Before arriving in Dekalb, Coach Kill took over a Southern Illinois program that was down in the dumps and turned them into a winning team for the first time in over a decade. He took some lumps his first couple years at SIU, but in only his 3rd year, Kill took the Salukis to their first I-AA playoff game since 1983. Is Kill on track to make the same giant turnaround at Northern Illinois? What production is going to come from the backfield if we want to achieve a conference championship? Let's take a looksee:
Southern Illinois 2001 (1-10)
Tom Koutsos (5'11" 220) - 273 car. for 1,222 yds and 9 TDs
(QB) Madei Williams - 90 car. for 344 yds and 3 TDs
Brandon Robinson - 57 car. for 338 yds and 0 TDs
Northern Illinois 2008 (6-7)
(QB) Chandler Harnish (6'2" 219) - 118 car. for 539 yds and 4 TDs
Me'co Brown (5'7" 180) - 110 car. for 510 yds and 2 TDs
Chad Spann (5'9" 198) - 88 car. for 429 yds and 8 TDs
Kill was fortunate enough to a have a go-to running back his first year at SIU. Koutsos took the load at RB and finished the season ranked as the 22nd best rusher in the nation. Think of him as Justin Anderson circa 2007. Problem was, there was nobody really on the team to relieve him other than the quarterback, akin to what Chandler Harnish had to do in 2008. Not enough weapons really anywhere on offense to be a threat.
Southern Illinois 2002 (4-8)
Muhammad Abdulqaadir (5'7" 200) - 196 car. for 1,331 yds and 20 TDs
Brandon Robinson (5'11" 195) - 131 car. for 727 yds and 3 TDs
(QB) Joel Sambursky (6'0" 195) - 138 car. for 487 yds and 4 TDs
Northern Illinois 2009 (7-6)
Chad Spann - 179 car. for 1,038 yds and 19 TDs
Me'co Brown - 148 car. for 645 yds and 4 TDs
(QB) DeMarcus Grady (6'1" 203) - 59 car. for 330 yds and 1 TD
(QB) Chandler Harnish - 89 car. for 229 yds and 2 TDs
In 2002, Kill decided he could use a quick fix and plucked All-American JUCO Abdulqaadir from Coffeyville C.C. (KS), where he set the school record scoring 20 TDs in a season. A former walk-on at Purdue, Robinson was more of a fullback type that could be moved all round the field to fill in. Again, you see the similarities at the top with the number of touchdowns scored and also with the number of carries quarterbacks got on each of these teams. That needs to slow down. See: Harnish's knee.
So, what's in store for 2010? What happened in the next couple years of the Kill era at SIU?
Southern Illinois 2003 (10-2)
Muhammad Abdulqaadir (5'7" 200) - 183 car. for 1,041 yds and 11 TDs
Tom Koutsos (5'11" 220) - 187 car. for 968 yds and 14 TDs
Brandon Robinson (5'11" 195) - 72 car. for 444 yds and 3 TDs
(QB) Joel Sambursky (6'0" 195) - 97 car. for 363 yds and 6 TDs
Southern Illinois 2004 (10-2)
Brandon Jacobs (6'4" 260) - 150 car. for 992 yds and 19 TDs
Arkee Whitlock (5'10" 195) - 151 car. for 959 yds and 12 TDs
Terry Jackson (5'11" 190) - 90 car. for 442 yds and 2 TDs
Now that Kill finally has some horses in the backfield, I'm sure that this upcoming season will look pretty similar the years above.
Chad Spann (5'9" 198) will continue to be the go-to type of back that can do a lot of things. He'll still be the number one option, but this year there will be a lot more depth behind him. Similar to Abdulqaadir in '03 and Whitlock in '04.
Both of these seasons are better representative of what we'll see in Dekalb in 2010. Expect Iowa State transfer Cameron Bell (6'2" 242) to play the role of (Auburn Transfer) Brandon Jacobs in '04. I could easily see Bell and Spann splitting carries this year.
Jasmin Hopkins (5'9" 174) will probably be the #3 back that you can line up anywhere on offense. He'll get a decent amount of carries and will probably do most of his damage either on screens or lining up in the slot position. We're not even talking about Ricky Crider, but he'll see some carries as well when he's not returning kickoffs.
Coach Kill finally has a group of talented running back to use at Northern and it he's not shy whatsoever about spreading the carries around. And judging by those 10-win seasons, I don't think any of the backs really cared. Interesting tidbit: In 2004, SIU was a 2-point conversion away from beating NIU in Dekalb.
How do you see the Huskie running backs being used in 2010?