#102 Northern Illinois Football 2017 Preview

Northern Illinois Huskies
Overall Rank: #102
#6 Mid-American


Northern Illinois LogoBuy Northern Illinois Football Tickets

Northern Illinois should bounce back from a tough 2016 campaign, but there is still a lot of work to do before the Huskies will be consistently battling for the top spot in the MAC. Last season NIU struggled with injuries and it took a long time before the team found their groove. The Huskies did win four of their last five games and that should give them high hopes heading into 2017.
2016 Record: 5-7, 5-3
2016 Bowl: None
Coach: Rod Carey (36-19 at Northern Illinois, 36-19 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Uremovich
Defensive Coordinator: Kevin Kane
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jordan Huff, RB, 703 yards
Passing: Ryan Graham, QB, 680 yards
Receiving: Christian Blake, WR, 457 yards
Tackles: Brandon Mayes, S, 71
Sacks: Josh Corcoran, DE, 3.0
Interceptions: Shawun Lurry, CB, 3; Mayomi Olootu Jr., CB, 3
Other Key Returnees: OL Max Scharping, S Mycial Allen, LB Bobby Jones IV, DB Daniel Isom
Key Losses: RB Joel Bouagnon, QB Anthony Maddie, WR Kenny Golladay, WR Aregero Turner, OL Levon Meyers, LB Sean Folliard, LB Jamaal Payton, DE Austin Smaha, DE Ladell Fleming
The question at quarterback needs to be answered or NIU will have another down year. Ryan Graham is the most productive returning quarterback. He threw for 680 yards and eight touchdowns with six interceptions. Daniel Santacaterina saw some action last season as well and Anthony Thompson is a talented redshirt freshman. As long as Northern Illinois can find a single quarterback who can stay healthy, the offense will be in decent shape. That is assuming there are some new wide receivers who are ready to step up. The top six pass catchers are gone and that leaves a lot of pressure on Iowa State transfer Jauan Wesley and a handful of young talent. Meanwhile, running back Jordan Huff will have to carry the load. He rushed for 703 yards and five touchdowns as the secondary back behind the departed Joel Bouagnon.
It was the defense that propelled NIU at the end of last season. And this is where the Huskies could take a step back. Most of the front seven is gone and there are some talented players to replace like linemen Ladell Fleming and Austin Smaha and linebackers Sean Folliard and Jamaal Payton. There are serious depth concerns at tackle, but at least there is some experience at linebacker with Alex Schwab and Bobby Jones. The secondary has much more experience. Cornerbacks Shawun Lurry and Mayomi Olootu are both experienced seniors and safeties Mycial Allen and Brandon Mayes are back in the starting lineup. The secondary can hold down the defense, but they will need help from the new look front seven.
The Bottom Line:
The offense will be better and the defense should be worse. The question is how much will one offset the other? If somebody can take hold of the quarterback spot and stay healthy, Northern Illinois should at least get to a bowl game and compete in the MAC. But after last season, that is a big if and the defense is not experienced enough to carry a one-dimensional offense.
Projected Bowl: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 239.8 (16th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 224.0 (73, 10)
Total Offense: 463.8 (27, 3)
Scoring Offense: 30.5 (55, 3)
Rushing Defense: 200.8 (88, 10)
Pass Defense: 250.7 (93, 8)
Total Defense: 451.5 (98, 9)
Scoring Defense: 30.3 (80, 9)
Turnover Margin: -0.08 (75, 6)
Sacks: 1.83 (86, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 0.67 (2, 1)