Huskie football ready to roll Offense set to complete Sadler’s turnaround


With a strong offensive line, an improved quarterback, and the scoring potential of LeShon Johnson, the NIU football team has a lot to look forward to for the 1993 season.

After improving the team’s record from 2-9 in 1991 to 5-6 in 1992, the Huskies are feeling even better about 1993. Now a member of the Big West, NIU has something to shoot for. They can win a conference championship and gain an automatic bowl bid.

The major factor in getting the Huskies to the Las Vegas Bowl is the improved size, speed, and strength of their offense.

The offensive line, anchored by newly elected team quad-captain Tim O’Brien, has increased dramatically in size from a mere 250-pound average in 1991, when Charlie Sadler took over as head coach, to a whopping 290-pound average.

This should give quarterback Scott Crabtree plenty time to throw the ball, and LeShon Johnson bigger holes to break through.

After a not-so-impressive season in 1992, Crabtree is expected to earn the greatness he once had as a junior college quarterback at Northeastern Oklahoma A & M. After taking his team to the NJCAA National Championship game and winning offensive MVP honors, Crabtree completed only 38 percent of his passes as a Huskie in 1992.

Crabtree, who was never questioned for his athletic abilities, was known more for not being able to read the defense well enough to complete passes in 1992. That was the one of the major reasons he did not start ahead of Rob Rugai in the beginning of the season. Now with Rugai gone, there is no question who the starting quarterback is going to be.

“He’s a better player and athlete than Rugai,” offensive coordinator Joe Dickinson said. “He has better arm and he understands the offense, which he didn’t last year,” he said. Dickinson also said that Crabtree has good speed, versatility, and positioning which will make him hard to sack.

“This year Scott has six games starting behind him from last year,” Sadler said. “He has spring ball behind him, and he has two-a-days behind him.”

Crabtree showed he was no fluke in spring ball by completing 70 percent of his passes in competitive play, and completing closer to 85 percent in two-a-day camp.

“He’s really shown to be a quarterback with not just a tremendous amount of ability, but also an understanding of the offense,” Sadler said. “He certainly has made tremendous strides as far as having an understanding of how our offensive system works.”

The Huskies will be short at least three starters for the Iowa State game next Thursday due to injuries. Eric Hays, Matt Clarkson, and Joe Patterson will definitely be missing from the offensive line on Thursday, and are questionable for the bout in Indiana the following week.

The fourth victim to injury is split end Otha Brooks who is nursing a hamstring and is questionable for next Thursday’s game. Despite the talents of flanker Vaurice Patterson and tight end Raymond Roberts, Brooks who runs a true :04.4 would be greatly missed by the Huskie passing attack.

This year the Huskies aren’t looking to do anything differently on offense, but they are planning on using their greater strength, speed, and size to bring them to a newer level.

“There will be familiar things you will see in this years’ offense,” Sadler said.

One familiar aspect, Sadler assured, is that you will often see the ball in the hands of LeShon Johnson.

Next Thursday in Ames, Iowa the new-improved Huskie offense will be able to demonstrate its stability and versatility against a strong Cyclone defense. The Huskies should concentrate on executing their offense because Sadler said this game could set the stage for the rest of the season.