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2013 Northern Illinois Preview – Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 20, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Northern Illinois Huskie Offense


Northern Illinois Huskies

Preview 2013 - Offense


- 2013 Northern Illinois Preview | 2013 Northern Illinois Offense
- 2013 Northern Illinois Defense | 2013 Northern Illinois Depth Chart

What You Need To Know:
Eight starters are back to an offense that led the MAC in scoring, yards and rushing, and while it would be nice if there was a No. 1 receiver to rely on, and it would be great if a go-to running back emerges early on, this should once again be a devastating attack. Quarterback Jordan Lynch will put up mega-stats again as one of the nation’s top dual-threat playmakers working behind a veteran line that welcomes back four starters up front. The receivers will be fine, but Tommylee Lewis and Da’Ron Brown has to be bigger playmakers, while Akeem Daniels needs to shine as the main back.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Jordan Lynch
237-397, 3,138 yds, 25 TD, 6 INT
Rushing: Jordan Lynch
294 carries, 1,815 yds, 19 TD
Receiving: Tommylee Lewis
48 catches, 539 yds, 5 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Jordan Lynch
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior WR Tommylee Lewis
Unsung star on the rise: Junior TE Luke Eakes
Best pro prospect: Eakes
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Lynch, 2) OT Tyler Loos, 3) C Andrew Ness
Strength of the offense: Lynch, Experience
Weakness of the offense: Go-To Receiver, No. 1 RB

Quarterbacks

No one expected Jordan Lynch to become another Chandler Harnish, but he turned out to be even better and more dangerous and more effective overall. After proving last offseason that he was talented enough to handle the offense, he turned in an epic season running for 1,815 yards and 19 touchdowns while completing 60% of his throws for 3,138 yards and 25 touchdowns with just six picks. He ripped off 12 100-yard rushing games highlighted by a 207-yard, three score day against Ball State and came through in the MAC championship with 160 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries in the win over Kent State. However, he was held in check by Iowa – running for 119 yards and a score but completing 6-of-16 passes for 54 yards – and outside of one nice run, he was stuffed by Florida State and had a nightmarish day throwing the ball, but he couldn’t be stopped by anyone else. At 6-0 and 216 pounds he’s not tall, but he’s built for a running quarterback, and while he won’t stretch the field with his arm, he can move the ball around and is deadly accurate at times. The ultimate baller, on numbers alone, he could be in the All-America and Heisman hunt.

Lynch is a senior, so it’ll be a battle among the backups to get into a position to take over next year. 6-1, 197-pound sophomore Matt McIntosh fits the mold of NIU quarterbacks. He’s not big at just 6-1 and 197 pounds, but the 2010 Gatorade Indiana Football Player of the Year too 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. In mop-up time, he ran for two scores against UMass and completed 4-of-6 passes for 43 yards and a score.

Redshirt freshmen Drew Hare and Matt Williams will fight for the No. 3 spot. The 6-1, 200-pound Hare is a deadly accurate passer and a good runner, while Williams is more of a passer than a runner with a terrific arm.

Watch Out For … McIntosh. He’s next up. The redshirt freshmen might have skills and upside, but it’s McIntosh who has to be at the ready considering the shots Lynch takes, running a whopping 294 times. The backup situation needs to be cleared up fast.
Strength: Lynch and mobility. Northern Illinois always comes up with tremendous running quarterbacks and outstanding production. No matter who’s under center will rip up big yards.
Weakness: Backup experience. McIntosh got in a little bit of work, but it’ll be a huge drop-off in terms of time logged in if anything happens to Lynch. The coaching staff has to get the reserves in as soon as possible in blowouts.
Outlook: Lynch has the spotlight on as the best of the recent batch of fantastic NIU quarterbacks. While the focus will be on the stats, all that matters is if he leads the way to another MAC title. McIntosh is a good one in waiting, while Hare and Williams are solid prospects.
Unit Rating: 8.5

Running Backs

The running backs played second-fiddle to Jordan Lynch and the running game, but there’s a good lot returning to start adding more. Senior Akeem Daniels saw a reduced role last season early on, but he came up big late with 112 yards and four scores against Eastern Michigan and 128 yards and a score, with four catches for 67 yards, in the MAC title win. At 5-7 and 184 pounds he’s not big, but he’s shifty, cuts on a dime and can fly as both a runner and receiver, averaging 6.6 yards per carry running for 447 yards and nine scores, while finishing fourth on the team in receiving with 20 catches for 259 yards and two scores.

5-8, 181-pound sophomore Keith Harris, Jr. came on in his true freshman season to fun for 226 yards and four scores – almost all in a two-game stretch against Western Michigan and UMass, before getting knocked out for the year missing the final four games. Very smart and very fast, he can hit the home run from anywhere on the field, while juniors Giorgio Bowers and James Spencer will also be part of the mix adding even more flash. Both are 5-8, but Bowers is a bit thicker and brings a little more power. Spencer can catch, and he can also burst through the line and crank out yards in chunks if given the chance.

5-10, 231-pound junior Rob Sterling is back at fullback to blast away for the ground game. He didn’t get any carries and is never going to see the ball in his hands, but he’ll once again be a huge hitter for the ground game. 6-1, 246-pound junior Ricky Connors adds even more thump, getting a start against Western Michigan and seeing time in seven games. He’s never going to get the ball, either.

Watch Out For … true freshman Jordan Huff was plucked out of Alabama with the right speed and skill to do exactly what the NIU offense needs. Extremely quick and durable, he can scoot through the line and can become a workhorse at times if needed.
Strength: Extremely quickness. All the NIU backs fit a certain type. They’re all small, they’re all sturdy, and they’re all really, really quick. They’re darting runners who can cut on a dime and make big things happen no matter how they get the ball in their hands.
Weakness: One guy. The Huskies moved to more of a tailback-by-committee approach, and while it’s fine to keep everyone fresh, the running backs don’t carry as much weight as Lynch. It would be nice if there was one 1,000-yard guy to handle more of the load.
Outlook: The backs will do their job. Lynch is still the star for the ground game, but a slew of backs will rotate in with all of them combining for more than 1,000 yards and filling their roles for the offense. There are enough backs to keep everyone guessing, and there should be several big games from all the options.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Receivers

Martel Moore stepped up and became the No. 1 target, and now it’s time for junior Tommylee Lewis to be that guy. He’s only 5-7 and 155 pounds, but he’s lightning fast with the ability to run a bit as well as work as a go-to receiver, catching 48 passes for 539 yards and five scores. He didn’t blow up in any games, but he has game-breaking ability at the F position while also seeing time at the Z.

Junior Da’Ron Brown was a disappointment catching just 17 passes for 156 yards and two scores after coming up with 23 catches as a freshman. At 6-0 and 194 pounds with phenomenal speed, the former quarterback and former Illinois high school all-state track star will work at the X looking to stretch the field. He’ll be backed up by 6-4, 219-pound sophomore Juwan Brescacin, who’s a tough speedster who should stretch the field.

Sophomore Angelo Sebastiano is a quick target out of Florida with great hands and leaping ability. He caught five passes for 64 yards and a score in a limited time, and now he’s going to work at the Z, while 5-9, 185-pound sophomore Jacob Brinlee is a former running back who ran for a score and got in a little time. He’s a tough player with the ball in his hands who could be a factor at the F.

6-3, 250-pound junior Luke Eakes is a physical tight end who came up with a few grabs as a big play target. He only caught eight passes, but he made grabs from 32, 38, 43, 34, 45 and 46 yards out. He’s not an elite blocker, but he’s good enough. 6-2, 245-pound sophomore Desroy Maxwell is more of a receiver with a world of upside.

Watch Out For … true freshman Blake Holder. One of the team’s better recruits, the 6-2, 195-pound Holder has special speed and good quickness for his size. He’s a future No. 1 target.
Strength: Deep plays. Everyone focuses on the NIU running game, leaving open big plays for the passing game. Along with the 33.5-yard average from Eakes, cranking out well over ten yards per catch is the norm for the ultra-efficient Huskie passing game.
Weakness: A No. 1 guy. Moore was fantastic catching 75 passes for 1,083 yards and 13 scores, and now Jordan Lynch needs a go-to receiver. Lewis is dynamic, but is he big enough? Brown and Brescacin are interesting options, and Sebastiano should be a producer, but there isn’t a sure-thing main man.
Outlook: The receivers always get plenty of room to move with safeties cheating up to stop the running game, and they’re going to need the help. Lewis could be a phenomenal inside factor who should be able to take over a few games on his own, but the key will be Brown on the outside to stretch the field.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Offensive Line

The NIU offensive line was the NIU offensive line again last season, and it should be even more dominant this year with four starters back. Junior Tyler Loos turned in an All-MAC season, but he got hurt late in the year and was a huge loss for the Orange Bowl. The 6-5, 282-pound tackle is extremely quick and athletic, but he missed 2011 with a knee injury and now is trying to come back quickly. If he's back to normal, he's the line's best blocker.

6-6, 283-pound junior Ryan Brown took over the starting right tackle job early last season and moved over to the left side late. He has a great frame and proved to be quick enough to handle himself on the left side when moved over, and now it’ll be up to 6-5, 307-pound Matt Krempel to hold down the job on the right side. He started the opener against Iowa but was relegated to a backup role for most of the year until Brown moved over to the left side. Krempel has great size and nice experience, but he has to prove he can be steady.

6-3, 287-pound sophomore Aidan Conon grabbed the right guard job right away and didn’t let it go. A pure run blocker, he’s good on the move and grew into a blaster of a blocker to work behind, while 6-3, 315-pound senior Jared Volk became a rock at left guard with tremendous size and good consistency. Mostly a special teamer and a backup, he held his own and should be an anchor. 6-5, 292-pound junior Tyler Pitt started the opener at left guard and now will work behind Volk at right, while massive 6-3, 377-pound redshirt freshman Ron Brown will see time on the left side.

Sophomore Andrew Ness started all 14 games at center and has all-star potential after growing into the job. At 6-3 and 286 pounds he has good size and the athleticism and versatility to play anywhere up front. He’ll be backed up by 6-3, 283-pound junior Mike Gegner, a former Indiana Mr. Football runner-up who has enough time logged in to step in if needed.

Watch Out For … the right guard spot. Krempel should be able to handle himself just fine, but Brown was fantastic last year before moving over to replace an injured Tyler Loos. It’s a stretch to call this the weak link, but it’s definitely a key to the offense.
Strength: Experience. The tremendous run blocking unit gets four starters back not including Krempel, who knows exactly what he’s doing taking back the job on the right side. As long as there aren’t any major injuries, this should be a strength.
Weakness: Tyler Loos. Is there a sure-thing star blocker up front? Loos wasn’t just an all-star, he was an all-star left tackle, and while Brown will be fine, outside of Ness there aren’t any certain killers who’ll get post-season honors. That could quickly change.
Outlook: A question mark last year at this time with several big position battles, the line came together and did its normally terrific job. This year everything should be in play with so much experience returning to the starting five. The backups could use a little work, but this group will be a plus for a strong attack.
Unit Rating: 6

- 2013 Northern Illinois Preview | 2013 Northern Illinois Offense
- 2013 Northern Illinois Defense | 2013 Northern Illinois Depth Chart