2009 NIU Football Previews start to roll out

In the last 2 days, two NIU have been released by a couple of the most widely-read college football websites on the internet: College Football News & The Quad Blog of the New York Times.

First we'll start off with the CFN Preview

They start of the preview with a lot of praise for both the offensive and defensive lines for the Huskies.  They also seem to have been paying a lot of attention to what NIU has been up to in the offseason.  Coach Jerry Kill rotated a lot of his backup players into his defense last year and a few players have a chance to step up big time.

there's a relatively quiet confidence around the program that the line might turn out to be better as the season goes on with a slew of tremendous prospects ready to be in the spotlight. English might be gone, but Brandon Bice is an all-star and Jake Coffman is a nice new face in the mix.

The linebacking corps could be the best in the MAC, if Pat Schiller is as impressive in the middle as he was all offseason

Then it goes on to talk about how Chandler Harnish was inconsistent at QB as a redshirt freshman last year and how all of our running backs could potentially start for any MAC team.  The last paragraph is a doozy:

Kill and his staff have a nice mix of good veterans and dangerous young players waiting in the wings. With more consistency on offense, better play against the run, and more pop in the passing game, this could be a MAC championship season. If it doesn't happen this year, NIU will be the preseason favorite in 2010. But after what happened last year, Kill has no problems with moving up the expectations timetable.

HELLO!  What CFN can say in one sentence is actually a much more complex question.  Will the offense be able to get the passing game off the ground and prove something consistent on offense?  Then they go on to play the MAC Championship card, which hasn't been played successfully since 2005.  It starts with the maturation of Chandler Harnish and the improvement of the receiving corps, which was the focus of this offseason's recruiting class.  There's some young talent at that position and they need to mature as well.

More title talk

The season will be a success if ... NIU wins the MAC title. If Buffalo could win it last year ... that's what every MAC team is going to say going into the year, but NIU has the combination of talent and experience to make the giant leap forward and win it all. The schedule works out as well as can be asked for, while the coaching staff knows the league now.

It all comes down to the Friday night season finale showdown in Mt. Pleasant against the Chippewas.  With CMU as the consensus favorite in the MAC, both teams could potentially come in with similar records, vying to win the West.

Discrepencies

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore QB Chandler Harnish. He threw nine picks over the second half of last year and he struggled to come up with a really big win over a good team, but he has a year of experience now to go along with his combination of mobility and passing skills. Unlike last year when he had a veteran receiving corps to help him out, he has to make everyone around him better.

How is Chandler Harnish the best player on offense?  He may be the player most essential to the offense to have success, but he's not the best.  Why does CFN list C Adam Adamski as their best Huskie player in their list of Top-10 players at the top of the page?

Ten Best Huskie Players
1. C Eddie Adamski, Sr.
2. DE Brandon Bice, Sr.
3. FS David Bryant, Sr.
4. LB Alex Kube, Jr.
5. QB Chandler Harnish, Soph.
6. OG Jason  Onyebuagu, Sr.
7. OT Trevor Olson, Soph.
8. LB Cory Hanson, Sr.
9. RB Me'co Brown, Soph.
10. RB Chad Spann, Jr. 

I'd even put G Jason Onyebuagu above Harnish on this list.  He's been a consistent starter ever since his freshman year.  CFN shows a ton of love to Brandon Bice as the new star of the defense, starting alongside Larry English these past couple years.  Nice to see LB Alex Kube get the recognition that he deserves.

Here's another fishy thing from this preview:

- Fourth quarter scoring: Northern Illinois 8 - Opponents 29

Um...that's simply not true.  NIU outscored opponents in the 4th quarter 86-29.  Simply a typo I guess.  Who's the editor over there?

The Quad Blog has an extremely long and detailed preview that you should definitely check out.  Both of these previews share a lot of the same themes, including the lingeriing question of who will step up this Fall to carry the pasing game.  They put a lot of emphasis the loss of Larry English and how we only return 4 starters on the defensive side of the ball.

The prediction for the season

Despite its losses, which are very troubling on defense, I am convinced that Kill will keep this team from experiencing anything more than a subtle drop-off from its 2008 level of play. Why? Because the Huskies performed well in the areas that, traditionally, make good teams: rushing offense, ball control, special teams and defense.

I expect the defense to struggle breaking in new starters, but not to slide back to its 2007 level. Over all, I predict Northern Illinois to match last fall’s 6-6 regular season, and if the defense remains strong, to make a run at seven wins.

 

Dream season: Kill keeps N.I.U. playing solid, hard-nosed football. Despite its losses, the Huskies go 8-4, first in the West division.

Nightmare season: More troubling than the 4-8 finish is the decline in the areas that made Northern Illinois a six-win team in 2008.

Interesting tidbits

Tidbit (1,000 games edition): Northern Illinois will participate in its 1,000th career game when it meets Idaho at home on Sept. 26. N.I.U. will join Miami (Ohio) and Ohio as the only MAC schools to play in 1,000 games.

The team’s leading returning receiver is the senior tight end Reed Cunningham, coming off a 22-catch, 252-yard junior campaign. Cunningham also snatched three touchdown grabs, making him the team’s best receiving threat in the red zone (an area of real struggles for N.I.U. in 2008).

And then the best part

Where do Northern Illinois fans congregate: If you want to talk N.I.U. sports, you better visit The Dog Pound. For recruiting news, take a gander at HuskiePride.com, part of the Scout.com network of sites. If you like blogs, check out Red and Black Attack. You like blogs, don’t you?

Yes, you do love blogs.  Wow the New York Times actually mentioned my tiny little creation.  We've come a long way since this thing started way back during the 2007 football season.  Thanks for the mention!

Overall, CFN preview has more of a cautiously optimistic preview of the Huskies.  They acknowledge the fact that we do have a few bright players waiting in the wings on the defensive side of the ball.  The Quad focuses on how the loss of English will be too much to overcome.  I tend to agree with CFN more, because of the way that Coach Kill liked to rotate players into the defense last year as well as everyone on the team getting used to the system in its second year.

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