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Northern Illinois Preview 2006 - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 7, 2006


Northern Illinois Huskies Preview 2006 - NIU Offense

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.

Returning Leaders
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 Phil Horvath
Strength of the offense: Tackle, quarterback
Weakness of the offense:
Proven wide receivers

Quarterbacks
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 practices.
Quarterback Rating: 7.5

Projected Starter
- 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 year.

Top Backups
- Dan Nicholson, Soph. - 59-95, 62%, 831 yds, 6 TD, 2 INT
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.

Running Backs
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

Projected Starters
- 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.

Top Backups
- Montell Clanton, Soph. - 21 carries, 102 yds, 4.9 ypc
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.

Receivers
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 into production.
Receiver Rating: 5.5

Projected Starters
- 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.

Top Backups
- 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, 14. ypc
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.

Offensive Linemen
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 

Projected Starters
- 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.

Top Backups
- 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.

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