Huskie football key positions

By Matt Hopkinson

Quarterback: At quarterback the focal point will be Jordan Lynch once again. What will be interesting to watch for is the situation Lynch will be placed in. In the last game against Tennessee-Martin, Lynch rushed far fewer times than against Iowa, and also set career bests in virtually every category in the passing game. If the success can carry over in both facets, look for Lynch to be one of the main reasons for a Huskie victory.

Running Backs: While in the last game junior back Leighton Settle rushed for over 100 yards, I’m keying in on Jamal Womble. Womble has a possible vindication aspect going into this game, as he lost a fumble in the Tennessee-Martin game in his limited attempts. Womble will primarily be featured as a short-down and goal line-back, but look for him to provide the counter-balance to Settle and punch one or two runs into the end zone.

Wide Receivers: Breaking away from a more typical choice, I’m going to select sophomore Tommylee Lewis as the player to watch for at the receiving end. Lewis was Lynch’s number two target in the Tennessee-Martin game, gaining 52 yards on four catches. Look for more bubble screens and shorter routes to target Lewis, and for him to use his natural athleticism to try and break a big play.

Offensive Line: While not technically a lineman, keep an eye out for the presence of redshirt senior tight end Jason Schepler to make a difference on the line. The 6’2”, 274 pound end has been credited by his coach as a difference maker.

“Having Jason Schepler back at tight end has been a great lift for our running game,” said head coach Dave Doeren in a press conference. “Being able to run lead and zone and power the way we like to run it where the edge is getting collapsed, says a lot about Jason and his rehab he’s done since his knee injury a year ago.“

Defensive Line: On the defensive line a key performance will have to be turned in by one of the team leaders in Sean Progar. Progar was virtually invisible in the last game, as the line as a whole struggled to get into the backfield against the Skyhawks. For NIU to find success defensively, it will have to get penetration and be able to cut off the angles of the running game. From the defensive end position Progar will be responsible for containing his end and getting to the quarterback.

Linebackers: A strong performance last week from redshirt sophomore Jamal Bass warrants a focus on him for this upcoming game. Bass produced six total tackles on the day, two of which went for a loss. He also forced a fumble. Bass will have to play sound defensively as he reads the option plays and will have to contribute from the weak side, as Army may run to the strong side.

Defensive Backs: While it may seem like a broken record, this record is serving notice to the public of the strong play of junior Jimmie Ward. Ward was named the MAC West defensive player of the week for his stellar play against Tennessee-Martin. Ward posted ten tackles, two pass breakups, and an interception in the contest. Not only was he seemingly everywhere on the field, but when he made contact it was of the visceral variety. Ward will have to continue his strong tackling skills in the effort to stop the running game of Army.

Special Teams: A factor in NIU’s special teams will be senior wide receiver and punt returner Perez Ashford. Ashford has had several incidents this season already where he more than likely should have called for a fair catch and instead opted to try and return the ball, only to be tackled promptly. These types of plays are dangerous and he will need to be one hundred percent certain in his decision making to avoid the possibility of a big negative play. Ashford does have the speed, however, to make a big move at any moment if he gets the time to return one.