While there are a myriad of reasons NIU has been able to find success in its running game this season, one that may go overlooked is the tight ends.
While seldom incorporated into the passing element of the offense, junior quarterback Jordan Lynch knows first-hand that the blocking ability of his tight end corps plays a huge role in the efficiency.
“Schepler and Eakes just lock down their side of the line,” Lynch said. “I always joke, I feel safe running behind them. It’s a great way to run when you have great blocking tight ends.”
Senior tight end Jason Schepler has returned from a season missed due to injury last season to greatly affect the way the team has been able to run the ball, and takes pride in being able to do so.
“I’m not the fastest tight end so that’s what I like to do is block,” Schepler said. “There’s a lot of guys in our group that have that same mentality. They know if they do a good job blocking they might have that opportunity for a pass later in the game.”
Last season there were only seven total receptions made by tight ends, so there is not a big emphasis under head coach Dave Doeren to make a concerted effort to get the ball to those players.
Lynch believes that they are capable of making the plays when called upon.
“Just because they’re in a game, they’re not a decoy,” Lynch said. “They set up the passing game just as well as the receivers do. They’re always ready, we’re always repping in practice. Their time will come eventually. They’re in my progressions when I drop back to throw.”
The playmaking ability has been on display in select occasions already this season, as redshirt sophomore Tim Semisch made an outstanding one handed touchdown catch against Army. In addition to that play, redshirt sophomore Luke Eakes has made only two catches this season, but both have gone for over 30 yards.
“We definitely have the ability to break tackles and get yards after contact,” Schepler said. “The tight ends are definitely a threat in the passing game. We’re better athletes than most people give us credit for. We’re mostly known for blocking but we can make big things happen to.”