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2008 Northern Illinois Preview - Offense
Northern Ilinois RB Justin Anderson
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Northern Illinois Husky Offense
Preview 2008 - Offense
2008 NIU Offense
2008 NIU Defense
2008 NIU Depth
2007 CFN NIU Preview
2006 CFN NIU Preview
What you need to know: The
offense isn't going to change up too much right away under
offensive coordinator Matt Linegrover, but that's only because
of the personnel. If Dan Nicholson is at quarterback, there will
be an attempt at balance with a big passing game to go along
with Justin Anderson and the ground game. However, the coaching
staff wants to run the spread and get the quarterback moving,
and that's where redshirt freshman Chandler Harnish and DeMarcus
Grady could step in and take over. The line struggled in run
blocking last year, but it should be far better with four good
starters, led by RT Jon Brost and C Eddie Adamski, and good
depth. Britt Davis and Matt Simon will be two strong, veteran
receivers once their shoulders heal up.
Passing: Dan Nicholson
151-238, 1,633 yds, 9 TD, 14 INT
Rushing: Justin Anderson
274 carries, 1,245 yds, 8 TD
Receiving: Matt Simon
52 catches, 969 yds, 5 TD
Star of the offense: Junior RB Justin Anderson
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior QB
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman OT Adam Kiel
Best pro prospect: Junior OT Jon Brost
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Anderson, 2) Brost, 3)
C Eddie Adamski
Strength of the offense: Experience, offensive line
Weakness of the offense:
is a veteran who can bridge the gap between where the program
was and where it needs to be. The 6-2, 192-pound Nicholson
struggled throwing for 1,633 yards with nine touchdown passes
and 14 interceptions, but he didn't get a whole bunch of help
with all the injuries on both sides of the ball. Without the
mobility the new coaches would like to have a rushing threat
under center, Nicholson has to be far more consistent and far
more accurate once he gets back healthy this fall from a
Projected Starter: While he'll have to earn his job back
under the new coaching staff, senior Dan Nicholson
Projected Top Reserve: 6-2, 199-pound junior Ryan
Morris is a former walk-on with enough experience to step in
if needed. He has been a good scout teamer, but he struggled
when he was thrown into the mix completing 53% of his throws for
727 yards and four touchdowns and five interceptions. He doesn't
have a big arm and he's not a runner.
Most impressive this spring was 6-3, 211-pound redshirt freshman
Chandler Harnish. While he doesn't have any experience,
and will have to keep battling to be in the hunt for the
starting job, he showed a shocking command of the offense and
played like a seasoned veteran until a lousy spring game
performance. Extremely athletic, he can do a little bit of
everything well. He could be too good not to see time early on.
A fourth option in the race to start the off-season, the 6-1,
196-pound redshirt freshman DeMarcus Grady has the
athleticism and running ability to add the extra dimension to
the attack the coaching staff is looking for. He tore off a long
touchdown run in the spring game showing flash and speed to
demand a few plays here and there to keep defenses on their
Watch Out For ... a quarterback controversy all
summer. If spring ball didn't cloud the issue enough, true
freshman Brandon Rogers will be part of the debate when
he gets to school. The new coaching staff might go with a few
different options, or it might go in a new direction to start a
Strength: Options. At the very least, the offense can go in
several different directions. There can be situational changes,
like possibly bringing in Grady from time to time if a pure
passer like Nicholson is the starter. There could be some
juggling as the season goes on.
Weakness: Production. Nicholson showed immense promise as a
freshman, and that has been it. Morris is a backup; that's it.
Harnish and Grady are interesting prospects, but they're
redshirt freshman. In other words, there isn't a sure thing in
Outlook: The first really big task of the new
coaching staff is to figure out a pecking order among the
quarterbacks. The job is there for the taking if Nicholson isn't
sharp after coming back from his shoulder problem. Harnish and
Grady will see time in some way, and if one of them steps up his
game this summer, they might be the opening day starter.
Projected Starters: 5-11, 222-pound unior Justin
Anderson became the next great NIU tailback with a stunning
1,245-yard, eight touchdown season showing a great combination
of power and speed. The former defensive back needs a little
seasoning a few years ago, and now he's on the verge of being
truly special. The rest of the offense struggled, but with five
straight 100-yard performances, and a 39-carry, 140-yard day at
Navy, Anderson did all he could. Now only was he a workhorse,
but he also finished second on the team in receptions with 45
grabs for 263 yards and three scores. He suffered a knee injury
in the season finale, but he's fine.
Projected Top Reserve: With Anderson hurting,
senior Montell Clanton will be counted on more after
running just 26 times for 140 yards and catching four passes for
25 yards before suffering a torn ACL in the second game of the
year. A quick 5-9, 185-pound speedster, he can be used in a
variety of ways, primarily on the outside, to get him on the
5-10, 189-pound sophomore Chad Spann
has superior speed and
could be the team's best athlete. He got a little work last year
with 61 yards on 11 carries, and now he'll be even more a part
of the attack with too much home run hitting potential to not
get the ball more often.
Sophomore David Bryant moved over from linebacker to
running back and finished second on the team with 245 yards on
29 carries. A tough runner for a 5-10, 202-pounder, he can work
inside or out and will be part of the rotation, especially in
Watch Out For ... yet another 1,000-yard runner.
NIU has gone nine straight seasons with one, and as long as
Anderson stays healthy, it'll be ten in a row. However, there's
a chance his workload could diminish with so many good options
to play around with.
Strength: Options. The Huskies have Anderson, who's a sure-thing
when healthy, but after a good spring, they also know they can
count on Spann and Bryant to handle more of the workload. If
Clanton can stay healthy, he'll be a key piece of the puzzle.
Weakness: Can Anderson stay healthy? If not, the running game
will have to rely on Bryant for power, and he might not
necessarily be the ideal workhorse back. There will be a
fullback involved from time to time, and the coaching staff
might try to create a short yardage runner to help out Anderson.
Outlook: With all the good, quick backs, and with
more rushing production expected from at least one of the
quarterback options, there's a chance the Huskies could hit the
2,000-yard mark after gaining 1,626 yards last season. Anderson
is a workhorse to revolve the entire offense around, and now he
won't have to handle the ball 319 times with more options to
spread the wealth around. Clanton could become a dangerous back
when he's healthy, while Spann and Bryant can handle carrying
the ground game from time to time.
Projected Starters: Senior Britt Davis is one of
the team leaders and a reliable target over the last three
seasons with 132 career catches for 1,563 yards and eight
touchdowns. The 6-2, 205-pound former star quarterback has
excellent speed and quickness with precise route running ability
and great hands. He missed time last year hurt causing him to
finish third on the team in receiving, and he never had a big
breakout game. While he's not necessarily a scorer, he's as
reliable as they come on big passes.
Senior Matt Simon was one of the few players able to stay
healthy for most of the season, and he came through big-time
catching 52 passes for 969 yards and five touchdowns averaging
18.6 yards per grab.
He has good 6-2, 205-pound size and good deep speed highlighted
by a 92-yard touchdown against Central Michigan. He has had
injury issues in the past with a broken ankle a few years ago,
and now he's coming off shoulder surgery that kept him out of
Working in the three-wide set at the V will be 6-0, 190-pound
senior Greg Turner, who finished fourth on the team with
21 catches for 222 yards and a touchdown. Mostly a possession
receiver, he's a good route runner and a trusted veteran when
healthy. He started off the season well, got banged up, and
wasn't right the rest of the way.
O6-4, 250-pound junior Reed Cunningham will take over at
tight end after an injury plagued season. He played seven games
and caught 18 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown, and while
he'll be a regular part of the passing game, he'll also be a key
Projected Top Reserves: Marcus Perez has
the talent to be a starter and the experience to be a vital part
of the attack, but he has to get healthy again after suffering a
shoulder injury. He only played in five games and made eight
catches for 89 yards, and when he's back the 5-11, 180-pounder
will play behind Davis at the X.
Ready to make more of an impact will be sophomore Landon Cox,
a 6-3, 203-pound presence on the inside. He only made two
catches in 19 games, but he has the size to be a factor behind
Simon at the Z.
The biggest head turner this spring was freshman Chase Mejia
who was one of the first recruits of the Kill era and was
able to get to school early to show what he could do. He's only
5-8 and 10 pounds, but he's a quick target with good hands. He
can also grow into a role as a kick and punt returner.
Filling in when injuries struck at tight end was sophomore
Bryan Beckner. The 6-4, 255-pounder only caught one pass for
nine yards and was used mostly as a blocker. While he'll have to
fight to get playing time, at least he's now experienced.
Watch Out For ... Mejia. While he's not going to
be a number one target, he showed that he deserves playing time
right away with an impressive off-season. He has all the makings
of a dangerous inside receiver who could eventually become a key
playmaker as the year wears on.
Strength: Experience. Once everyone is healthy, NIU will have
three strong veterans in Davis, Simon and Perez to work with.
Throw in Turner and the Huskies have a reliable corps that can
do a little of everything well.
Weakness: Tight end. Beckner isn't a receiving option, David
Koronkiewicz is hurt, and Cunningham is a nice target, but
isn't going to scare anyone. The tight ends will be fine, but
Outlook: The corps came through with a decent
season even when everything was collapsing. Simon turned into a
surprising deep ball playmaker and Davis, Turner and Cunningham
had solid years. Including running back Justin Anderson, six of
the top seven pass catchers return and they can all play. This
won't be the MAC's best group of receivers, but it'll be among
the most reliable.
Projected Starters: The one big hole to fill is at left
tackle where redshirt freshman Trevor Olson will take over for
Chris Acevedo. At 6-6 and 278 pounds, Olson isn't a huge blocker, and
he'll have to fight to hold on to the job coming out of spring ball, but
he's quick and talented. The former high school hockey player can move.
Olson will he helped by having 6-6, 330-pound junior Kevin Skatrud
at left guard. It took just a few games for Skatrud to take over the
starting job, and he was a solid producer the rest of the year turning
into a big run blocker. One of the team's biggest players, he's also a
decent pass blocker.
Junior Eddie Adamski is the leader of the line and one of the
team's better offensive players. At 6-5 and 304 pounds, he's big for a
MAC center with good technique and excellent athleticism. He's great at
heading up the line and should be in for all-star honors.
Adamski might be the leader of the front five, but junior Jon Brost
is the rock. The 6-6, 303-pound right tackle has 35 starts under his
belt and he turned into the team's best lineman last year. It took a
little bit, but ha has grown into an excellent pass blocker who almost
never gets beaten for a sack. He's also a smart, tough blocker for the
running game. He never makes a mistake.
Returning again at right guard is 6-2, 320-pound junior Jason
Onyebuagu, a good run blocker who came through as a reliable 12-game
starter. He had injury problems last year with a leg issue, but he still
played almost every snap of every game and god better and better as the
year went on. Versatile, he can play center if needed. He even caught a
deflected pass against Eastern Michigan that turned out to be a critical
drive saver in the win.
Projected Top Reserves: Pushing extremely hard for
the starting left tackle job is 6-6, 295-pound redshirt freshman Adam
Kiel. After bulking up over the last year, 2007's big recruit is
looking like the real deal as a former high school tight end has kept
his athleticism. Sooner than later he'll be a key piece of the line's
Able to fill in and start at either guard spot is 6-4, 312-pound junior
Tim Mayerbock. A starter for four games last year, he has the
size and has been good for the ground game, but he's average in pass
protection. He was never right after getting hurt early on, and while he
played over the second half of the year, he gave way to Skatrud at left
Watch Out For ... Kiel. Olson has the left tackle
job coming out of spring ball, but it's Kiel who has the next level
upside and the potential to be special.
Strength: Experience. The combination of young players and
injury problems last year means this season's front five is loaded with
veterans. Having four starters back is a plus, but there's good depth
and the one open spot, left tackle, could turn out to be the front
five's best spot.
Weakness: Run blocking?! Northern Illinois? The line should be
better at plowing open holes, but it struggled to do it on a consistent
basis last year even though Anderson had a huge season. There's no
reason this group can't pave the way for more than 136 yards per game.
Outlook: The Huskie line has been given the
benefit of the doubt on reputation over the past two seasons, but now it
should be on its way to being a major factor again. With four starter
returning, a slew of depth, and big-time talents in Olson and Kiel at
left tackle, there's reason to be excited.