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2012 Northern Illinois Preview – Offense
Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch
Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted May 10, 2012


CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Northern Illinois Huskie Ofense



Northern Illinois Huskies

Preview 2012 - Offense


- 2012 Northern Illinois Preview | 2012 Northern Illinois Offense
- 2012 Northern Illinois Defense | 2012 Northern Illinois Depth Chart

What You Need To Know:
The dominant offense of last season that rolled at will behind QB Chandler Harnish and a superior line is long gone. New offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar won’t change things too much, but he’ll have a lot of reworking and retooling to do starting with a line that has just one set starter coming out of spring ball. The receiving corps could be the best in the MAC with Martel Moore and Perez Ashford a dangerous tandem, and the running backs will be fine with a solid, speedy rotation to keep everyone fresh. Jordan Lynch won’t be Harnish, but he’s good enough to get moving on the ground and utilize the great receiving corps. The offense will turn out to be fine, but it might take a little while to get there.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Jordan Lynch
15-20, 166 yds, 1 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Akeem Daniels
56 carries, 303 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Martel Moore
47 catches, 747 yds, 7 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Jordan Lynch
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore OT Tyler Loos or Ryan Brown
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Tommylee Lewis
Best pro prospect: Senior WR Martel Moore
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Moore, 2) WR Perez Ashford, 3) Lynch
Strength of the offense: Receivers, Running Back Speed
Weakness of the offense: Line Experience, No. 1 Running Back

Quarterbacks

No one is expecting junior Jordan Lynch to be Chandler Harnish, but he proved this offseason that he’s talented enough to handle the offense and could be a dangerous rushing threat when given a chance. The main backup last season, he got in a little bit of mop-up work completing 15-of-20 passes for 166 yards and one score, but his main use was as a runner taking off for 13 yards against Western Michigan and 46 yards against Kent State. He’s only 6-0 and 216 pounds, and he doesn’t have the type of cannon to stretch the field too much, but he’s a true baller in the Harnish mode and should keep the production going for the offense that finished No. 2 in the MAC.

Redshirt freshman Matt McIntosh fits the mold He’s not big at just 6-1 and 197 pounds, but the 2010 Indiana Gatorade Football Player of the Year took his team to a state championship with 5,553 career yards and 65 scoring passes. While he’s a terrific passer, he can also run. If all else fails he’ll be able to step in when needed and take off for yards, but eventually he’ll put up big yards through the air.

Watch Out For … Lynch to be more than fine. For the most part, top-shelf MAC quarterbacks aren’t always easily replaced, and few have been better over the last several years than Harnish. Lynch looked more than comfortable this offseason, and while he’s not going to be Harnish, he’ll get the job done.
Strength: Mobility. In an ideal world the Huskies start to get more production from the running backs again. Harnish was too dangerous not to take off, and he managed to lead the team with 1,379 yards and 11 scores, but Lynch and McIntosh can both run and they can both be dangerous No. 1 options for the ground game.
Weakness: Experience. Lynch has just enough to get by and not be starry-eyed in the opener against Iowa, but he has yet to be the main man and McIntosh is just a redshirt freshman. They’re going to be good, but they’ll each have to take a few lumps.
Outlook: The Huskies have been used to getting tremendous quarterback play and it should continue with Lynch. It’s asking for way, way too much for Lynch carry the offense like Harnish did, but he’ll put up big numbers and should be more than fine for the passing game. McIntosh is a nice prospect, too, and he’ll be great when he gets his chances.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

The running game lost Chad Spann and his 22 rushing scores, and in stepped Jasmin Hopkins, who ran for 956 yards and 15 touchdowns. So who’s next? It might be a bit of tailback-by-committee for a while, but shifty junior Akeem Daniels could be the most dangerous of the bunch. While he’s only 5-7 and 183 pounds, he’s speedy with great hands and the ability to be used in a variety of ways. He finished third on the team with 303 yards and three scores, averaging 5.4 yards per carry, and caught 15 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns. In some way, shape or form he’ll be a key piece of the attack.

Daniels might be the best returning rusher, but 5-9, 199-pound junior Leighton Settle will be a major factor. The 5-9, 199-pounder from Madison is the son of former NFL running back John Settle, but he’s not the same type of back. He’s a speedster who can hit the home run, and now he’ll get more of a chance after getting just 16 carries for 84 yards, but with a 48-yard dash, in his limited action.

Settle will be dangerous whenever he gets the ball, while senior Jamal Womble will bring the thump. The 5-11, 247-pounder was a short-yardage guy last season running for just 124 yards and a touchdown, but he can hit and he’s not bad in the open field catching two passes for 58 yards with a score. The former North Carolina Tar Heel was one of the nation’s top JUCO transfers last year, and with his size he should able to do even more.

When the Huskies use a fullback it’ll be up to 5-10, 231-pound sophomore Rob Sterling to take over the role. He saw a little time as a freshman as a special teamer and occasional blocker, but he didn’t get the ball. 6-1, 246-pound sophomore Ricky Connors is an even bigger blocking option, but he has yet to see the field.

Watch Out For … a rotation. NIU always finds a back to carry the load, but it might end up using three different options this year to keep everyone fresh and go with the hot hand. There might not be a 200-carry back, but Daniels, Settle, and Womble will get the job done.
Strength: Quickness. While Womble is a tough runner with his size, he’s also extremely fast. Daniels can move and Settle can make big things happen. If they get the holes, they’ll make something big happen.
Weakness: One guy. The top options all have a little time logged in and they’re all talented backs who can crank out big runs and become a big part of the offense, but is there anyone who’ll throw a big scare into anyone? There isn’t a Spann or a Hopkins, but all the backs will have to combine for at least 1,500 yards and probably closer to 2,000.
Outlook: The NIU backs will all do a good job, but they’ll also need help from the retooled and reworked line to have room to move. There are enough backs who bring a variety of options to the equation to keep teams guessing, and combined with the mobility at quarterback the ground game will be more than fine.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Receivers

The receivers will have to help the new quarterback shine, and it all should start with rising star Tommylee Lewis. The diminutive 5-7, 155-pound sophomore saw a little time last year with 74 rushing yards and a touchdown, but his real worth was as a gamebreaking kickoff returner with two scores and averaging over 25 yards per pop. He’ll get the job at the F position and will be used in a variety of ways as one of the central parts of the offense.

Senior Martel Moore tied for the team lead with 47 catches for 747 yards and seven scores, averaging 15.9 yards per play, blowing up for 224 yards and a score in the bowl win over Arkansas State and hitting the 100-yard mark twice during the regular season. The 6-0, 183-pounder veteran will be the deep threat, but he can do more than just stretch the field with the ability to make the tough catch as well as hit the home run.

6-0, 194-pound sophomore Da’Ron Brown turned in a terrific redshirt freshman season catching 23 passes for 317 yards and two touchdowns as a consistent producer during the regular season. The former quarterback is a terrific athlete with Illinois high school all-state track speed, and now the job is his at the Y.

Veteran Perez Ashford tied Moore for the team lead with 47 catches for 695 yards and seven scores, and while he might not be as explosive, he’s rock-steady. A fast target at the Z with 5-11, 182-pound size, he’s great when he gets the ball in his hands on the move and he has the fast-twitch quickness to make people miss in the open field.

Junior Anthony Johnson is back after missing all of 2010, making 13 catches for 174 yards as a key backup behind Moore at the X. At 6-2 and 187 pounds he has the size to go along with nice speed and athleticism – he was a Texas high school track star in the high jump and long jump. Junior Jamison Wells will join Johnson as a key backup after catching 14 passes for 112 yards. Good for a catch almost every game, he’s a proven reserve at the F.

The tight ends weren’t a huge part of the passing game last year, but there are a few good options to play around with this year. 6-2, 274-pound senior Jason Schepler has only 11 career catches and missed all of last year hurt, but he’s a big blaster of a blocker who’s built to steamroll defenders. 6-3, 250-pound sophomore Luke Eakes is a physical option who caught six passes for 49 yards with a score. He’s a nice route runner with soft hands, but he’s not the blocker that Schepler is.

Watch Out For … Lewis. Everyone in the MAC knows him as a top kick returner, but he appears ready to blossom as a receiver. It’s his job at the F in place of Nathan Palmer, and he should be outstanding.
Strength: A mix of talents. From the quickness of Lewis to the speed and experience of Moore on the outside to the experience of Ashford, this is a very, very good receiving corps with a variety of options to play around with. NIU is a running team, but it has the targets to make the passing game the main mode of transportation.
Weakness: Tight end. Considering Dave Doeren came from Wisconsin, among the best teams in the country at using tight ends, it would seem like the offense would utilize the position more. The passing game is about the receivers, and while there are talented tight ends they have to be used.
Outlook: The receivers always get plenty of room to move with safeties cheating up to stop the running game, but this year they should dominate on their own. Ashford and Moore are as good as any tandem in the MAC, and Lewis could be a phenomenal X factor who should be able to take over a few games on his own.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Offensive Line

The NIU offensive line was terrific throughout last season finishing tenth in the nation in sacks allowed and helping to pave the way for the nation’s 12th-rankged running game. The problem, though, is the turnover up front with few sure-thing veterans to rely on. 6-3, 306-pound left guard Logan Pegram has been a key part of the front wall for the last few years, and now he needs to be an anchor. Able to play either guard spot, he’ll work where needed but has to stay healthy.

6-5, 307-pound junior Matt Krempel saw time last year and has been a part of the special teams, but now he has to be a star at right tackle with as much experience as any of the new starting O linemen. He’s smart and has great size, but he has to be steady, while the sophomore combination of 6-5, 282-pound Tyler Loos and 6-6, 283-pound Ryan Brown will fight it out for the left tackle job. Loos was a nice recruit with good athleticism and nice feet, while Brown is a talent who could end up working at right tackle down the road. All he needs is a little bit of time.

Centers have been stars for the NIU line over the last several years, with Scott Wedige turning in a great year in place of Eddie Adamski, and now it’ll be a battle for the job between 6-3, 283-pound sophomore Mike Gegner and 6-3, 286-pound redshirt freshman Andrew Ness. Gegner didn’t take the job and make it his this offseason, but the former runner up for Mr. Football in Indiana has the skill to eventually be the quarterback of the front five, or he could move to guard if Ness becomes the main man. Athletic, Ness could play just about anywhere up front.

6-3, 287-pound senior Matt Battaglia has seen a little bit of time, but not enough to be a sure-thing rock at right guard. The former JUCO transfer should be solid in pass protection and has the strength to grow into a pounder of a run blocker. However, he’ll be pushed by 6-5, 303-pound redshirt freshman Matthew Killian a promising young player with the size and upside to make one of the guard jobs his for the next few years.

Watch Out For … lots and lots of movement. The starting five combination was hardly settled after spring ball, and while there are position battles just about everyone but left guard, there could also be lots of changes to find the right fit. It could take awhile.
Strength: Northern Illinois. Wisconsin could be the gold standard when it comes to reloading and revamping the offensive line, but NIU has been among the best programs in the nation over the last several years when it comes to putting together superior lines. The track record is good, however …
Weakness: The Huskies are all but starting from scratch. Last year’s line was a rock with starting experience at each spot and durability across the board. Pegram knows what he’s doing, but the other four jobs are wide open.
Outlook: With position battles at left tackle, center, and possibly right guard as the season goes on, there’s a lot of work to be done. This production won’t be close to as strong as it was in 2011, but there’s good size and enough talent to be more than fine as the MAC season goes on. Will the starting five be solid for Iowa? That’s a big, giant question mark.
Unit Rating: 5.5

- 2012 Northern Illinois Preview | 2012 Northern Illinois Offense
- 2012 Northern Illinois Defense | 2012 Northern Illinois Depth Chart