Northern Illinois Preview 2006 - F. Analysis
Posted Aug 7, 2006

Northern Illinois Huskies Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – The good news… – Magnificent.  Dynamic.  Explosive.  Pick any descriptive adjective pertaining to ‘great’ running backs out of the thesaurus or dictionary lying on the nightstand next to your bed and that might not fully describe NIU’s Garrett Wolfe.  When you watch the diminutive one take the field, if you haven’t seen him, you might think that he’s a novelty act.  But, then he gets the ball in his hands, and, well, hey, buddy, pick your jaw up off the floor.  But, wait, did you see what that kid just did?  Uh, yeah, enough to still not believe how quick his feet are.  Ever since Wolfe jumped into the lineup in 2004, replacing an injured AJ Harris, Wolfe has taken off cutting, slashing, sprinting, jitterbugging and running all over the yard.  He’s averaged 1,618 yards for the last two years, and he is one kid who is so tough to tackle.  Michael ‘the Burner’ Turner, who preceded Wolfe, got a ton of hype in his senior season, but Wolfe still seems to be a forgotten man in college football circles.  But, watch him, turn on the tape – he’s fantastic and productive.  Why is he the invisible man on the Dark horse Heisman listings?  Maybe pundits will see the light and at least give him some mention, even if him getting to New York is about as likely to happen as Ozzie Guillen closing his mouth.  Wolfe is the perfect component in this offense - his quickness to the hole is without peer and if he gets into space, a defensive back or a linebacker is going to look silly trying to tackle #1 in the open field.  The question for Wolfe becomes his offensive line.  Oh man, there’s always bad news, isn’t there.  Well, kind of. 

2nd and Seven – …the bad news, kind of – Let’s just put the offensive line situation into perspective for the Huskies this fall.  They had more linemen make first team All-MAC than they have returning to DeKalb in 2006.  Last year, the Huskies had Brian Van Acker, Doug Free and Ben Lueck all make first team All-MAC, helping lead Wolfe to 1,580 yards, but, of the trio, only Free returns this season.  So, the news could be worse for the Huskies, but Free does return to his left tackle spot, an area that is crucial with a guy like Wolfe carrying the ball 30 times a game.  Free is a guy who has freakish athletic ability for a 300 pounder and some think he was the best of the three honored Husky linemen anyway.  The other tackle spot belongs to returning starter Jon Brost, so the perimeter is taken care of, but the interior is a major question mark.  Okay, so bad news is relative, considering how good the NIU offensive line was last year, but it will put a bit of pressure on Wolfe to produce between the tackles without guys like Van Acker and Lueck leading the way.

3rd and Three – Seeing double – When MAC QBs look out on the perimeter to evaluate the defensive scheme their seeing, they probably think they’re seeing double.  Those two CBs look eerily similar.  Well, Alvah Hansbro and Adriel Hansbro are identical twins and have started for three years in the Husky secondary.  However, the Huskies gave up 222 yards per game through the air and some think that the Huskies’ young backups, Melvin Rice and Bradley Pruitt, may push them for significant playing time this fall.  The defense has some holes, and on the surface, it wouldn’t seem that corner was one of them, but Rice and Pruitt can fly and that ability to run could open up the defensive playbook for the Huskies.  However, starting experience, game experience under the lights is invaluable and that’s what the Hasbro twins possess.  Keep an eye on who mans the corner throughout the season, as they’ll be under pressure all season long. 

4th and One – Ha, we get no respect – It’s DeKalb, Illinois.  They play in the MAC.  Think of whatever excuse you can think of as it relates to the Northern Illinois, it’s no reason to give the Huskies the Rodney Dangerfield treatment.  The Huskies have won a total of 33 games over the last four years, an average of just over eight games per year.  They’ve played in one bowl game over that same time span.  One.  It takes only six wins to get to a bowl game, right?  Okay, just checking.  Now, take, say, a team like UCLA who has won 28 games over the same time frame and gone to four straight bowl games.  Florida won 31 in that time frame and went to four bowl games, three New Year’s Day games at that.  Now, you could argue “better competition” if that’s your prerogative, but it’s a weak argument.  Let’s go this way, how about in their own conference - Toledo has won one more game than NIU over those same four years and played in three bowl games.  However, NIU beat Toledo head-to-head last year, won the MAC West, lost a heartbreaker to Akron in the MAC championship game and still sat at home in December (and guess who went to a bowl game?  Toledo).  Someone needs to wake up and experience a team that plays hard, will mix it up on the lines and overall just plays the game very well.  They should’ve been rewarded for their efforts, plain and simple.

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