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Adios Seniors: The Defense

This is the second part of a 2-part series evaluating the losses to graduation that Northern Illinois will face before we get in to the real heart of the recruiting season these next couple weeks.  Thanks to all these players for the hard work they have put into the Huskie program the past 4 years.  They endured the coaching transition and went from a 2-10 season in 2007 to two straight bowl games for the first time in NIU history. Next up: The D.

Starters

Brandon Bice

56 DE Brandon Bice, 6'4" 250 lbs
Games Played/Games Started: 40/25
Recruiting Class: 2005
Career Stats: 101 tackles, 54 solos, 24 tackles for loss, 14 sacks
Member of Coach Kill's Leadership Council

Legacy: Named 2nd Team All-MAC as a senior racking up 37 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles.  One of the few players on defense that stayed healthy in 2007, as he made 11 starts that year.  Relegated to backup duty behind Craig Rusch in 2008, Bice still became 3rd Team All-MAC as he tallied up 12 TFL and 6.5 sacks.  Graduated back in May with a degree in Biology and carries a 3.2 GPA.

Cory Hanson

26 OLB Cory Hanson, 6'2" 220
GP/GS: 43/38
Recruiting Class: 2005
Stats: 247 tackles, 109 solo, 16.5 tackles for loss, 6 INT, 9 PBU, 4 sacks
Member of Coach Kill's Leadership Council

Legacy: Hanson graduates with 4 years of starting experience and productivity as the active leader in career tackles and interceptions.  Was voted the top Huskie LB by his teammates and 4th team All-MAC by Phil Steele.  Finished 2nd on the team with 83 tackles (40 solo) and 3 interceptions this year.  The solid if unspectacular weakside linebacker graduated this December with a degree in Communications.

Role Players

David Bryant

4 S David Bryant, 5'11" 210
GP/GS: 42/19
Recruiting Class: 2005
Stats: 124 tackles, 66 solo, 4.5 tackles for loss, 3 fumbles forced, 4 PBU
Member of Coach Kill's Leadership Council

Legacy:  The ridiculously athletic Bryant came to school as a cornerback, played linebacker his freshman year, running back his sophomore year and finally switched to safety his junior year.  Led the Huskies with 83 tackles in 2008.  Was talked up by Coach Kill as a potential NFL prospect in the preseason before he fell victim to ankle and knee injuries that really hampered him most of his senior year.  I will always remember the undersized Bryant as 'the guy who got ran over by Tennessee', 'the guy that got stiff-armed by CMU's Dan LeFevour' and 'the guy that got ran over by USF's Mike Ford'.  Graduated in December with a degree in Communications.

Phil Brown

52 LB Phil Brown, 6'0" 225
GP/GS: 41/5
Recruiting Class: 2005
Stats: 99 tackles, 59 solo, 3 tackles for loss
Legacy: Coming out of Morgan Park high school, Brown was a 3-star prospect and ranked the 46th best OLB and the 28th best player in IL.  Played in 10 games as a true freshman, tallying 50 tackles including 10 and an INT in the MAC Championship game.  Suffered a severe knee injury in 2006's Spring Game and had to redshirt that season.  He was never able to re-gain his speed, but became a solid backup and special teams contributor his last 3 years.  Graduated in December with a degree in Communications.

James Jefferies

30 DB James Jefferies, 5'9" 193
GP/GS: 1/0
Recruiting Class: 2006
Stats: Saw his first action this season, will graduate
Legacy: He's actually a redshirt junior, but just graduated with a degree in Communications in 4 1/2 years.  After years on the scout team, he finally saw time against Western Illinois this year.  Lucky guy had his school payed for, so I wouldn't complain.

Mike Kritikos

48 DE Mike Kritikos, 6'3" 225
GP/GS: 15/0
Recruiting Class: 2005
Stats: 10 tackles in 13 games in 2008 as back-up to Larry English
Legacy: The former walk-on, managed to play in all 13 games in 2008, despite having a severe size disadvantage at DE.  Suffered a severe leg injury in the Spring, but managed to work his way back to make an appearance in the EMU game.  Graduated in December with a degree in Business Administration (my major!)

John Tranchitella

42 LB John Tranchitella, 6'1" 236
GP/GS: 45/11
Recruiting Class: 2006
Stats: 86 tackles, 46 solo, 11 tackles for loss, 7 PBU and 2 INT
Legacy: "Tranch" was a safety coming out of high school, but Novak switched him to LB to efficiently attack the spread offense.  Played in all 13 games as a true freshman in 2006 and is probably most famous for returning a blocked TCU punt for NIU's only touchdown of the game.  A consummate team player, Tranch even saw time returning kicks earlier this season before going down with a lingering knee injury.

Spencer Williamson

27 LB Spencer Williamson, 6'4" 218
GP/GS: 43/1
Recruiting Class: 2005
Stats: 73 tackles, 32 solo, 2 forced fumbles, 3 PBU
Legacy: Moved from safety to linebacker before this season and got a decent amount of playing time.  Is ridiculously tall.  Graduated in December with a degree in Business Management.  I always got him confused with WR Preston Williams.

Defensive Recap

Players Lost: 8
Starters Lost: 3
Starter Positions Lost: DE, LB, S

The defense looks to be stellar next year with so many returning from a unit that finished #1 in the MAC in 2009.  DE Alan Baxter can step right in for Brandon Bice without missing a beat.  Baxter, Sean Progar, Brian Lawson & Nabal Jefferson were stalwarts on the D-Line this year, all freshman.

Weakside LB Jordan Delegal is the likely candidate to replace Hanson after a strong true sophomore season.  He, Tyrone Clark and Devon Butler made strong cases for playing time in just their first seasons playing D-I football.

The secondary for the most part stays intact, but still could use a boost and Kill is looking at the JUCO ranks to help him out with one safety committed already.  We're also trying to stack up on linebackers as so many will be graduating this year and and the incumbents underperformed.

The big question right now is whether or not Jake Coffman will retire or not.  We all want the defensive MVP to return, but he's older and is probably set to graduate in May.  Could DT Mike Krause be back to play next year after his heart issue?  Only time will tell.