Football find number one tail back in Leighton Settle

By Brian Thomas

Going into this season, a shroud of questions surrounded the NIU football team.

How would Jordan Lynch respond to being the starting quarterback? How effective could the inexperienced offensive line be?

Those questions have quickly been answered and put to rest, as has the question at running back.

Thanks to the emergence of junior running back Leighton Settle, the Huskies seem to have found their number one tail back.

After losing Jasmin Hopkins from last season, it appeared the frontrunner for the starting running back job would be returning junior Akeem Daniels.

Daniels was NIU’s second leading rusher at the running back position last season with 303 yards on 56 carries. This season, he has set up at the wide receiver position and gone into motion quite a bit. So far, he only has two carries for eight yards.

Another returning back from last season, senior Jamal Womble, was expected to receive a lot of carries. So far this season, Womble appears to be primarily used in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

Then there is Settle. Settle saw little action last season as a sophomore, receiving 16 carries while totaling 84-yards on the ground.

In week one against Iowa, although he did not have a strong game, he led the running backs with 10 carries and 33 yards. He followed that up with a career day against Tennessee-Martin, rushing for 106 yards on 21 carries.

By carrying the ball 21 times, Settle is able to establish a sense of comfortably out on the field, allowing him to get into a rhythm offensively.

“Oh yeah, definitely,” Settle said. “I think that’s what it’s all about, is feeling comfortable with yourself. I felt comfortable with the offense overall so with that being said they made me comfortable.”

Head coach Dave Doeren believes that due to the play of Settle, he looks like a clear-cut feature back moving forward.

“I think Leighton did a nice job this week,” Doeren said. “I told all those guys when we got into camp, we’re waiting for someone to take it. He had a great week of practice. I knew by Thursday he was going to have a 100-yard game because of how he practiced.”

Settle credits a lot of his early success this season to the play of his offensive line and wide receivers.

“Like coach [Doeren] said, the offensive line blocked great,” Settle said. “As well as the receivers. So it’s the running backs job to find the right holes and make something out of it.”