NIU Looking to Continue its Roll
NIU Huskies had a remarkable 2013 with a Heisman 2nd runner up in Quarterback Jordan Lynch. This however is 2014 and the Quarterback is now gone so they can’t possibly be as good as they were. As they say, that is why you play the game. NIU once again is in the title hunt in the MAC with a 6-2 record. They have a sophomore QB, Drew Hare, who has stepped in and performed well and a stable of running backs to help carry the load. NIU is proving to everyone once again that they are the team to beat and not just a one year wonder. NFLDraftGM was lucky enough to chat with Steve Nitz of the Dekalb County Chronicle and Huskiewire.com to talk a little Huskies football and look a few players that may make it to the next level.
J: What has this first half of the season shown you both offensively and defensively?
SN: Offensively, even though NIU lost Jordan Lynch, the offense has still been strong. Sophomore QB Drew Hare is athletic himself, and leads the team in rushing. He could use some improvement throwing the ball, but that being said he has just one interception this year.
On defense, the Huskies have struggled at times against the run, and haven’t been able to force turnovers. NIU is going to need to improve defensively if it’s going to win the MAC West.
J: Could you name 3 or more players on each side of the ball that have really blossomed this year? What about this season contributed to the blossoming?
SN: Wide Receiver Da’Ron Brown has put together a real nice senior season. I think Hare has put together a nice sophomore campaign, and could be a real good MAC quarterback as a junior and senior. Sophomore tailback Joel Bouagnon has made an impact in both the run and pass game. With NIU graduating two senior tailbacks after the season, look for him to play a huge role in the offense next year. Hare has made an impact in the run game and hasn’t turned the ball over, his throwing will only improve throughout his career.
Defensively, cornerback Paris Logan has done a good job against the opponent’s top wideout. Defensive end Jason Meehan leads NIU with six sacks. After missing most of last season due to an academic issue, linebacker Rasheen Lemon has been able to make an impact.
J: Building on the previous question, do you see players who could potentially play at the next level? Why? What about their attributes and skill sets leads you to think that way?
SN: Safety Dechane Durante hasn’t had the year people expected him to, but he’s a playmaker with the size (6-2, 193) to get an NFL look. He’s been rated as one of the best draft prospects in the MAC. Safety Marlon Moore is another guy who could be a decent NFL prospect, and he has another year to fine his skills. Linebacker Jamaal Bass was expected to be one of, if not the best player on defense, but he’s been hurt pretty much all season. At 5-10, 214, he’s probably an undrafted free agent.
On offense, one player that stands out due to his size is junior wideout Juwan Brescacin (6-4, 224). However, he’ll need to show more in the next year-plus to get a look. Small, speedy wideout Tommylee Lewis is currently hurt, and is going to apply for a fifth year of eligibility. He lacks size (5-7, 159), but with his speed and ability to return kicks he could be an undrafted free agent. Tailback Cameron Stingily is another guy who could get some looks after the season.
J: What is the biggest difference between this years team and last years? Is the talent level any different?
SN: Losing Jordan Lynch at quarterback, who finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting, is going to hurt most teams in the country. The Huskies also lost their best defensive player in safety Jimmie Ward, a first-round pick of the 49ers, as well as defensive tackle Ken Bishop, who’s on the Cowboys’ practice squad.
Those three were going to be tough to replace, so the dropoff NIU has had isn’t surprising. The last two recruiting classes have been good, so you should see that talent infusion the next couple years.
J: Biggest surprise at the mid point of the season from players and teams around the league?
SN: To me, the biggest surprise has been Western Michigan freshman running back Jarvion Franklin, who may very well be the MAC MVP at this point. Eastern Michigan QB Reginald Bell is also a guy to watch out for these next few years.
Team-wise, I don’t think anyone expected Western Michigan to be competing for a league title, and Central Michigan has been a positive surprise as well. I figured Ball State would be better, but with the losses the Cardinals have had in terms of players and coaches, their struggles aren’t too surprising.
J: How does next year look for them?
SN: NIU should be competing for a league title once again. The biggest question mark will be offensive line, as the Huskies lose all five starters. That’s been one of the biggest strengths the past couple seasons.
Guys like Logan, Durante and defensive end Jason Meehan will be missed on defense, but at the same time there’s been some young guys who have gotten good experience that will progress. While the offensive line will be hurt, NIU does return a ton of talent at the skill positions on offense.
I want to thank Steve once again for taking a moment to enlighten us a bit on the Huskies. Please don’t forget to follow him for all of your NIU/Huskies needs at Dekalb County Chronicle and Huskiewire.com. You can also follow him on twitter @SNitz_DDC.