Pettibone prepared to sign fresh lumber

By Joe Bush

While the NIU football Huskies’ offensive stronghold will be missing just one brick from its 31-point a game 1989 lineup, the defensive house needs a few ceiling beams and a visit from Bob Vila.

Head Coach Jerry Pettibone and his staff have spent the off-season mostly at the out-of-state high school hardware stores, mainly in the Defensive Wares Department, looking to deepen a defensive starting 11 now down to six due to graduation.

Pettibone will have 16 or 17 high school seniors in his scholarship cart this Wednesday, national letter-of-intent day, when the nation’s top schoolboy gridders must commit to a school.

Because only 13 Huskies graduated from last season’s 9-2 squad, Pettibone can offer only those 16 or 17 grants. A mixed blessing said Pettibone, because while the 1990 team will have the most returning players in Pettibone’s five-year tenure, the new blood will be pretty thin.

Less grants mean more walk-ons and Pettibone expects 20-25 of them. Recent Huskie history will not discourage walk-ons, as non-scholarship players who have cashed in include Brett Tucker, Phil Bucaro and pre-season All America placekicker John Ivanic.

“It’s a real incentive for them (walk-ons) if they see they’ve got a real opportunity,” Pettibone said.

Making room for new Huskies are defensive starters Ron “Hit Man” Delisi, Ted Hennings, Tucker, Rodney Akis and Patrick Bryant. Delisi finished his career as the fourth all-time leading Huskie tackler with 437. Tucker was a three-year starter and an honorable mention All-America in 1988. Hennings, Delisi and Tucker have the best shot at spending their summer in NFL rookie camps, Pettibone said.

Of the scholarships already dealt, Pettibone said over half are to defensive prospects. One of those is 6-2, 205-pound defensive back Jason Keene from Bloomington, Ill.

Pettibone said the defensive tackle position will be among the most hotly contested spots as the Huskies try to replace Hennings, Akis and Bucaro.