Players to watch for as Huskies battle Akron

By Matt Hopkinson

Quarterback: Senior Dalton Williams has quietly been putting up numbers for a dead-last Akron Zips football program. The Stephen F. Austin University transfer has amassed over 2,000 yards through the air already this season, and has thrown for 19 touchdowns. While passing at better than a 60 percent completion rate, Williams has been prone to throw the occasional interception, as he has nine on the season. The signal-caller is not a threat to run however with negative yardage on the season, so NIU will have to be ready for the pass when Williams has the ball in the pocket.

Running back: Leading the team in rushing last season as a redshirt freshman, Jawon Chisholm is continuing his trend as the main ball carrier for the Zips this season. Chisholm is averaging nearly 100 yards a game, with 675 total yards on the season. The Pennsylvania native has ran for two touchdowns, in addition to receiving two touchdowns, so NIU will have to be sure to cover the options Chisholm represents for Akron’s offense.

Wide Receiver: While not the team leader in receptions or yardage from the receiving position, junior Jerrod Dillard is tied for the team lead in touchdowns, with four. The 6’5” receiver has only caught the ball 12 times this year but has made the most of every catch. He has racked up 223 yards on limited plays, including a long play of 56 yards. The NIU secondary will have to stuff Dillard at the line and use angles to prevent the big man from using his natural ability to pull in a touchdown.

Offensive Line: The 6’6” 315 pound redshirt senior Mitch Straight, will lead an offensive line that is struggling to keep quarterback Williams upright. On the season, Williams has been sacked 12 times for a total loss of 95 yards. The line will have to keep the Huskies pass-rush in check, which was able to bring down a Buffalo quarterback four times last week. It seems Straight and company have excelled in the running game a bit more than pass protection, so watch out for the Zips to try and wear down NIU via the run.

Defensive Line: Redshirt senior J.D. Griggs will lead the Zips defensive line in the task of hurrying quarterback Jordan Lynch. Griggs has already posted 4.5 sacks this season, good for the team lead. Griggs has made 28 tackles, 22 of those on his own and nine total tackles for loss. Griggs and the rest of the defensive line will try and do what few teams have been able to do this season, stop Lynch from running over 100 yards.

Linebacker: Ranking first on the team in tackles with 62, redshirt senior transfer student Kurt Magnum has been pacing a squad that boasts over 200 assisted tackles on the season. Magnum has been in on 32 tackles, while making 30 on his own. Magnum has also made three and a half of those tackles account for negative yardage. He also has a sack, pass break up and a fumble recovery on the season. Look for Magnum to be wherever the ball is and piling in on tackles.

Defensive Back: The second leading tackler in the secondary, redshirt senior Avis Commack is a dangerous player. The 6’3” Florida State transfer transitioned from wide receiver to defensive back. Commack will pose an opposing physical coverage option on NIU’s receivers, and with his former receiver status, he is liable to catch the ball if it’s within his reach.

Special Teams: Without a stand-out returner, a threat from the special teams will fall to their place-kicker. If NIU’s defense presents a showing similar to that against Buffalo, Akron may be forced into more field goal conversion chances than it would like. Freshman kicker Robert Stein has only attempted 10 field goals on the season, converting seven of those, with a long of 46. The pressure may be on for the freshman if they are forced into kicking situations.