NIU offensive breakdown


Landon Cox leads a young receiving group for the Huskies to look toward this year.

By Chris Dertz

Quarterback: C+

Dan Nicholson has been on a rollercoaster his entire NIU career, and he’s not off it yet.

The quarterback was introduced to fans in 2005 when former QB Phil Horvath broke his left arm against Central Michigan. Nicholson beat CMU, Toledo and Western Michigan, leading NIU to the MAC Championship game that year.

As a junior, Nicholson finally got his chance to shine, but had a lackluster season due to a shoulder injury. Although the senior said he was healthy coming into camp, he was sidelined for more than a week because of shoulder soreness.

However, Nicholson is back taking snaps, as NIU coach Jerry Kill said on Monday, “[He] practiced very well yesterday. We’re gradually bringing him back.”

If Nicholson isn’t able to start look for redshirt freshman Chandler Harnish to take snaps. The 6-foot-2, 210 pound quarterback was leading the No. 1 offensive group during summer practices while Nicholson was resting.

Offensive Line: B

In 2003, NIU had an offensive line that former Huskie head coach Joe Novak said could play in the Big Ten. To be successful, NIU will have to produce a similar line.

In 2003, the Huskies allowed 30 sacks on the quarterback. Last year NIU allowed 21 sacks, ranking it No. 44 in the nation.

The Huskies return center Eddie Adamski, right offensive guard Jason Onyebuagu, and right offensive tackle Jon Brost in 2008. Both Adamski and Onyebuagu have two years of experience on the line while Brost brings three.

However, it is still unknown who will take the place of former offensive guard Chris Acevedo and the other tackle position. Some players who have tried the position in practice include Trevor Olson, Kevin Skatrud, Joe Pawlak, and Panan Tense.

Wide receivers and tight ends: C+

NIU wide receivers coach P.J. Fleck has been leading by example in practice. From showing how to chop block, to running out every catch to the end zone, assistant coach Fleck has demanded perfection from his group.

It’s no surprise why though, as NIU has a load of seniors. The Huskies bring back Britt Davis, Matt Simon, Marcus Perez, Evans Adonis and Greg Turner, all in their final season.

Simon lead the Huskies last year with 969 receiving yards, good enough to rank No. 31 in the nation. However, after that there was a large drop in the stats. In nine games Davis recorded 391 yards, while Turner put up 222 yards in 10 games to rank second and third for the wide outs.

The Huskies will be without tight end David Koronkiewicz in 2008, as he decided not to come back from injury. However, red-shirt junior Reed Cunningham returns.

Running and full backs

Justin Anderson told Kill to just give him the green light and he would go.

Kill gave Anderson the green light one day, and according to the running back he almost destroyed one of his defensive teammates.

“He said ‘I’ve never seen you run like that,'” the redshirt junior said. “I told [him] just give me the green light, that’s all I need to hear.”

Anderson produced NIU’s ninth consecutive 1,000-yard rusher last season, as he plowed for 1,245 yards. However, he has competition for the running back spot as redshirt senior Montell Clanton is healthy.

Clanton has only played in five games in the past two seasons due to two knee injuries, one in each knee.

Kill also brings a new offensive system including the addition of a true fullback to the Huskies this year. Former defensive lineman Anthony Antonacci and linebacker Kyle Skarb have been competing for the job among others.