Northern Illinois 2013 Preview: Year of the Tight End?

Chris Trotman

Taking a look at the tight ends and fullbacks on Northern Illinois Huskies roster for the 2013 football season.

Every year one of the biggest items on the wishlist for adding top talent is the tight end position. Constantly I hear fans talk about the offense doing so much more if we involve the tight ends more in the offense. This requires a balance of proper athletes at the position and scheme. It's such a versatile spot where one or two guys can line up in several positions on offense and make a huge impact.

Sure, the unit didn't amount for too much of a focal point last year. They only caught 13 total receptions. Longtime veteran Jason Schepler has since made his way on the 49ers as a fullback, but there are plenty of guys clamoring to replace his production as a big-time blocker.

This article on NIUHuskies.com talks about the fake punt that these guys performed so excellently on special teams last year as well vs. Buffalo and Florida State.

I've been excited for junior TE Luke Eakes for years and it looks like it's finally time for him to break out. He caught 8 balls for 268 yds last year so he can definitely make an impact when targeted at vital points int he game. He's like the swiss army knife of TEs (HW):

"Luke we used all over (last season), in certain situations to his strength," NIU coach Rod Carey said. "He can do everything."

Desroy Maxwell is another guy looking to make an impact, but more of a blocker though which is the main focus at the tight end position for the Huskies.

While Eakes (6'3" 250) and Maxwell (6'2" 245) are decently sized, a potential breakout star is Tim Semisch, who stands tall at 6'8" 266 lbs. If that guy can get going this season, then opposing defenses will have to watch out in the redzone. He had a score against Army last season.

Check out this update from Wednesday's practice:

  • At 6-7, TE Tim Semisch is an imposing figure in the passing game. On two occasions, he used every inch of his frame to haul in passes. In the tight end-linebacker passing drill, Semisch fought past the defender and made a diving catch on a fade pass. Later on in the morning session, the Omaha, Neb., native made a leaping grab of a Lynch pass to draw cheers from the offensive side.

Fullbacks

Sometimes you forget about these guys because they weren't a part of the offense during the Novak years, but they exist and again are strictly blockers.

We have two juniors in Rob Sterling (5'10" 231) who played in every game last year and Ricky Connors (6'1" 246) is his backup at that position for the fall.

Here's what TEs/FBs coach Tim Polasek has to say about them:

"Rob Sterling adds a lot of things that happen outside of the grass, outside of the lines," Polasek said. "He does a great job with leadership from the standpoint of getting the young guys ready. He does a great job with everything we ask him to do on the football field."

"Ricky Connors is similar. It’s harder to lead when you’re a backup, but he does a great job with assignment football and executing his role. Their role is to be physically dominant and make an impression on the other team that says ‘We’re ready for a fight.’"

So there you have it folks. A lot can happen on this offense if the tight ends make an impact on this team. It seems like their roles in the offense will be increased in 2013 with a lot of skilled players on the depth chart. Could this be the year the Huskies finally have the TE corps to put them over the top?

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