The NIU defense has taken some hits this offseason with the suspension of one starting linebacker (Tyrone Clark) and the serious injury to another (Devon Butler*). The stud (and oft-injured) hard-hitting safety Tracy Wilson also got booted from the team and I'm sure is having fun with this lockout going on right now. CBs have to be replaced (namely Chris Smith & Patrick George). Pretty much, this side of the ball is going to have to take their lumps early on in the season and improve as the games go on.
Everybody is saying that there is not going to be too much a drop off since Doeren was defensive coordinator for Wisconsin. Now, while this is a valued argument, I do believe two other factors are working against that: New starters and the new system. It's not like his defense with the Badgers was devastating (otherwise we wouldn't have been able to get him.)
The key to a successful season this year is going to have to come from the offensive side of the ball.
Chandler Harnish is arguably the most seasoned player in NIU's history at the quarterback position. He's going to have to stay healthy, in which he is lucky because there is so much talent around him. Even with all the experience, implementing an entire new offense under Matt Canada is going to be a little tough. Canada works best by taking what they have in personnel and positioning the offensive style around that. He's not going to be fitting square pegs in round holes. We're 'mostly' going to be running a lot of the same plays and offensive styles in the future.
One of the most underutilized parts of football is taking big risks on the offensive side of the ball. Coaches try to take it easy play-in and play-out. Try not to get fired by playing conservatively. I'd really like to see an economist someday become an NFL coach, someone with no conscience. 4th and short at the opponent's 40 yd line? Sure, I'll go for it because the odds of winning are in our favor.
Look, the Huskies have a couple of "warm-up" games that are actually far from warm-ups against Army at home and Kansas on the road before the big Soldier Field matchup against the big 'ol hogs from Wisconsin come down. Canada is going to have to put the image of a Limegrover offense into it's grave.
The Huskies can't afford to let either of those first two games get away from them. If they do, it almost represents a failed season. The Huskies are going to play it fairly conservatively early on and then when they get into the Chicago spot-light (sun-light, it's a 2:30 game) THROW IT ALL OUT THERE ON OFFENSE. As of right now (I know, I know, I know) the Wisky game is the biggest game on the schedule.
We can't look past the first two opponents. And if the Huskies have to air out the ball a little more in those games or take more risks going for it, then so be it. We need those wins. And we need that exposure of beating the Wisconsin Badgers in Soldier Field on September 17th. Have you gotten your tickets yet??