NIU football breakdown: Linebackers

By Tony Osborne

Unlike years past, the NIU football team has three new faces to anchor the second level of its defense at linebacker.

With the absence of their three starting linebackers from last year, the Huskies will expect a little spunk and strength for 2011 season from their threesome of tacklers.

Since the defense is tremendously young and inexperienced, it’s hard to determine what to expect from this group, but these three players have stepped up to the starting role to prove those nay-sayers wrong.

Here’s how they break down up front:

Jamaal Bass: weak side linebacker

Having no learning curve heading into the season opener against Army this Saturday, the Bass will have to step into a big role. Bass was announced as the starter early last week after having a very strong camp. The Miramar, Fla. native will start at weak-side linebacker, due to his size and quickness. At 6’0 220 pounds, the redshirt freshman is expected to help the secondary in a play-fake situation.

Outlook: With Schiller and Delegal already having their positions wrapped up, Bass has a little more to prove in the weeks to come. Look for Bass to have a strong freshman year with his strengths coming in both the pass and run defense due to his attention to detail.

Pat Schiller: middle linebacker

Schiller, the anchor in the middle, is no stranger to the middle linebacker position. Schiller comes into his senior year with a team leading 124 tackles in his career. He’ll be asked to provide leadership to the middle of the defense with his seniority. The Geneva High School product will bring the experience necessary on the defensive side of the ball, having played in 35 games and starting in 13.

Outlook: Schiller has all the tools to finish his career at NIU on a very high note. As the leader of the defense, Schiller will be counted on to direct orders for the Huskies this season.

Jordan Delegal: strong side linebacker

Delegal enters his senior season at a different position, moving from the weak side to the strong side of the defense. At weak side linebacker last season, Delegal recorded 38 tackles along with two blocked punts.

Outlook: With his quickness on the strong side and Bass on the weak side, look for NIU to fly these two speedsters around in an attempt to control the line of scrimmage. Not only does this Miami, Fla. native offer quickness and explosiveness to NIU’s defense, but he also adds the additional “swagger” needed to perform on a day-to-day basis.