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Is this team legit, or do we have to wait around for 2010?

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Looking outside-in at he 2009 version of the Northern Illinois Huskies leaves much to be desired. The questions are much more abound than the answers. Offensively AND Defensively.

The Chicago Tribune came out with a fluff article today about NIU for the upcoming season, but a couple key quotes from Head Coach Jerry Kill caught my eye:

"(Coaching) at Southern Illinois it took two years to get our feet on the ground and I think it will take two years here," said Kill, whose Northern Illinois team went 6-7 last year, including a 17-10 Independence Bowl loss to Louisiana Tech.

"But we do know our personnel better, I think we know which direction we need to go in recruiting."

Um, what?

What Kill is talking about is his first two seasons in 2001-02 where he went 1-10 and 4-8 respectively. Then came the breakthrough 10-2 year in 2003 where SIU made an appearance in the FCS playoffs for the first time in 20 years.

It's early, but 2010 is shaping up to be a banner year for the Huskies. The only projected starters we lose are LG Jason Onyebuagu & C Eddie Adamski on offense, while DE Brandon Bice, OLB Cory Hanson & FS David Bryant depart on the other side of the ball. Plus All-MAC Kicker Mike Salerno. That's 18/24 starters returning after the 2009 season!

Will we have to wait a year, or are we able to have success as a team now?

Obviously Coach Kill is taking the more realistic route rather than be overly optimistic, which is smart Coach Speak. You have to be cautious with grading out the potential for this 2009 team. The young players shouldn't be reading the articles from the school newspaper. That's what happened to WR Nate Palmer last year after his breakout opener against Minnesota. After that, he became complacent and his production suffered.

It is important to keep the heart and desire going all season-long with this young team. There's only so much you can sort through in camp without facing actual opponents. The questions for this team are as follows:

  • Quarterback - Will Chandler Harnish make that next step as signal caller in his sophomore year? How high is his ceiling for potential?
  • Running Back - Will anybody stand out of the pack this year? Last year Coach Kill wasn't able to find a go-to back he so desired throughout the entire season. Will Me'co Brown breakout in his sophomore year?
  • Wide Receiver - Will Martel Moore and Perez Ashford really be able to make an impact in their first year in D-I ball? Will incumbents Landon Cox, Nathan Palmer & Willie Clark be able to step up their game enough to improve the production of the passing game this year?
  • Offensive Line - Will they be able to finally find a solution for the gaping hole due to graduation on the right side? Today's report confirmed the fact that RT Kevin Skatrud is in fact out for the season with a knee injury. Joe Pawlak is the projected starter at RG, while Panan Tense and Adam Kiel are fighting it out for RT.
  • Defensive Line - How much will the losses of both Mike Krause and Kyle Jenkins for the season affect the depth of the DL? Will these young players really be able to step up? What is there beyond DJ Pirkle/Brandon Bice/Jake Coffman? How will RS freshman Brian Lawson do starting at NT?
  • Defensive Back - Are the new starters at CB Patrick George & Kiaree Daniels really ready to take on the full-time starting positions? Just how deep are we, even with the additions of Chris Smith & Tommy Davis?

We'll get a better feel on most of these questions after the season opener @ Wisconsin. Everything comes out in the wash. Especially if the wash is a stadium in Madison filled with 80,000 screaming fans of the opponent.