What you need to know ...
The nation's 16th ranked offense last season won't be
quite as explosive without top receivers Sam Hurd and Shatone Powers,
and the ground game might not be the same after losing a few star
linemen, but there's more than enough talent returning to hang some big
numbers on the board. Garrett Wolfe is one of the nation's best running
backs and will be the focal point of the attack. The quarterback
situation is tremendous with Phil Horvath and Dan Nicholson each good
enough to win All-MAC honors. Receiver Britt Davis is a rising star who
has to blow up to open things up for Wolfe and the ground game. The
tackles are the MAC's best with future NFLer Doug Free on the left side
and sophomore Jon Brost on the other.
Passing: Phil Horvath
168-238, 2,001 yds, 18 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Garrett Wolfe
242 carries, 1,580 yds, 16 TD
Receiving: Britt Davis
42 catches, 441 yds, 3 TD
Star of the offense: Senior RB Garrett Wolfe
Player that has to step up and become a star: Redshirt
freshman C Eddie Adamski
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Britt Davis
Best pro prospect: Senior OT Doug Free
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Wolfe, 2) Free, 3) QB
Strength of the offense: Tackle, quarterback
Weakness of the offense:
Proven wide receivers
It's the best situation in the MAC with two bona fide
number one quarterbacks in Phil Horvath and Dan Nicholson. The
competition is supposedly open for the starting job though the
fall, but it'll be a shock if Horvath, the nation's leader in
completion percentage before going down with a broken arm, isn't
the main man when the Ohio State game comes around. Ryan Morris
will be the emergency quarterback, but top recruit Billy Lowe
will likely be the number three man sooner than later.
The key to the unit: Settle on a number one
quarterback and don't look back. Redshirting Billy Lowe will be
the goal meaning Ryan Morris has to handle himself well in
Quarterback Rating: 7.5
- Phil Horvath, Sr. - 168-238, 71%, 2,001 yds, 18 TD, 8
INT, 34 carries, 21 yds, 1 TD
Horvath turned out to be one of the surprises of the 2005 MAC
season going from a decent prospect to a razor sharp, deadly
accurate downfield bomber completing 71% of his throws. He's a
big, smart quarterback with good enough mobility to not be a
liability when things break down, and more than anything else,
he has become accurate. The eight interceptions in nine games
might be a bit of a concern if he was a dink and dunk passer;
most of those picks when he was trying to make something big
happen. He's healthy again after breaking his arm late last
- Dan Nicholson, Soph. - 59-95, 62%, 831 yds, 6 TD, 2
The passing game was supposed to go into the tank when Phil
Horvath went down late last year, but Nicholson saved the day
throwing for 320 yards against Central Michigan and proving to
be more than solid in the final three games. He's not nearly as
mobile as Horvath and doesn't have the same arm, but he's a
gamer and is good enough to push for the number one job.
- Ryan Morris, RFr.
The clear number three man in the mix, the former walk-on has
made his impact so far on the scout team. He'll have to shine
when he get the chance with star recruit Billy Lowe coming in
and looking like the potential main man for the future.
It's all about keeping Garrett Wolfe fresh. While Wolfe
might be one of the toughest backs in the country, he wore down
last year with knee and shoulder injuries. It's too tempting not
to get him the ball 30 times a game, but the backups need to be
a steady part of the offense early on. With Adrian Davis and A.J.
Harris gone, it'll be up to the speedy Montrell Clenson and the
big Cas Prime to be effective enough to keep things rolling when
No. 1 is getting a rest.
The key to the unit: Know when to say when with
Garrett Wolfe. He shouldn't carry the ball any more than he
absolutely has to.
Running Back Rating: 8.5
- Garrett Wolfe, Sr. - 242 carries, 1,580 yds, 6.5 ypc,
16 TD, 20 catches, 222 yds, 11.1 ypc, 1 TD
One of the best backs in college football, the diminutive 5-7,
173-pound senior is quick enough to zip around defenders and
strong enough to power his way over bigger ones. He's one of the
strongest pound for pound players in the game to go along with
phenomenal instincts and a burst of speed when he gets into the
clear; he's simply one of the game's most dynamic backs. What
gets lost is his workhorse ability. He carried the ball 107
times over the final three games of the year, including the MAC
title game against Akron, for 724 yards and nine touchdowns. Had
he not suffered a knee injury midway through the season forcing
him to miss three games, he likely would've been a lock for
2,000 yards and well over 20 touchdowns. While not used all that
often as a receiver, he has nice hands.
- Montell Clanton, Soph. - 21 carries, 102 yds, 4.9
He's not Garrett Wolfe, but the 5-9, 177-pound sophomore is in
the same mold as a small, quick, shifty runner who can make
plays happen from out of nowhere. He saw a little bit of time
last season finishing fourth on the team in rushing.
- Cas Prime, Jr. - 1 carry, 8 yds
Mostly a special teamer, the 6-1, 229-pound junior will add more
power to the mix. He missed all of 2004 with a knee injury but
came back to get his feet wet in practices. Now he'll be the
third man in the mix.
- Justin Anderson, RFr.
Part running back, part defensive back, Anderson will be a
full-time tailback this season adding a mix of quickness and
size as the fourth back in the rotation.
The Huskies have a little bit of work to do losing Sam Hurd
and Shatone Powers, who combined to catch 108 passes for 1,598
yards and 16 touchdowns. Britt Davis is a rising superstar who
should take over for the lost production of Hurd, but there's
still a question about the number two receiver needing Jarret
Carter, Marcus Perez, and/or Matt Simon to quickly emerge. There
are plenty of options to play around with among the tight ends
starting with All-MAC candidate Jake Nordin and brining in
Brandon Davis and David Koronkiwicz to block.
The key to the unit: Britt Davis has to be better than
advertised and Marcus Perez has to convert his big-time speed
Receiver Rating: 5.5
- Jarret Carter, Sr. - 5 catches, 65 yds, 13 ypc
A lanky, physical 6-3 and 200 pounds, Carter saw a little bit of
work in the rotation last season and now looks to finally make a
big impact. The Huskie passing attack will stretch the field
with him as much as possible.
- Britt Davis, Soph.- 42 catches, 441 yds, 10.5 ypc, 3 TD
Called by head coach Joe Novak "one of the best receivers
he's ever had," Davis is a speedy 6-2 target who turned
into a steady number three receiver as a redshirt freshman. Now
he's the number one target after coming to NIU as a dangerous
quarterback. "Baby Vick" should earn All-MAC honors if he can
perform like Sam Hurd was able to last year.
- Marcus Perez, Soph.
The return of Perez after academic problems gives the offense
even more speed. He caught ten passes for 168 yards in 2004 and
was a deadly kickoff returner.
- Tight end Jake Nordin, Sr. - 26 catches, 266 yds, 10.2
ypc, 1 TD
Used as the main receiver in two tight end sets, the 6-3,
258-pound Nordin picked up second team All-MAC honors last year
and should be an even bigger star this season. With great hands
and nice route running ability, he finished fourth on the team
in receiving. He's also a next-level caliber blocker.
- Tight end Brandon Davis, Jr. - 3 catches, 48 yds,
16 ypc, 2 TD
More of a blocking tight end than a receiver, the 6-4, 261-pound
junior has been great for the ground game and effective when he
has gotten the ball his way. He caught a 40-yard touchdown pass
against Akron and a six-yard scoring pass against Kent State.
- Matt Simon, Soph.
Back after missing last year with a broken ankle, the 6-2,
195-pound sophomore will push for time behind Britt Davis on the
outside. He's an athletic receiver who should see plenty of
action in four-wide sets.
- Greg Turner, Soph. - 1 catch, 15 yds
The 6-0, 180-pound sophomore isn't going to make many big plays
behind Britt Davis at flanker, but he's expected to grow into a
reliable possession receiver.
- Tight end David Koronkiewicz, Soph. - 3 catches, 42 yds,
The 6-3, 253-pound sophomore is the tight end of the
future. He saw a little bit of action in six games and will
mostly be used this year as a blocker.
NIU is great at putting together top offensive lines, and
this year will need to be no exception with some patching to do losing
center Brian Van Acker and guards Ben Lueck and Jake Ebenhoch.
Fortunately, top pro prospect Doug Free and rising star John Brost
should be the MAC's best tackle tandem, while Matt Rogers is back in the
mix after missing all of last year due to academic issues; he'll move
from tackle to guard. The big adjustment will be at center where Eddie
Adamski has to replace the 24 starts of Van Acker.
The key to the unit: The freshmen and redshirt
freshmen had better be ready right away to provide quality depth. The
line could be in big trouble early on if injuries strike.
Offensive Line Rating: 6.5
- OT Doug Free, Sr.
The rest of the college football world has finally starting to recognize
how good the 6-7, 302-pound senior is. Free will be a ten-year NFL cog
and an early first day draft pick next year thanks to his freakish
combination of tight end speed and defensive tackle strength. The
next-level scouts would probably like to see him add another 15 pounds
to his relatively lanky frame, but that's nitpicking. It'll be his quickness and
athleticism that gets him the big payday.
- OG Chris Acevedo, Jr.
After starting out as a backup tackle, the 6-5, 304-pound junior will
move to left guard. He's athletic for his size and should benefit from
playing next to Doug Free.
- C Eddie Adamski, RFr.
It'll be up to the 265-pound redshirt freshman to take over for two-time
All-MAC performer Brian Van Acker in the middle. Adamski is a great
athlete who should be great on the move.
- OG Matt Rogers, Sr.
Rogers is a more natural tackle at 277 pounds but can be an effective
guard. He missed all of last year with academic issues, and his return
is a huge boost up front. With the emergence of Jon Brost, the 277-pound
Rogers will start at right guard.
- OT Jon Brost, Soph.
Brost originally started out his career as a guard but quickly move to
tackle where he became an excellent starter showing next-level
athleticism. At 6-6 and 296 pounds, he could stand to add a little more
weight over the next few seasons, but his technique is nearly flawless
for a young player.
- G Matt Biondi, Jr.
A huge blocker with a little bit of experience, the 6-5, 335-pound
junior is the team's biggest lineman and should be a major factor in the
rotation behind Chris Acevedo on the left side.
- G Ryan Skatrud, RFr.
One of the biggest players on the line at 6-6 and 314 pounds, the
redshirt freshman was originally tried out at tackle this spring before
being moved to guard behind Matt Rogers on the right side.