#63 Northern Illinois Football 2016 Preview

Northern Illinois Huskies
Overall Rank: #63
#2 Mid-American
Northern Illinois continued its run as one of the top programs in the MAC as they appeared in their sixth consecutive conference title game. However, the Huskies did not finish the season the way they wanted to at all. Northern Illinois was blown out by Bowling Green in the MAC Championship game and Boise State in the Poinsettia Bowl to finish the season at 8-6. If the Huskies can have a healthier 2016 season than last year’s nightmare, it will allow them to have a legit shot to win nine games.
2015 Record: 8-6, 6-2
2015 Bowl: Poinsettia Bowl vs. Boise State (L 7-55)
Coach: Rod Carey (31-12 at Northern Illinois, 31-12 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Uremovich
Defensive Coordinator: Kevin Kane
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Joel Bouagnon, RB, 1,285 yards
Passing: Drew Hare, QB, 1,962 yards
Receiving: Kenny Golladay, WR, 1,129 yards
Tackles: Brandon Mayes, S, 87
Sacks: Ladell Fleming, DE, 3.0
Interceptions: Shawun Lurry, CB, 9
Other Key Returnees: QB Ryan Graham, WR Aregero Turner, WR Chad Beebe, OL Levon Myers, LB Sean Folliard, LB Renard Cheren
Key Losses: RB Jordan Huff, WR Tommylee Lewis, WR Juwan Brescacin, OL Andrew Ness, OL Aidan Conlon, LB Boomer Mayes, S Marlon Moore, DL Perez Ford
The return of quarterback Drew Hare from an Achilles injury late last season should help jumpstart the Northern Illinois offensive attack. Running Back Joel Bouagnon is back for his senior season and will be looking to improve upon his very impressive 1,269 yards rushing from a year ago. In addition, the wide receiver tandem of Kenny Golladay and Argeros Turner should allow Coach Rod Carey and his offensive staff to keep defenses off balance all season long. Defensively, the linebackers are loaded with plenty of athleticism, which should help the Huskies navigate a very manageable first month of the season. Shawun Lurry is back at cornerback and was one of the top defensive playmakers in all of college football last season with nine interceptions. It will be crucial for Lurry to lead the secondary and make plenty of big plays early on while everyone else gains more confidence and experience.
The offensive line is going to be a concern as Northern Illinois has to replace Aidan Conlan and Andrew Ness. It is going to be very important that two seniors at left tackle and guard, Levon Myers and Josh Ruka, respectively, take control of things right away in fall camp and emerge as the leaders of that unit. If the offensive line can surrender less than two sacks per game, that would be a nice step forward. The cornerback slot opposite of Lurry is a huge concern and it will be up to junior college transfer Jalen Embry to make an immediate impact. Brandon Mayes is back at strong safety and he will need to be able to surpass his 81 tackle performance of a year ago since it will take some time for the secondary and the rest of the defense to come together.
The Bottom Line:
The schedule has some interesting challenges as far as different schemes to prepare for this season. San Diego State and Coach Rocky Long visit DeKalb on September 17th. Defensively, the Aztecs play a 3-3-5 scheme that is very difficult to prepare for in just one week. So it will be crucial for an experienced quarterback like Hare to take care of the football and for the offensive line to play disciplined all game long. A road trip to Western Michigan on October 8th is also going to be very important for Northern Illinois as the winner of that matchup will be in the drivers’ seat in the MAC West. It won't be easy at times for the Huskies but there is too much of a winning culture in place for Northern Illinois to not be in the MAC West title race once November rolls around.
Projected Bowl: Miami Beach Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 174.7 (71st in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 208.4 (81, 11)
Total Offense: 398.5 (66, 7)
Scoring Offense: 31.1 (52, 4)
Rushing Defense: 174.7 (71, 7)
Pass Defense: 243.6 (90, 10)
Total Defense: 418.4 (87, 10)
Scoring Defense: 27.6 (73, 7)
Turnover Margin: 0.14 (57, 6)
Sacks: 1.93 (74, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 2.29 (78, 9)

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