Plenty of reasons for the Huskies to succeed or fail


New NIU running back Cameron Bell (center) has been impressive during practices.

By Chris Dertz

DeKALB | I have never talked to, seen or heard of any coach who will admit to taking any stock into preseason speculation about their own team.

As interesting as they can be to talk about, and as much as we, the media, like to mention them, preseason predictions mean jack. Most would agree with me: the game is won or lost on the field, not in the newspapers or on the Internet.

That said, after NIU football was picked to win the MAC West, expectations for the team climbed even high. Below are three reasons that the Huskies can make it to the MAC Championship game, along with three issues that might sideline any travel arrangements to Detroit.

Reasons to save the date

1. Though fluid, NIU has a good QB situation.

I’ve been a very public proponent of the idea that DeMarcus Grady fits into Jerry Kill’s offensive system better than Chandler Harnish does. With the two jockeying for starter status, the truth is that both of them are very good options to have under center.

The only knock that you can make on Harnish is that he’s been injury prone over the past two seasons, and Grady’s 5-0 record as a starter has given him a lot of support, but it really doesn’t matter who Kill chooses: NIU should be solid at QB.

2. The defensive line is as solid as it has ever been.

The obvious story line on the defense this offseason was Jake Coffman’s decision to return to the team. That alone is reason enough for Huskie fans to rejoice, but the return of Mike Krause and continued development of D.J. Pirkle gives NIU one of the best units in the MAC.

3. Run game, run game and more run game.

Remember Chad Spann? He rushed for over 1,000 yards last season, and ranked 12th in the nation in scoring.

Back him up with a former Big 12 linebacker in Cameron Bell and last year’s JUCO rushing champion, Jasmin Hopkins, and it smells like it could be a recipe for deliciousness.

That could be a problem, though, if…

1. The offensive line fails to pan out.

NIU’s coaching staff is confident in the pieces they’ve plugged in to replace four-year starters Jason Onyebuagu and Eddie Adamski.

The fact of the matter is that this could fail to pan out how Kill and company are hoping. The defense has been able to get a lot of penetration in scrimmages, and injuries and other unforseen things happen. With how key to NIU the running game is, things have to go perfectly up front.

2. The kicker becomes a problem.

For what seems like the past 100 years, NIU hasn’t had to worry about its kicker. Chris Nendick and Mike Salerno were a portrait of consistency.

It’s consistency that’s been the problem for NIU kickers so far this year. Redshirt junior Ryan Fillingim seems to be leading the race, but it’s anybody’s guess who’ll be there come Iowa State.

3. Injuries happen.

Things always happen that aren’t accounted for. If any key players get hurt, especially on that depleted offensive line, it could spell big trouble for the Huskies.