradually made his way to starting on the Strongside LB spot and finished with 59 tackles and 7 TFL.

FS David Bryant – The returning leading tackler for the Huskies with 83 last year. Is touted by Coach Kill as the next of his players to reach the NFL. The leader of the defense and a tremendous athlete that played RB and LB before switching to his current position.

Game to Watch
I’m extremely excited for our Week 3 game against Purdue in Ross-Ade Stadium. In our opener we kind of get thrown to the wolves in Madison, WI but then we have a nice scrimmage against in-state FCS squad Western Illinois (who actually has been a thorn in our side for years). The experience from these two games, plus the combination of Purdue having a lackluster squad this years provides us with a great opportunity to upset a BCS squad for the first time in several years.

We kind of have a revenge tour with our home games this year. First we get Western Michigan in Week 5 after only losing to them by 3 in Kalamazoo last year. Week 9 Akron comes to town and it’s time to demolish the Zips after what they did to us in the 2005 MAC Championship (yes I was in Detroit for that one). Then two weeks later it’s time for us to obtain the Bronze Stalk for the first time against the Cards!

They’ll Do Well If…
…the Huskies grow up FAST on defense and in the passing game. As if NIU were already young enough on defense, our projected starting DT Mike Krause went out for the season this past week with a heart problem. There is a ton of talent here, but the middle of the D-Line and the CBs don’t have much experience. Despite the loss of Larry English, the defense should be able to come together and work more a team this year to overcome the departure. Depth is a huge issue especially considering how much Coach Kill likes to rotate his players on the defensive side of the ball.

In terms of the passing game, one or more WRs this year needs to step up this year big time. Returning candidates include 6’3″ Landon Cox, Willie Clark and the injury-riddled Nathan Palmer. Some of the true freshman that we have coming in are extremely talented, led currently by Daniel Rodriguez of Florida and Perez Ashford of Ohio who has amazing hands.

Season Outlook
Things are looking up for the Huskies this year with the amount of returning talent on both sides of the ball. The team is very young, but the leadership and team togetherness has improved in the second year in Coach Kill’s tenure. The players are finally used to the system and can focus in on things now and improve immensely.

We’d like to take one of the BCS games (either Wisconsin or Purdue) in the non-conference slate. In-conference, our schedule is very manageable. The home games are all winnable. Two ‘trap’ road games include @ Toledo and @ Ohio and of course our season finale is against MAC West favorites Central Michigan in Mt. Pleasant.

The Huskies look like they are fielding another bowl squad this year and I see an 8-4 finish in their future.

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One Response

  1. Awesome work, per usual Mike! The NIU boys are going to be a tough out for the Cardinals this year.

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