#59 Northern Illinois Football Preview

Northern Illinois Huskies

Overall Rank: #59
#1 MAC West Conference

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2010 Record: (11-3, 7-1)
2010 Bowl: Humanitarian Bowl vs. Fresno State (40-17 W)
Coach: Dave Doeren (0-0 at NIU, 0-0 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Matt Canada
Defensive Coordinator: Jay Niemann

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Chandler Harnish, QB, 836 yards
Passing: Chandler Harnish, QB, 2,530 yards
Receiving: Willie Clark, WR, 602 yards
Tackles: Tommy Davis, FS, 73
Sacks: Sean Progar, DE, 4
Interceptions: Tyrone Clark, LB, 4
Other Key Returnees: WR Nathan Palmer, WR Martel Moore, LT Trevor Olson, C Scott Wedige, CB Rashaan Melvin, WLB Pat Schiller

Key Losses: RB Chad Spann, TE Jason Schepler, WR Landon Cox, DT DJ Pirkle, DT Jake Coffman, SLB Alex Kube, CB Chris Smith, SS Mike Sobol, LS Nolan Owen

After winning 11 games last season, the Huskies welcome a new coach in Dave Doeren, the architect of the very powerful running game and dominant offensive line play at the University of Wisconsin. Former coach Jerry Kill left plenty of talent on the offensive side of the football to keep the 2010 run of consistency for Northern Illinois going this fall.

Chandler Harnish, returning as the veteran field general, is a great way for a new coach to begin his tenure. The Huskies should be very prolific offensively and be able to win shootouts if necessary early on in the season while the defense gains experience as a ​whole. Also, the return of five starters along the offensive line is going to be critical and ease the transition in the running game as Northern Illinois is replacing Chad Spann who is a two time 1,000 yard rusher for the Huskies. Defensively, Sean Progar, a first team All-MAC selection in 2010, brings plenty of experience to a young defense that will be very reliant on his leadership in 2011. In the kicking game, Tommy Davis averaged 24.0 yards per return last year helping Northern Illinois pick up plenty of hidden yardage thus assisting the offense with field position.  

Coach Dave Doeren and defensive coordinator Jay Niemann have their work cut out for them with only two returning starters. How quickly the nine new starters come together to form the necessary chemistry to be the traditional opportunistic defense that Northern Illinois fans come to know will be critical to this team’s chances of succeeding right off the bat in 2011.  Also, Chandler Harnish is going to need to stay healthy just as he did in 2010.  Depth at the quarterback position is a concern as projected backup Jordan Lynch has seen limited action so far in his career. In the kicking game, finding stability at punter is going to be a point of emphasis as leading candidate Ryan Neir, a junior, has not seen any game action in his career.

The Bottom Line:
After winning 11 games a year ago, and starting basically a brand new defense, the nonconference schedule is definitely very challenging with Army and Kansas on the road and a neutral site game against Coach Dave Doeren’s former Wisconsin squad at Soldier Field in Chicago. This defense is going to have to gel in a hurry to take the pressure off of Chandler Harnish and what should be another high flying Huskie offense. The road trip to Toledo on a Tuesday night appears to be one of the biggest potential roadblocks for a return to the MAC Championship game in Detroit come the first weekend in December.

Projected Bowl: GoDaddy.Com Bowl

2010 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 260.4 (7th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 189.6 (85, 7)
Total Offense: 450.0(19, 1)
Scoring Offense: 38.0 (12, 1)
Rushing Defense: 126.5 (85, 7)
Pass Defense: 208.2 (44, 4)
Total Defense: 334.7 (26, 3)
Scoring Defense: 18.9 (14, 1)
Turnover Margin: +0.79 (26, 3)
Sacks: 2.14 (53, 5)
​Sacks Allowed: 0.93 (14, 1)

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