Breakdown: Cal Poly’s defense

By Tony Osborne

Defensive Line: D

The roller coaster of lineman size continues this week, going from a huge Wisconsin Badgers line to a small Cal Poly defensive line. With no player on the line over 270 pounds, the Mustangs could struggle to get through the offensive line to NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish. The key players looking to get to Harnish will be defensive ends Kyle Murphy and Brandon Roberts. Murphy weighs in at 260 pounds and will be a good test for the NIU offensive line. Murphy reportedly has quick feet and the potential to shed some blocks and get to the quarterback. Despite the fact that the Mustangs are a subdivision team, the Huskies refuse to have low expectations. “Our guys won’t look past them,” said NIU head coach Dave Doeren. “They know this is the next step, and they need to have a good week.”

Linebackers: C

The key player in the Mustangs linebacking core will be middle linebacker Kennith Jackson. The 6’0″, 230-pound junior has started the 2011 season at a rapid pace, playing well in all three games and recording 24 total tackles and four pass-breakups. His back-up, Nick Dzubnar, also a intercepted a pass against South Dakota State and returned it for 10 yards. The middle of the Mustang defense has held its own against the Great West Conference, but they might struggle against the quickness of the receivers and NIU running back Jasmin Hopkins. With the linebackers being the same size as Harnish, look for NIU’s redshirt signal caller to have a potentially big day Saturday against Cal Poly.

Secondary: C+

The Cal Poly secondary features the most talent and athleticism of all the defensive sections. The Mustangs’ senior boundary cornerback, Asa Jackson, will anchor the Mustang secondary with his tight defense and sound hands. “They have one of the best cornerbacks in their subdivision of college football [in Asa Jackson],” Doeren said. Jackson was recently named Great West Defensive Player of the Week after an interception that he returned 100 yards for a touchdown. Jackson is not the only Cal Poly player with good hands in the secondary; his partner in crime, Bijon Samoodi also recorded an interception this season and ran it back 46 yards for a touchdown. The Mustangs will have their hands full with an NIU offense that has a bad taste in its mouth after last week’s game against Wisconsin.

Special Teams: C+

The Mustangs’ special teams features kicker James Langford, who has made three of his four field goal attempts on the season. The sophomore hit a 50-yard field goal earlier this season. This could be proof that Langford has the leg and confidence needed to play in a potentially loud and hazardous Huskie Stadium. To go along with the 50-yarder, Langford is two-for-two on field goal attempts between 30 and 40 yards. The sure-footed Langford will come in handy for the Mustangs if the game comes down to the wire in the fourth quarter.