Faceoff: Spring outlook for NIU football


Northern Star File Photo – Jordan Lynch

By Jimmy Johnson & Eli Gehn

Jimmy Johnson: March 28 will mark the start of NIU football spring practices. With Chandler Harnish, four out of the five starters departing from the offensive line, there are major questions surrounding the Huskies’ offense. On defense, Tyrone Clarke and Devon Butler return at linebacker. Eli, what’s go your football juices flowing regarding NIU?

Eli Gehn: I’m looking forward to the play of Jordan Lynch at quarterback. He has big shoes to fill with Harnish not returning, and I’m anxious to see how he performs following the superb play Harnish displayed throughout his NIU career. On the defensive side, you make a good point in bringing up the return of Clark and Butler. Any difference in how you think the defense will perform compared to last season?

JJ: I think the secondary for NIU this year will be much more comfortable. The Huskies incoming defensive backs had major shoes to fill last season with the departures of some highly productive corners and safeties. I also expect big things out for NIU’s front four this upcoming season. What about the Huskies offensive line?

EG: Heading into spring practice, the offensive line has to be the weakest on the roster. They’re in a similar situation as the defensive backs last season as you mentioned. I think the offensive line was the major source to Harnish’s success, especially his last two seasons. Having a good idea of how the roster will look heading into 2012, do you still think the defending MAC Champs are the team to beat?

JJ: That’s tough to say. It all falls on Lynch: the MAC is a quarterback drive conference, just like most of them. And, yes. I agree with you about the offensive line being important to Harnish’s success and the other members of that unit. This will technically be Lynch’s third system in three years, as NIU has brought in three different offensive coordinators in that times span. Any potential position battle grab your attention just by looking things on the surface this early?

EG: It definitely has to be the running back position. Jasmin Hopkins won’t be returning, so the next man in line is Jamal Womble. I thought Womble was going to be a stud last season due to his potential at North Carloina, but 2011 just didn’t work out for him. Akeem Daniels brings the quickness of Hopkins into the backfield, but I have a feeling he’ll be playing a lot in the slot as a receiver. Incoming freshman Perez Ford may push to get some playing as well depending if he doesn’t get redshirted. As of now, I would say NIU is still are the team to beat just because its the defending conference champs. The defense will improve, and I like the way Dave Doeren has handled his team.