Graduating players might pose threat for football

By Matt Hopkinson

With football starting off its spring practice schedule, many questions surround NIU when it comes to graduating seniors.

Despite the unprecedented success of last year, there are some glaring departures from that record setting team.

Gone from the offense are two starting wide receivers, including leading yardage and touchdown man Martel Moore. Also gone is stout blocking tight end Jason Schepler.

Where I find the biggest losses to be is on the defensive end. Not only are the losses more numerous in terms of starters, but they are of more importance.

Lost to graduation on the defensive line are leading sack-men Sean Progar and Alan Baxter and interior run stopper Nabal Jefferson.

Also lost were secondary members like the leading tackler from the linebacking corps, Tyrone Clark, as well as defensive backs Rashaan Melvin and Demetrius Stone, who both provided huge plays in big situations like the MAC championship and the Orange Bowl. Melvin forced a fumble in the Orange Bowl (with Stone recovering it) and Stone came up with an interception in the MAC championship game.

I don’t think these players are irreplaceable, but they were starters for a reason. The defensive losses stand as more integral because the offense will miss its losses, but can work through them. The defense needs time to solidify, play as one unit and understand the play of one another.

Even last year’s team’s defense credited its previous season’s continuity as a key for its success.

The offense works mostly through running the ball. It will return the same line, the same running quarterback and running back combination. It may even be more effective running by giving the workload from tailback to Akeem Daniels from the get-go.

The defense has players who showed they can perform in place of the graduated. Senior Joe Windsor played as a backup and collected seven sacks to place third on the team behind only Progar and Baxter.

The Huskies will miss Melvin and Stone the most, with Melvin providing length at the cornerback position and a nose for the ball, leading the team in pass breakups. Stone provided the team with flexibility, often rotating between safety and cornerback in any given game.

Players like Marlon Moore and Sean Evans showed an ability to play cornerback last season, and both will need to present strong options for the team to be able to cover the pass effectively.

I think the team as a whole has a lot to live up to from last season, but still has a lot to play for. Despite the success of last season, there still has to be drive to remove the image of the final score of the Orange Bowl.

The experience gained from that game will need to be called upon and put into practice. The team needs the defense to be strong along the way to support an offense that returns numerous known commodities from last season.