Preview 2009 - Offense
2009 NIU Offense
2009 NIU Defense
2009 NIU Depth
2008 NIU Preview
2007 NIU Preview
2006 NIU Preview
What you need to know:
The offense was better at running the ball, thanks to
mobile quarterbacks, and now the hope is to get more out of the
running backs. QB Chandler Harnish was asked to do a little too
much, leading the team in rushing along with being the star
passer, and while he's the leader of the offense, the goal is to
take the pressure off. The receiving corps needs to find a top
target and has to be more productive, but there are good options
to develop. The line should be fantastic with three good
starters returning and several good options for the right side.
Consistency and scoring pop will be needed after never getting
the same good game twice in a row.
Passing: Chandler Harnish
118-211, 1,528 yds, 8 TD, 9 INT
Rushing: Chandler Harnish
118 carries, 539 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Reed Cunningham
22 catches, 252 yds, 3 TD
Star of the offense:
Sophomore QB Chandler Harnish
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore WR
Unsung star on the rise: Senior OG Jason Onyebuagu
Best pro prospect: Senior C Eddie Adamski
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Harnish, 2) Adamski, 3)
RB Me'co Brown
Strength of the offense: Line, Quarterback
Weakness of the offense: No. 1 Receiver, Workhorse RB
Sophomore Chandler Harnish
was thrown into the mix early on as a redshirt freshman and
bombed away for 326 yards and two touchdowns in the
heartbreaking opening day loss to Minnesota. While he missed a
little time banged up, He ended up showing tremendous upside
completing 56% of his passes for 1,528 yards with eight
touchdowns, but he had problems with interceptions throwing
nine, with all of them coming in the final six games. The 6-2,
210-pound sophomore is more like a seasoned veteran rather than
just a young, emerging leader. Extremely athletic, he ended up
leading the team with 539 rushing yards and four touchdowns,
highlighted by a 113-yard day against Bowling Green and a
117-yard, two-score day against Kent State.
Projected Top Reserve:
Sophomore DeMarcus Grady
is a strong all-around athlete who has seen enough time to be a
good No. 2 option. He stepped in and played in six games
completing 58% of his passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns,
and he ran for 188 yards and three scores. He has decent 6-1,
200-pound size and can crank out big runs in bunches if he's
thrown into the fire again.
Watch Out For ... Harnish to run less. While the
coaching staff doesn't want to totally stifle the sophomore's
running skills, the goal is to get more out of the running backs
to carry the load. If Harnish takes too much of a pounding,
Grady isn't a bad option, but the running backs will take care
of the balance.
Strength: Mobility. Harnish was great when everything broke down
in the backfield and was able to run to keep the chains moving.
Grady is an even more dangerous runner and will scare defensive
coordinators as an X factor going into every game.
Weakness: Interceptions. Harnish threw way too many over the
second half of last year. The team only threw 12 interceptions
total, but there were only 13 touchdown passes and with a brand
new receiving corps to deal with, the quarterbacks will have to
Outlook: The coaching staff admitted to heaping
too much work upon Harnish, but it turned out to be a good move
as he's now seasoned and ready to be the leader and star over
the next few years. Grady is a great second option who'll see
time here and there just to throw a curve ball into the
Meco Brown ended up being
the team's leading running back, but he he only ran for 510
yards with two touchdowns and saw his workload drop to next to
nothing over the final five games. The 5-7, 180-pound true
sophomore ran for 111 yards and a score against Eastern Michigan
and 123 yards against Miami University, but he struggled late.
Extremely quick, he was strong on kickoff returns averaging 21.4
yards per game.
Projected Top Reserve: Combining forces at
tailback will be junior Chad Spann, a 5-9,
195-pound speedster who might be the team's best athlete. He led
the team with eight touchdowns and finished third on the team
with 429 rushing yards, but he needs to do a lot more. With too
much speed and quickness to ignore, he has too much home run
hitting potential to not become a bigger factor.
Sophomore Ricky Crider got a little bit of work
rushing for 208 yards and a score in his limited work. Another
smallish, quick NIU back, the 5-9, 190-pounder ran for 55 yards
against Navy and 49 yards against Kent State, and now he'll be a
bigger part of the rotation while also serving as a kickoff
returner after averaging 28 yards per try with a 75-yarder
against Ball State.
Is Justin Anderson ready to be back in the mix?
The star of 2007 with 1,245 yards and eight touchdowns, he
showed off a tremendous combination of speed and power for a
losing team that couldn't seem to do anything right. He also
caught 45 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns. The 5-11,
222-pound senior suffered a knee injury late in 2007 and he
hasn't been the same since. He was out for most of spring ball
this year with a foot injury.
Working again as a fullback, when the team uses on, will be
sophomore Kyle Skarb, a 6-2, 220-pound blocker
who started five times before getting hurt and being limited
over the second half of the year. He only caught eight passes
but they went for 72 yards and two touchdowns, and now he'll be
even more a part of the attack while continuing to try to pave
the way for the ground game.
Watch Out For ...
more from the running backs. A lot more. There was a decent
rotation of backs, but there wasn't enough overall production
from the backfield. It all forced the quarterbacks to do more
for the ground game, but the backs will be the runners now and
the quarterbacks will spend more time dealing with the passing
Strength: Quickness. Brown and Crider can cut on a dime and
should be able to crank out yards in chunks now that they know
what they're doing. Spann can fly and should be far more
dangerous in the open field.
Weakness: Meaningful production. The running backs were a major
disappointment last season with Anderson never right and no one
stepping up to be the main man. Yes, there are four veteran
backs to work with, and they've all seen time and produced, but
can anyone make the ground game dangerous again?
Outlook: Yes, NIU his the 2,000-yard mark as a
team, rushing for 2,226 yards and 26 touchdowns, but that was
because the quarterbacks combined for more than 700 yards. The
backs are too good and too promising to not be a major plus now
that they'll be counted on more.
The receiving corps desperately needs a
new star to step up and become a No. 1 target, and the hope will
be for Landon Cox to be the one. The 6-3,
215-pound junior started in eight games and took over a job in
the second half of last year finishing with 16 catches for 126
yards and a score. With his size and his experience, he needs to
be the go-to receiver at the inside Z position who keeps the
On the outside
will be Willie Clark, a 6-1, 190-pound
sophomore who made six catches for 79 yards in his limited role.
A high school track star, he'll have no problems stretching the
field, but he has to prove he can be a consistent, reliable
receiver who can be counted on to hit a home run now and then.
Sophomore Jason Schepler was a spot starter and
became a key factor by the end of the year even though he only
caught two passes for 15 yards. At 6-3 and 255 pounds, he's a
blocker with just enough athleticism to step up and become a
mid-range receiver from time to time. Even with his upside, his
job will be to bust things option for the ground game.
Projected Top Reserves:
Lewis will be a starter sooner than later. The 6-3,
210-pounder was one of the stars of spring ball. He has always
had the talent and the upside, but he only caught 11 passes in
his first two seasons and has never lived up to his prep hype
spending most of his time on special teams. After tremendous
offseason, he's expected to be a key player working at the Z
5-11, 185-pound sophomore Nathan Palmer is a
speedster on the outside who averaged a whopping 23.2 yards per
catch helped by a 91-yard play against Minnesota. On the year he
finished with 12 catches for 278 yards and two scores, and now
he should be able to do far more in three and four wide sets. He
missed time last year hurt, but he was able to return for the
Senior Reed Cunningham isn't a game-breaker,
but he was a good, reliable receiver finishing third on team
with a steady 22 catches for 252 yards and three touchdowns. At
6-5 and 245 pounds he's a tall target with good hands and great
route running ability, and while he's not a big blocker, he's
good enough to get by. He'll combine with 6-4, 260-pound junior
Bryan Beckner, a blocker, to play behind
Watch Out For ... Lewis. A tremendous athlete who
has never been able to come close to playing up to his raw
skills, he appeared to put it all together this offseason and he
could be a decent new factor in the equation.
Strength: Deep speed. Clark and Palmer can move, and Cox
and Lewis have good wheels. The passing game averaged 12.1 yards
per catch and should be able to match that and improve the
Weakness: Star power. Marcus Perez and Matt Simon are gone after
catching 68 passes and finishing the season 1-2, respectively.
There are decent prospects and some good veterans coming back,
but Perez and Simon were big play targets who carried the
passing game at times.
Outlook: The receivers need a few big surprises to
emerge. Clark could be one, and Lewis appears to be another,
while the tight ends will likely be relied on to do more. The
coaching staff is going to want to stretch the field more and
will try to get the receivers deep, whether they produce or not.
The star of a very productive, rock-solid line will
once again be Eddie Adamski, a third-team All-MAC
performer who was the leader and quarterback up front for the last few
years. At 6-3 and 280 pounds, he has slimmed down over the last few
years and is better on the move. He doesn't make mistakes and is as
polished as they come.
6-6, 290-pound sophomore Trevor
Olson took over at left tackle and started every game. Tall,
athletic, and talented, the former high school hockey player has great
lateral quickness turning into a fantastic pass protector. He didn't
earn all-star honors, but he will this year. He's good on the move and
he'll keep the quarterbacks clean.
Third-team All-MAC performer
Jason Onyebuagu turned into a nice find at left guard
starting nine games. A strong run blocker, he overcame a leg problem
that bothered him throughout the 2007 season to become a rock.
Versatile, he can play center if needed and he's athletic enough to play
tackle if he absolutely has to. At 6-2 and 305 pounds, the senior brings
nice size to the inside.
Junior Panan Tense
is one of the team's most versatile linemen as the projected
starter at right guard and the No. 2 option at right tackle. He's being
tried out at tackle and could still win the job, but at 6-4 and 300
pounds he's a near-perfectly sized guard option. He only played three
times last year but has a world of upside after being one of the team's
star recruits when he came to DeKalb. He's overdue to produce.
At the moment, Kevin Skatrud will be the starter
at right tackle, but Tense is pushing for the job. Also an option at
guard, the 6-5, 330-pound sophomore started three times last year on the
left side before giving way to Onyebuagu. While it's asking a lot for
Skatrud to be Jon Brost at tackle, he has the size and the upside to be
a fixture if he can be consistent in pass protection.
Projected Top Reserves:
6-5, 285-pound sophomore Joe Pawlak
was a key backup last year and will see time at right guard.
It's possible he'll win the job outright if Tense ends up moving to
tackle, but at the very least he'll be a strong part of the rotation
with phenomenal strength to go along with his little bit of experience.
Sophomore Keith Otis was an all-star recruit who
didn't see any time last year but will now work to be a part of the
rotation at left tackle. At 6-4 and 295 pounds, he has a good frame and
he's a finisher of a run blocker, but he'll mostly star in pass
protection with good athleticism and long arms.
Watch Out For ... Tense. He has yet to do anything
in game action, but he's a big all-around blocker who'll be a fixture up
front for the next two years somewhere. He's a better guard than a
tackle, but if he's lights-out on the outside there will be a major
Strength: Skill and production. There weren't any superstars on
last year's line but it turned out to be the steadiest in the MAC. There
are good replacements for the lost starters to go along with three great
veterans to work around.
Weakness: Run blocking. It's been a problem for the last few
years, even if the stats don't necessarily show it. Yes, the Huskies
finished third in the MAC and 36th in the nation in rushing averaging
171 yards per game, but that was partly due to the mobility of the
quarterbacks and the lack of sacks allowed to take net yards away. The
line needs to be a bit more consistent when the running backs are
carrying the ball.
Outlook: After a down year in 2007, the line came
back with a fantastic season doing a fantastic job in pass protection
while being better for the ground game. Now it could be better even
after losing two starters. The left side will be a rock, and Adamski
will be one of the MAC's best centers, but the right side will see two
big battles throughout the fall. Even so, the situation is good at all