2010 Northern Illinois Preview
Northern Illinois WR Landon Cox
Northern Illinois WR Landon Cox
Posted Jun 19, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Northern Illinois Huskies

Northern Illinois Huskies

Preview 2010

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Jerry Kill
3rd year: 13-13
17th year overall: 117-70
Ten Best Northern Illinois Players
1. RB Chad Spann, Sr.
2. DE Jake Coffman, Sr.
3. SS Tracy Wilson, Jr.
4. DE Sean Progar, Soph.
5. LB Alex Kube, Sr.
6. OT Trevor Olson, Jr.
7. WR Landon Cox, Sr.
8. QB Chandler Harnish, Jr.
9. OG Joe Pawelak, Jr.
10. LB Devon Butler, Soph.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 2 at Iowa State
Sept. 11 North Dakota
Sept. 18 at Illinois
Sept. 25 at Minnesota
Oct. 2 at Akron
Oct. 9 Temple
Oct. 16 Buffalo
Oct. 23 Central Mich
Oct. 30 at Western Mich
Nov. 9 Toledo
Nov. 20 at Ball State
Nov. 26 at Eastern Mich

Northern Illinois has earned the honor of being, arguably, the most successful non-BCS team that hasn't won a thing.

Always among the MAC's best teams, NIU hasn't played for the conference title since 2005, is 0-3 in its recent bowl games (coming after a bowl win over Troy in the Silicon Valley Bowl … oooooh), and with the lone win over a FBS team that finished with a winning record coming late in 2006. Over the last four years, the Huskies are just 1-20 against teams that finished their seasons with a winning record. So while the program has come up with winning records in eight of the last ten years, it's time to do something significant.

Head coach Jerry Kill has done a great job of putting the right pieces together to make NIU a player yet again, and there's a good chance this will be the best team in the MAC. But can everyone play up to their talent and bring a win in a game the team desperately needs to have? Can the Huskies not die late, after losing their final three games last year, four of the last five in 2008, and seven of the last nine in 2007? Can this be the season when a MAC title comes to DeKalb?

The defense led the MAC in yards allowed and the offense led the league in rushing. There's a chance to repeat in both categories with most of the key parts back.

With end Jake Coffman choosing to return to the team, after leaving for a stretch this offseason, the Huskies should have one of the league's best pass rushes yet again. The front four is active and productive, the linebacking corps has a nice mix of talents and athletes, and the secondary has four returning starters and plenty of speed and skill waiting in the wings. While this won't be a rock of a D against the pass, it'll do just enough to be among the league's best again.

The offense will run, run, and run some more with Chad Spann leading a dangerous stable of fast backs working behind an offensive line that welcomes back three starters (but loses two first-team all-stars in center Eddie Adamski and guard Jason Onyebuagu) after being the best in the MAC last year.

The West is far weaker than it's been in years, the team has experience, talent, and depth, and the coaching staff is strong and creative. Now it's time to beat someone with a pulse.

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. Chandler Harnish is the team's best quarterback, but he has a banged up knee that will be a cause for concern all season long. DeMarcus Grady was a great recruit for the program a few years ago, and he's a dual-threat playmaker with the skill to be one of the league's most explosive players. Throw in JUCO transfer Casey Weston, and the Huskies have options. The running game will carry the offense, but the difference between beating the better teams and being just about average again will be the play of the quarterbacks; the passing game needs more.

What to watch for on defense: The linebacker situation. Alex Kube is a trusted veteran and Pat Schiller had a nice season as a regular starter on the outside. They could quickly be overshadowed by Devon Butler in the middle and a few very good, very athletic young prospects who could do even more for the aggressive defense. Victor Jacques, Tyrone Clark, and Cameron Stingily could all start for several MAC teams and will play a big role right away in the rotation. With a good line taking care of most of the problems, the linebacking corps will be able to dominate.

The team will be far better if … it runs for 175 yards or more. The 26-20 win over Ball State was the only time over the last two years the Huskies won when they didn't run for more than 164 yards. The Huskies are 12-0 in their last 26 games when rushing for over 175 yards or more, and 1-13 when they don't. They have to establish the ground game and can't let the passing game try to carry the offense.

The schedule: After the first part of the season, it shapes up well. In the first month there's a home game against North Dakota to go along with non-conference road trips to Iowa State, Illinois and Minnesota, and NIU should be good enough to pull off a win in at least one of the games against BCS teams. There's a key three-game home stretch against Temple, Buffalo and a West showdown against Central Michigan, and NIU has to win all three. Three of the final four games are on the road, but the home game is against the other killer in the West, Toledo. Closing out against Ball State and Eastern Michigan should be a nice break for any team with dreams of playing for the MAC title.

Best offensive player: Junior RB Chad Spann. A good scorer in 2008, running for eight touchdowns with 429 yards, Spann blew up as one of the MAC's best players rushing for 1,038 yards and 19 touchdowns, highlighted by a stretch of four 100 yard days in five games. A machine around the goal line, he scored at least twice in eight games. He doesn't need to carry the whole workload, he only ran 179 times last season, and he should be effective in a rotation.

Best defensive player: Senior DE Jake Coffman. The Marine was one of the MAC's best defenders making 8.5 sacks as one of the team's tireless workers up front. 25 years old, he decided he was done with football and left the team this offseason only to choose to come back to try to be a part of a potentially special defense. He'll be the focus of every blocking scheme, but others on the line, including end Sean Proger, will take away some attention meaning a ten sack season could be possible.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore PK Alex Faust. The quarterback situation will work itself out and the key losses on the offensive line will be filled in a hurry by some good, big blockers. But the kicking game has to be a rock from the start if NIU wants to win all the close games and be in the MAC title hunt. Mike Salerno was a bomber who was consistent from inside the 40, and while Faust has a big leg, he has to match Salerno's consistency.

The season will be a success if … NIU wins the MAC title. With Central Michigan and Toledo at home, and the toughest conference game on the slate, Temple, also a home date, NIU has to take advantage and win the West and finally get over the hump. Anything less than a title will be a major disappointment.

Key game: Oct. 23 vs. Central Michigan. NIU used to own the Chippewas winning nine in a row from 1998 through 2006, and then the West changes. CMU owned the league over the last three seasons winning all three showdowns, and while NIU can still win the division without coming up with a victory in the burgeoning rivalry, a victory might ensure a title.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: Northern Illinois 34 for 270 yards – Opponents 15 for 124 yards
- Fumbles: Opponents 29 (lost 15) on 422 attempts – Northern Illinois 16 (lost 8) on 531 attempts
- Red zone scores: Northern Illinois 44-of-47 (94%) – Opponents 28-of-36 (78%)

- 2010 Northern Illinois Preview | 2010 Northern Illinois Offense
- 2010 Northern Illinois Defense | 2010 Northern Illinois Depth Chart
- Northern Illinois Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006